Idea: 'How to Use a Book' Book

February 24 2021

I have never heard of this idea before.

This is for nonfiction books, to help you use them more effectively, because those are the ones I mostly consume. Business books, productivity and effectiveness books, self-discovery books—that sort of thing.

Tim Ferris gave me a much stronger sense of how to use a book when I heard that he revisits the main ones for him over and over again. He uses them.

But rather than having a clear, well-thought-out Bloom’s Taxonomy notion of learning, we seem to have a simplistic model of learning, that goes something like this: “you listen to the teacher (or read the book), and the knowledge goes into your head, where it becomes useful.” Although far more attention is given to the matter than this when you study education, in school itself, I feel that precious little beyond this is given. It leaves us with very primitive ideas about how knowledge is actually used and assimilated.

This leaves us with a huge gap: lots of wonderful books (among the less exciting ones) where authors hope we will internalize what they have to say.

In some cases, they try to create exercises at the end of each chapter to help people internalize things, and then say “do the exercises!!”

Well, I think if you took any good book, you could find your own methods and processes for internalizing and process-izing the knowledge, so that it could be well used. It requires internalization, deep use of materials.

This could all sound overwhelming, but I think you just have to have a few other habits. There is no way you’ll remember it all, and that is not the point. But if you spread out your efforts a little bit more, you could gain so much more. For example, simple research about learning taught me that when you review something a little bit soon after… and then a little later… and then a few weeks later.. a few months later, etc.—you will remember it a lot better.

But it is obvious that there are a set of practices and processes, or ways of internalizing and utilizing the knowledge that could be shown. These could include:

  • Teaching it to others
  • Writing up summaries
  • Having a book group
  • Writing up notes (and then revisiting)
  • Turning key ideas into practices
  • Having a buddy to reflect upon the use of the knowledge, longingly…
  • Etc.

There is definitely a book here!

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© Alexander Feller 2018