How to read 10 times more without any speed reading hacks?
This is a collection of mental frameworks/tips/techniques to improve my reading skill.
Let me start with the fundamental rule. I call it the Jorge Luis Borges rule.
Jorge Luis Borges says:
“If a book bores you, leave it; don’t read it because it is famous, don’t read it because it is modern, don’t read it because it is old. If a book is tedious to you, leave it… Reading should be a form of happiness…continue to look for personal happiness, personal enjoyment. It is the only way to read.”
I have made the mistake of slogging through books that were painful, just because it was in a must-read list before I die or something. Don’t ever do that.
Tyler Cowen - How to read fast
Tyler Cowen is a polymath. His vast interests and high production function is a huge inspiration. His tip for reading fast doesn't include things like speed-reading, instead:
"The best way to read quickly is to read lots. And lots. And to have started a long time ago. Then maybe you know what is coming in the current book. Reading quickly is often, in a margin-relevant way, close to not reading much at all." ….
"I start ten or so books for every one I finish. I don’t mind disliking a book, and I never regret having picked it up and started it. I am ruthless in my discards."
See how it relates to the Jorge’s rule. This is an extremely important tip I have picked up from very good readers. They are not intimidated by the sunk-cost fallacy with books. They discard the books that are not interesting at that point in time.
Robin Hanson's - Chase your Reading
This short blog is a gem in rethinking my approach to reading. Here are some highlights:
Hunting has two main modes: searching and chasing. With searching, you look for something to chase. With chasing, in contrast, you have a focus of attention that drives your actions. You may find something else worth chasing along the way, and then switch your focus to a new chase, but you’ll still maintain a focus.
In the searching mode, readers tend to be less critical. If a source came recommended, they tend to keep reading along even if they aren’t quite sure what the point is. Since authors tend to be more prestigious than readers, readers tend to feel reluctant to question or judge what they’ve read. They are more likely to talk about whether they enjoyed the read than whether the author’s argument works.
In chasing mode, you continually ask yourself whether what you are reading is relevant for your quest, or whether the author actually has anything new or interesting to say. You flip around seeking sections that might be more relevant, and you might even look up the references for an especially relevant section.
Searching mode is passive reading where we are exploring the territory, getting to know and immersing ourselves into the environs. Chasing mode is active reading where we poke holes in the author's logic and arguments and see how it can be broken. I think there are no judgements on which one is better. It depends on the context, what we are learning or what mood we are actually in.
There is a nice quote in the blog from Samuel Johnson, which nails this:
What we read with inclination makes a much stronger impression. If we read without inclination, half the mind is employed in fixing the attention; so there is but one half to be employed on what we read.
Tiago Forte's - Progressive Summarization:
Tiago is a productivity expert, obsessed with improving learning and retention of knowledge. His technique is quite unique. It is a highlight-heavy approach to reading. When you read an essay and if you come across an interesting line, you just highlight it.
The challenge of knowledge is not acquiring it. In our digital world, you can acquire almost any knowledge at almost any time. The challenge is knowing which knowledge is worth acquiring. And then building a system to forward bits of it through time, to the future situation or problem or challenge where it is most applicable, and most needed.
We now have the technology to capture our learning. We now can take snapshots of our learning in the form of highlights and notes. It is completely foolish to rely only on our memories. We should augment our memory with these technologies to learn and unlearn things faster.
Kevin Simler - Life Hacks on Reading
Have a Kindle, it reduces the friction in trying out samples of the books.
Have an Audible subscription and listen to books during the commute, laundry or other mundane tasks.
If time, (not money), is a constraint, buy the Audio+Kindle of the same book. Listening+reading isn't faster than reading by itself, but it's more immersive and makes it easier to read.
Set your current book as your phone's lock screen, as a reminder of how you'd rather spend your time. (Personally, this has been a superb quick win for me. I unlock/lock the phone at least 35 times a day. The photo of the book on the lock screen is a very subtle reminder to read that book. Highly recommended life hack.)
My tool stack for reading and retention
The science behind learning says that if we don't frequently refresh on what we read, we are mostly like to forget it. Let us say, you are reading an excellent essay in New Yorker, you come across a nicely written line or paragraph. You want to remember it for a long time. You can either select and store it in Evernote or Gmail. But when will you read it? I don't think we can add a reminder to go through such items in our inbox or Evernote.
Here are some tools that can give you the superpower of learning things and remembering it forever:
ReadWise - This is an essential tool in my reading tools stack. You can sync all the notes into this tool. ReadWise will send a mail to you every day with up to 10 randomly chosen highlights. This seemingly trivial mail is so powerful. It takes less an 2 minutes to read the daily e-mail. But by just skimming this content, your brain gets refreshed by content you marked as relevant. If that topic is in your conscious mind, it is going to help you at the right moment.
Highly - This is a little browser plugin (also has a mobile app extension) that helps you to highlight any content that you see on the web. A nice tweet or a good comment or important concept you are reading Wikipedia. Everything can be highlighted with Highly. All highlights get synced with ReadWise ☺️. Any interesting content you read online will be part of the daily mail from ReadWise.
Instapaper - This is a read-it-later app that I highly recommend. It will avoid you to have gazillion browser windows open across devices. It downloads the content in your mobile, so you can read it in a focussed manner, whenever you are ready. More importantly, as you read, you can highlight the interesting texts. Again the highlights are synced with ReadWise. (I have used Pocket earlier, but I don't see it having the highlighting feature, which is crucial for me.)
Kindle - Whether you use the Kindle device or the app in your smartphone, by default, it supports highlighting. All the notes/highlights of Kindle will also be automatically synced with ReadWise.
As you see from above, almost all my reading sources are directed to ReadWise. By this, I don't miss out any important content that I have read. Even, if I tend to forget, the daily mail from them refreshes my memory. Since I sync the content from various sources that are interesting, I look forward to reading the daily mail from ReadWise.