On Studying Books: The Basic Process

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I do have somewhat of a process that I follow when it comes to reading books that I want to retain information about, and often will want to place in my Commonplace Binder, which is based on the Commonplace book. Perhaps it’s a nonfiction book about self-improvement or history, or even perhaps it’s a fictional classic. Regardless, I have relatively the same process of studying books whether it’s fiction or nonfiction.

1.       Read the book cover to cover and highlight quotes.

2.       Go back to those quotes, write down, often word for word, on pieces of filler paper (written in ink, on front and back of the pages) to be placed in my Common Place binder, to soak in the words.

3.       Then, I often will write a review (currently, the best example of how I do this would be how I did my Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard review where I used a lot of quotes and expanded until I hopefully finish the review for Angela Duckworth’s Grit – aiming for it to be out by Monday) while going through the notes I took to also get a more personal part of the process of what I liked, what spoke to me about the book, etc.

I like collecting a huge number of quotes from the book I’m studying as you can see from my notetaking of Duckworth’s Grit. The part of taking the time to write the information down physically and look over it every now and then is most important for me. Then, I tie it altogether into one review in one long process. When I want to intensely study a book, I do not skip any of these steps. I don’t do this for every book, but every now and then, I feel inspired from the author’s words and I want to write them down as is, take the time to mull on them, and then write down my thoughts. The third step is often the hardest for me sometimes.

I get a lot of ideas swirling in my head, but when I go for the paper, it’s like all the thoughts I had evaporated. Sometimes I manage to get it down; most times the ideas never make it to the paper. It’s a struggle that I’m trying to overcome. I’ve invested in a few A5 Muji notebooks so I could start taking these with me outside, and hopefully I’ll be more inclined to write things down. I like going outside with the intent to sit down somewhere and study. It’s something that’s stayed with me since college.

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