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A Summary of

How to Remember What You Read

Shane Parrish
Farnam Street
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How you read is more important than how much you read. Good reading habits not only help you read more but help you read better.

Active (good) vs Passive (bad) readers

  • Active readers retain the bulk of what they read, passive readers don't.
  • The more that active readers read, the better they get.
  • Active readers develop a latticework of mental models to hang ideas on, further increasing retention.

Effective reading habits

  • It is critical to have a plan for recording, reflecting on, and putting into action the conclusions we draw from the information we consume.
  • A lot of success in reading boils down to preparation. What you do before you read matters way more than you think:
    • Filter Your Reading: Focus on some combination of books that: (1) stand the test of time; (2) pique your interest; or (3) resonate with your current situation. The more interesting and relevant we find a book, the more likely we are to remember its contents in the future.
    • Get Some Context: some books have a very different meaning once we know a bit about the life of the author.
    • Know Your Why: Have an idea of what you want to get from the book.

Intelligent Skimming

Before starting to read a book (particularly non-fiction), skim through the index, contents page, preface, and inside the jacket to get an idea of the subject matter.

Match the Book to Your Environment

Look at your own situation and decide on genres or authors that might help you overcome current challenges.

Remember What You Read

Take notes, stay focused, mark up the book, build a vivid mental picture, make mental links, keep mental models in mind, stop when bored.

The Learning Process

Consuming information isn't the same as learning information. The basic process of learning consists of reflection and feedback. - Apply what you've learned: Reading alone is not enough. Contextualize the knowledge. - Teaching others is a powerful way to embed information in your mind. Four steps: choose a concept, teach it to a toddler, identify gaps and go back to the source material, review and simplify. - Make Your Notes Searchable: Having a catalogue of everything you learn from reading creates a priceless resource. - Reread a great book right after finishing. The goal is not to read as many books as possible; the goal is to gain as much wisdom as you can.

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