Don’t Just Read More — Read Better
Systematically reflecting on a book gives you so much more.
As a member of the Rebel Book Club, I’m personally interested in not just how to read more but how to read better.
I read to learn, to be entertained, and also to understand the world around me and myself better. The reason I joined Rebel Book Club was because I found myself frustrated whenever I finished a thought-provoking read that no one in my life had also read, so that I couldn’t discuss the key ideas of the books with anyone.
I also would collect quotes from my Kindle highlights, write up a rant about a point from a given book, or end up having a personal reflection typed up on my phone at 1 am when I couldn’t sleep. This happened to me when I finished the 4-book trilogy about Princess Sultana. I forced Shantaram on anyone who would accept it, and I’m still looking for someone to discuss Naomi Klein’s work with me.
The chaos of this book-reading-process was starting to get to me, and I wanted a more polished flow, particularly around non-fiction. I wasn’t sure if I wanted just a book-club (why I joined Rebel Book Club), a friend to talk about books to (which I do among other things on my podcast with Hailley), or to start a book-themed website (this newly-launched publication is promising).
It still feels like it’s a little chaotic, but those have all helped. But a more comprehensive systems-approach is a solution to my anxiety most of the time, and I got really excited when on the RBC chat, a fellow member shared his book-reading-process.
Many thanks to Matt Cleary for sharing his ‘inspired by Ryan Holiday and Tim Ferriss’ process, with RBC. The official version was shared on the Rebel Book Club Twitter account, and with permission, I’m sharing my updated version.
The RBC Recommended 10 Step Book Process
1. Create a note with the title of the book.
2. Before starting the book:
– write down what you want to get out of the book
– what you expect to learn/be challenged on
– what you already know or think you know about the topic.
3. When starting the book:
– read the blurb
– the table of contents
This will prime your brain for retention by allowing you to create a mental map of how the content is structured.
4. As you read:
– highlight liberally
– make notes
5. Plan to review:
Once you’ve finished the book, set a date in your calendar, at least a week ahead to write up your notes. This is key, as this gives your subconscious time to consolidate your thoughts, give you time to discuss it at a book club at RBC, talk to friends about it etc.
– Do not open up the book yet.
– Write down everything you can remember, set a timer for 10 mins if that helps.
– Then, open up the book, and go to each highlight, and type up a summary based on your underlinings/circles/margin notes.
9. Write a (publishable) summary:
Write your summary so you can revisit it/share with friends. Take pride in it. Your notes have unique value because they’ll be a product of both the author’s ideas and your own.
10. Give your book summaries a home.
– Ideally, tag by subject/date the book summary so you can find it later. Whenever you want to write a blog post/article/your own book or if you just want to jog your memory, you’ll know where to go.
Bonus Step: Join a book club to share you notes with. I’ve heard RBC is good :)
Note from Matt: I enjoy using this immensely, I just need to be more consistent with it, so I now set an appointment with my self to take the notes, 7 days after finishing the book.
I’m sharing this aspirationally at this point in time. I want this to become my process. My experience with it is still limited but has already been eye-opening and I’d go as far as to say revelatory.
Asking myself “why do I want to read this book?” ended up revealing a lot more about myself than I would have imagined. In episode 21 of MakeWorkWork I talk with Hailley about how prompts can often introduce ourselves to thoughts we didn’t even know where bouncing around in our own brains.
I’m really excited to have this process laid out, and I can’t wait to see what else it introduces me to. Maybe I’ll start publishing my book notes more. Maybe it will just become a part of my private reflection exercises. Who knows. But I’m open to seeing where it will lead me in not just a new year, but a new decade.
So thank you Matt Cleary, for putting together this process, for sharing it with us and allowing me to edit it a little. I would recommend anyone giving it a go. Also, if anyone has other reading processes they would like to share with me, I’d love to see if there are any takeaways for me there as well.
The Rebel Read
Hrefna Helgadóttir (Habbi) is a member of Rebel Book Club, and Rebels do a lot of thinking about what reading can do to us and for us. The 55th Rebel Read in November 2019 was You Are What You Read, written by journalist and RBC member Jodie Jackson. Because of that book, a lot of Rebels made changes in how mindfully they consume their words.