Shane Parrish runs the popular website, Farnam Street. Its mission is to help readers "develop an understanding of how the world really works, make better decisions, and live a better life." I recently discovered it and it stands out from other websites of its kind.
Here's a GQ article that outlines Parrish's guide for reading 80 high-quality books a year, and how to remember the important parts. It describes how to select books, how to take notes, and how to abandon books that aren't paying off.
Develop a system of note-taking.
Parrish calls his system The Blank Sheet: Before he begins reading a new book, he takes a blank sheet and writes down what he knows about the subject. Then, as he’s reading, he uses a different color pen to write down new ideas and connect them to what he had originally written, hanging the new knowledge on the old knowledge.
“Use a different color every time, so you can visualize what you're learning as you're reading,” says Parrish. “Then before you start your next reading session, to ease your brain into it, you just review the mind map. That gives you the context of where you left off… Then when you're done with the book, you have this summary of the book.”
Image: Africa Studio/Shutterstock Read the rest
“The time has come to accept that in its current mode of operation, Facebook’s flaws outweigh its considerable benefits”.
— Roger McNamee in ZUCKED.
Daniel Willingham, a University of Virginia psychologist who wrote "The Reading Mind," says that the most common question he receives these days is the following: “Is it cheating if I listen to an audiobook for my book club?” In a New York Times essay, Willingham parses the benefits and drawbacks of both formats. Which one is better? Of course personally preference and convenience matter, but Willingham argues that generally right now when it comes to listening or reading a book, there is "equivalence for easy texts and an advantage to print for hard ones." For example, audio books provide prosody, the intonation, tone, and rhythm of the words. Sometimes, hearing those cues helps us understand the material. But not always. From the NYT:
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For example, one study compared how well students learned about a scientific subject from a 22-minute podcast versus a printed article. Although students spent equivalent time with each format, on a written quiz two days later the readers scored 81 percent and the listeners 59 percent.
What happened? Note that the subject matter was difficult, and the goal wasn’t pleasure but learning. Both factors make us read differently. When we focus, we slow down. We reread the hard bits. We stop and think. Each is easier with print than with a podcast.
Print also supports readers through difficult content via signals to organization like paragraphs and headings, conventions missing from audio. Experiments show readers actually take longer to read the first sentence of a paragraph because they know it probably contains the foundational idea for what’s to come.
Jennifer Howard, a professional writer and editor, found herself unable to re-read a Hermann Hesse novel she loved: the "grafted, spasmodic, online style" of reading has forced itself onto all of her reading, making immersion difficult and the text unsatisfying. So she knuckled down to review Maryanne Wolf's Reader, Come Home, a book about what's happening to our "reading brains."
...the average person “consumes about 34 gigabytes across varied devices each day” — some 100,000 words’ worth of information. “Neither deep reading nor deep thinking can be enhanced by the aptly named ‘chopblock’ of time we are all experiencing, or by 34 gigabytes of anything per day,” Wolf argues
Even as it keeps one eye on the future, “Reader, Come Home” embodies some old-fashioned reading pleasures, with quotes from Italo Calvino, John Dunne, Toni Morrison, Marcel Proust, Elie Wiesel and other illustrious word-workers. It unfolds as a series of letters addressed to “Dear Reader” from “Your Author,” a call to remember that books come alive as exchanges between writers and readers.
That structure can make “Reader, Come Home” feel — in a corny but charming way — like a throwback to an era already gone, if it ever existed. Wolf offers a persuasive catalog of the cognitive and social good created by deep reading, but does not really acknowledge that the ability to read well has never been universal.
Make reading great again.
Photo: Johnnydeezwax, CC-BY-SA Read the rest
When you walk into a bookshop, chances are that you weren't expecting to walk out with a bookshop. However, that's exactly what happened to Ceisjan Van Heerden after shopping at the Bookends bookstore in Cardigan, Wales. After opting for an early retirement due to medical issues, the bookshop's owner, Paul Morris, decided that he wanted to raffle it off and give a lucky book lover the opportunity to own a shop of their own.
From The Guardian:
Morris, who worked in the book industry for years before he opened his own shop, told the Guardian that he had chosen to take early retirement at 52 after his osteoarthritis worsened.
“I thought about selling it, but I thought instead, let’s give someone an opportunity in life which they might not otherwise have had. The principle was to make sure the shop continues in good hands,” he said. “[Ceisjan] is a regular customer and I’m really pleased it was him — he wants to run it. You can make a very good living from it — far too many bookshops have disappeared over the years.”
Van Heerden was in it to win it along with close to 60 other contestants. The only barrier to entry was spending over £20 (around $26) in the store. That doesn't sound like a whole lot of cheddar to hand over, for books or for the opportunity to own your own business. But, if it's a used bookstore that you're talking about, $26 is enough to fill a decent chunk of shelf space with new tomes to read. Read the rest
I grew up reading comic books. Green Lantern was my childhood superhero (do not talk to me about the movie.) I loved the X-Men, too. Batman? Hell yes. In my late teens, I graduated into Hellblazer, Shade: The Changing Man and honestly, pretty much anything that Vertigo printed. Sadly, when university rolled around, I was too much of a broke joke to afford extras like the occasional funny book.
Of late, I’ve been catching up on what I missed.
I’ve read to the end of Hellblazer (so good!) and pick up Saga, Trees and Injection on a regular basis. But I don’t know what to read next. I like dark gritty stuff—I came of age in the 1990s—and I’m not sure what to check out. As I live in an RV, even though it’s a big one, I don’t have space to build up a huge collection of comics, trade paperbacks or graphic novels. What ever I consume needs to make it to my eyeballs, via my iPad or Kindle.
What do y’all think I should try next? Do you have any favorite titles that I should take for a spin? If so, what do you like about them and why, based on what I’ve told you that I dig, would I find to love in them?
Help a fella out?
Image via Flickr, courtesy of Sam Howzit Read the rest
Context, contemplation, careful study: things all but lost in the modern rush to shovel information into our eyeballs. Here's The Indy on slow reading, the antithesis of speed reading.
By default, most people read as quickly as they’re comfortable with – this happens without any conscious effort. To start slow reading, you read as slowly as you’re comfortable with – it should feel comfortable, not labored. The goal is to achieve an enjoyable experience – slow reading should never be stressful.
There's nothing new here, not even the term, found in Nietzsche ("perhaps one is a philologist still, that is to say, a teacher of slow reading") more than a hundred years ago. But the Slow movement is recent, dating to Roman irritation at the opening of a McDonalds there in the 1980s. Read the rest
It wasn't until she became an adult and a librarian, Nancy Pearl writes, that she "began to question my commitment to finishing each and every book that I began." Now she has a simple method for dropping a bad one, one obvious and plain and yet fair enough: the Rule of 50.
Give a book 50 pages. When you get to the bottom of Page 50, ask yourself if you're really liking the book. If you are, of course, then great, keep on reading. But if you're not, then put it down and look for another. (Always keep in mind that there's nothing to stop you from going back to it later, whether that might be in six days or six years. Or 60 years. There is many a book that I couldn't get into the first time, or even two, that I tried to read it, and then, giving it one more chance, totally fell under its spell. The book obviously hadn't changed - but I had.)
All my books will henceforth be 50 pages long, thereby obligating Nancy Pearl to read them in their entirety.
Photo: Nancy Pearl by Seattle Civic Council (CC0 1.0) Read the rest
For your summer reading pleasure, Bill Gates recommends:
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• “Leonardo da Vinci” by Walter Isaacson
• “Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved” by Kate Bowler
• “Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders
• “Origin Story: A Big History of Everything” by David Christian
• “Factfulness” by Hans Rosling with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Ronnlund
I've mentioned it online before, but here we go: Two years ago, my wife and I decided to leave our rented home behind and move into a 40-foot RV. We spend our spring and summer in Alberta, Canada where she has a job for six months of the year working as an addictions counselor. The other half of the year, we head south to Mexico and beyond so that she can work as a dive Instructor.
This might be an excellent time to point out that my partner is far more interesting than I'll ever be.
We love this life, but it's not without its difficulties. We have all the repairs that come along with home ownership and owning a semi-truck, rolled into one. Our paychecks can sometimes take weeks to catch up to us, leaving us eating rice and beans. Again. But perhaps the worst thing about living in a motorhome, for us, is that we had to get rid of our book collection. Between us, we owned hundreds of books. We looked upon them as shelves of old friends who we could turn to, no matter what life brought us. But, sometimes, you have to leave old friends behind in order to grow. A motorhome can only carry so much weight, not to mention the limited amount of space that you'll find inside of one. We packed them up and took them to our favorite used bookstore where they'll, hopefully, find new homes.
When I'm not guest blogging here, part of my job is to review e-readers. Read the rest
I do most of my reading on a Kindle Paperwhite. I'm currently reading the Penguin Classics translation of The Count of Monte Cristo (much better than the Project Gutenberg version I read years ago) and the Kindle's X-Ray feature, which lets me find out about the many characters and their relatives who pop in and out of the novel, helps me remember what the hell is going on. The Kindle is also a lot easier to hold than the 1200 page paperback version, which my daughter is reading.
The Paperwhite rarely needs recharging, even when the backlight. Unlike a phone or tablet, there's no glare, making it the best way to read outdoors. I have at least a hundred books on it, and haven't gotten a "memory almost full" warning (text doesn't use a lot of storage, like audiobooks do). If I don't have my reading glasses, I can make the text as large as I need to. Read the rest
Ten MTA cars have been outfitted as Subway Libraries by the New York Public Library: the in-car wifi connects riders to an e-reading repository containing "books, short stories, chapters and excerpts donated by publishers to the New York Public Library." Read the rest
I have a paid of +2.50 reading glasses, but they are not good for computer work. I needed some +1.00 glasses. I fund this 5-pack of 80s Reading Glasses for $6.70 on Amazon. One pair has shading. I got them and they are perfect for computer use, and they look good. They also have spring hinges so they don't fall down my nose. Other lens strengths are available, but they cost $13 for a 5-pack. Read the rest
In a recent Fox News interview, President Donald Trump told anchor Tucker Carlson he's beginning to get the hang of this whole reading thing. The interview hit the internet on the same day Trump's administration released an incomprehensibly nihilistic budget draft that he almost certainly didn't read. Read the rest
"Your first doomsday machine is a malevolent, inscrutable wristwatch.”
The Please Don't Tell My Parents series, by Richard Roberts, is a wonderful young adult series of novels about Penelope Akk and her two friends Claire and Ray. They are normal middle school kids just hoping their superpowers will kick in soon. Read the rest
Ken Norton is a partner at GV (formerly Google Ventures). In the post, he explains how he increased the number of books he read per year from 5 or 6 to 61. One smart thing he did was quickly abandon books that bored him.
I had an almost masochist need to finish any book I started, even if I got bored five pages in, found it repetitive, or decided the author was annoying. That meant a single book could take months to grind through, a page or two at a time. This probably slowed my book reading pace more than anything else. Now if I’m not enjoying a book, I quit and move on to the next one. No big deal. I find that’s another advantage of reading e-books (see below). An abandoned paper book just sits on my nightstand, a sad monument to my failed experiment. When I ditch an e-book, it just scrolls off the list into the void.
He also writes down what he learned from each book:
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Remembering that I’ve read a book isn’t sufficient if I don’t also keep track of what I’ve learned. I use Kindle’s highlights and notes features to mark interesting or representative passages as I go. I don’t tend to write lengthy book reviews, so I’ve started a note file to record three things I learned from each book. Within a few days of finishing a book, I review the Kindle highlights and then take five minutes to record my thoughts (I use the Bear app, but anything will do the trick).