It happens all the time. You read an amazing book, one so packed with wisdom that you think it’s going to change your life forever. Then…it doesn’t. Why? Because when you’re finally in a situation where you could use its insights, you’ve completely forgotten them. Time is our most valuable resource, so we shouldn’t waste it. The investment we make in reading should have a positive, lasting impact on our lives.
Consuming information is not the same as acquiring knowledge. No idea could be further from the truth.
Learning means being able to use new information. The basic process of learning consists of reflection and feedback. We learn facts and concepts through reflecting on experience—our own or others’. If you read something and you don’t make time to think about what you’ve read, you won’t be able to use any of the wisdom you’ve been exposed to.
One of the reasons that we read books is because they offer a rich tapestry of details, allowing us to see the world of the author and go on their journey with them. Our brains can learn not only the author’s ideas but also when their conclusions about how to live are likely to work and when they are likely to fail (thanks to the vast amount of details that authors share about their experiences and thought processes).
But if you only remember six things after reading this article, it should be the following truths about reading:
- Quality matters more than quantity. If you read one book a month but fully appreciate and absorb it, you’ll be better off than someone who skims half the library without paying attention. 质量比数量更重要。如果你每月读一本书，但充分欣赏和吸收它，你会比那些不注意就略过半个图书馆的人更好。（@XDash 批注：我的付费信息源推荐、分享我的信息筛选管道）
- Speed-reading is bullshit. Getting the rough gist and absorbing the lessons are two different things. Confuse them at your peril. 速读是胡说八道。掌握大概的要领和吸收课程是两件事。如果把它们混为一谈，你将面临危险。（@XDash 批注：非常赞同，虽然我也曾一年读书 196 本，但主要是靠运用合理的阅读技巧）
- Book summary services miss the point. A lot of companies charge ridiculous prices for access to vague summaries bearing only the faintest resemblance to anything in the book. Summaries can be a useful jumping-off point to explore your curiosity, but you cannot learn from them the way you can from the original text.* 书籍摘要服务没有抓住重点。很多公司为了获得与书中内容只有最微弱的相似之处的模糊摘要而收取荒谬的价格。摘要可以是探索你的好奇心的一个有用的跳板，但你不能像从原文中学习那样从它们那里学到东西*。
- Fancy apps and tools are not needed. A notebook, index cards, and a pen will do just fine. 花哨的应用程序和工具是不需要的。一本笔记本、索引卡和一支笔就可以了。 （@XDash 批注：我在分享个人 PKM 半年迭代经验的文章里也提到，不应该刻意追求工具的复杂度）
- We shouldn’t read stuff we find boring. Life is far too short. 我们不应该读我们认为无聊的东西。生命太短暂了。
- Finishing the book is optional. You should start a lot of books and only finish a few of them. 读完一本书是可选的。你应该开始大量的书，只完成其中的几本。
In this article, we’ll explore multiple strategies for getting more out of what you read. You don’t need to use all these strategies for every book. Using just a couple of them, whether you’re trying to learn a new philosophy or reading a work of fiction, can help you retain more and make deeper connections.
What you read can give you access to untold knowledge. But how you read changes the trajectory of your life.
1) Active reading 主动阅读
- Choose great books 选择好书
- Get some context 获得一些背景资料
- Know your why 知道你的动机
- Intelligently skim 聪明地略过
- Match your book to your environment 使你的书与你的环境相匹配
2) Remembering what you read 记住你读过的
- Take notes 做笔记
- Stay focused 聚焦
- Mark up the book 做标注
- Make mental links 建立心理链接
- Quit when Bored 无聊就停止
3) Now what? 现在怎么办？
- Apply what you’ve learned 应用你所学
- Make your notes searchable 让笔记易于检索
- Reread 反复阅读
“Every time I read a great book I felt I was reading a kind of map, a treasure map, and the treasure I was being directed to was in actual fact myself. But each map was incomplete, and I would only locate the treasure if I read all the books, and so the process of finding my best self was an endless quest. And books themselves seemed to reflect this idea. Which is why the plot of every book ever can be boiled down to ‘someone is looking for something.’” —Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive
"每当我读到一本好书时，我都觉得自己在读一种地图，一张藏宝图，而我被指引到的宝藏实际上就是我自己。但每张地图都是不完整的，我只有读完所有的书才能找到宝藏，所以寻找最好的自己的过程是一个无尽的探索。书籍本身似乎也反映了这种想法。这就是为什么每本书的情节都可以归结为'有人在寻找什么'。" -马特-海格，《活着的理由》（Reasons to Stay Alive）。
Now, if you’re only reading for fun, or if you don’t want to remember what you read, this article doesn’t apply. Sometimes reading is entertainment, and that’s wonderful. But if you want to get some valuable knowledge out of a book, the first step to getting more out of what you read is being active. So what is active reading?
Active reading is thoughtfully engaging with a book at all steps in the reading process. From deciding to read right through to reflection afterwards, you have a plan for how you are going to ingest and learn what’s in the book.
Books don’t enter our lives against a blank slate. Each time we pick up a book, the content has to compete with what we already think we know. Making room for the book, and the potential wisdom it contains, requires you to question and reflect as you read.
For example, you might ask yourself 例如，你可以问自己:
- How does the book relate to topics you’re already familiar with? 这本书与你已经熟悉的主题有什么关系？
- What about the book challenges you? 这本书的哪些方面对你有挑战？
- What are your preconceived notions about its subject, and how can you put them aside? 你对这本书的主题有什么先入为主的观念，你怎样才能把它们放在一边？
Active reading helps you make connections within your latticework of mental models. Connections help retention.
Think back to the books you studied in school, if you did. Despite the passage of time, many people remember a surprising amount about them. Even if the details are fuzzy, we might at least be able to recall the basic plots, main characters, notable themes, and motifs. Why? Well for one, we probably didn’t just passively read those books. We were forced to actively read them, perhaps complete with class discussions where we took turns reading parts aloud, acted out scenes, or maybe even watched film adaptations. No matter how long it has been since we set foot in a classroom, many of us probably remember Animal Farm.
Your first goal when reading is to not be a passive consumer of information. You want to get better, learn something, and develop your critical thinking skills. If you had a good English teacher in school, you will have already seen this in action.
To get the most out of each book we read, it is vital we know how to record, reflect on, and put into action our conclusions.
A lot of success in reading boils down to preparation. What you do before you read matters more than you think. Here are five strategies to help you plan and get in the active reading frame of mind.
Choose Great Books 选择好书
“Think before you speak. Read before you think.” —Fran Lebowitz
There are no rules when it comes to choosing books. We don’t have to read bestsellers, or classics, or books everyone else raves about. This isn’t school and there are no required reading lists. In fact, there’s an advantage to be gained from reading things other people are not reading, because you will gain knowledge and insights that not everyone else has. Focus on some combination of books that: 1) stand the test of time; 2) pique your interest; or 3) challenge you.
The more interesting and relevant we find a book, the more likely we are to remember its contents in the future. For older books or those that have been translated, check which version is considered to be the best.
Get some context 获得一些背景资料
A good place to start getting context is by doing some preliminary research on the book. Some books—for example, A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole and Paradise by Toni Morrison—have a richer meaning once we know a bit about the life of the author and the place and time in which the novel was set.
For older books, try to understand the historical context. For books written in an unfamiliar country, try to understand the cultural context. Some helpful questions to ask include the following:
- Why did the author write this? 作者为什么要写这个？
- What is their background? 他们的背景是什么？
- What else have they written? 他们还写过什么？
- Where was it written? Was there anything interesting about the writing process? 是在哪里写的？在写作过程中有没有什么有趣的事情？
- What was the political, economic, and cultural situation at the time of writing? 写作时的政治、经济和文化状况如何？
- Has the book been translated or reprinted? 该书是否被翻译或再版过？
- Did any important events—a war, an economic depression, a change of leadership, the emergence of new technology—happen during the writing of the book? 在写书期间是否发生了什么重要事件——战争、经济萧条、领导层的变化、新技术的出现？
- What was happening in the world during the time the novel is set? This is particularly useful to ask when it comes to fiction. 在小说设定的时间内，世界上发生了什么？当涉及到小说时，这个问题特别有用。
You don’t need to do this, but if you want to get a lot out of a book it will be a major boost.
Know your why 知道你的动机
What are you reading this book for? Entertainment? To understand something or someone you don’t know? To get better at your job? To improve your health? To learn a skill? To help build a business?
You have to have some idea of what you want to get from the book. If you don’t read with intention, what you read will never stick. If you are looking for business insights, read for that.
Periodically ask yourself questions like: What can I learn from this story? What in this book parallels or pertains to my own challenges? What are the differences? How might I apply some of the insights I’m picking up?
Intelligently skim 聪明地略读
Before starting to read a book (particularly nonfiction), skim through the index, contents page, preface, and inside the jacket to get an idea of the subject matter. (This article on how to read a book is an introduction to more effective skimming.) Use this information to situate your expectations and refine what you are looking for as you read.
The bibliography can also indicate the tone and scope of a book. Authors often read hundreds of books for each one they write, so a well-researched book should have a bibliography full of interesting texts. After you’ve read the book, peruse the bibliography again and make a note of any books you want to read next.
Match the book to your environment 将书与你的环境相匹配
Although it’s not always practical, matching books to our location and circumstances can be powerful. Books will have a greater resonance as they become part of an experience rather than just supplementing it.
When choosing books, take a look at your own situation and decide on genres or authors that might help you overcome any current challenges or give you a fresh perspective. Whatever your state of affairs, someone has been in the same place. Someone has felt the same feelings and thought the same thoughts and written about it. Someone can offer you new and useful ideas for navigating your situation. It’s up to you to find them.
If we were doctors, we’d prescribe books. They can be powerful and healing.
“The things you’re looking for, Montag, are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine percent of them is in a book.” —Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
Now that you’re actively reading, you’re engaging on a deeper level with the book. You are making connections to your own life, seeing new opportunities and possibilities. The next step is making sure you remember what’s important. Even the most diligent of us get caught up in the busyness of life, and we thus lose those still-fragile connections we make while reading. But we can help with that.
You’ll remember more of what you read if you do the following five things while you’re reading.
Takes notes 做笔记
Making notes is an important foundation for reflecting and integrating what you read into your mind.
The best technique for notetaking is whichever one works for you and is easy to stick to. While there are hundreds of systems on the internet, you need to take one of them and adapt it until you have your own system. Some people prefer to record notes on index cards or in a commonplace book; others prefer a digital system. Notes are especially useful if you write on a regular basis, although everyone (not just writers) can benefit from making them.
In How to Take Smart Notes, Sönke Ahrens suggests a way of approaching notetaking to make the books you read a lasting part of your thinking. If you’ve never really done any notetaking that was effective, his book is a great place to start. But wherever you begin, you must make a system your own depending on how you work and what you like to read. Although How to Take Smart Notes focuses on nonfiction and assumes that fiction writers (and readers) have no need of notes, don’t let that stop you if you are researching a time period in which to set a novel or you’re trying to learn story structure and style from the great novelists. Adapt your notetaking system to suit your goals.
在《卡片笔记写作法》中，Sönke Ahrens 提出了一种做笔记的方法，使你所读的书成为你思维中持久的一部分。如果你从未真正做过任何有效的笔记，他的书是一个很好的开始。但是，无论你从哪里开始，你都必须根据你的工作方式和你喜欢阅读的内容来制定一个属于你自己的系统。尽管《卡片笔记写作法》侧重于非小说，并假定小说作者（和读者）不需要笔记，但如果你正在研究一个时间段来设定小说，或者你想从伟大的小说家那里学习故事结构和风格，不要让这一点阻止你。调整你的记事系统以适应你的目标。
Over the years, we tested a lot of different approaches to note-taking and even created our own that we use every day called the Blank Sheet Method. Here is how it works.
- Before you start reading a new book, take out a blank sheet of paper. Write down what you know about the book/subject you’re about to read — a mind map if you will. 在你开始阅读一本新书之前，拿出一张白纸。写下你对即将阅读的书/主题的了解--如果你愿意的话，就是一张思维导图。
- After you finish a reading session, spend a few minutes adding to the map with a different color. 在你完成一个阅读环节后，花几分钟时间用不同的颜色添加到思维导图上。
- Before you start your next reading session, review the page. 在你开始下一个阅读环节之前，回顾一下这一页。
- When you’re done reading, put these ‘blank sheets’ into a binder that you periodically review. 当你完成阅读后，把这些 "空白页 "放到一个夹子里，定期回顾。
The blank sheet method is effective because it primes your brain and shows you what you’re learning. When you first start with a blank sheet, you’re forced to search your memory and put on paper what you know (or what you think you know) about a subject. As you read, you literally see your knowledge grow. If you don’t know anything about a book or subject going in, don’t worry. You’ll be able to borrow the author’s scaffolding to get you started. Reviewing your ‘blank sheet’ before your next reading session not only recalls the scaffolding and key ideas but improves your memory and connects ideas. When you’re done the book put the page into a binder. Review the binder every few months. This is essential for establishing deep fluency and connecting ideas across disciplines.
Another effective technique is to start your notetaking by writing a short summary of each chapter and transcribing any meaningful passages or phrases. If you are unsure how to simplify your thoughts, imagine that someone has tapped you on the shoulder and asked you to explain the chapter you just finished reading. They have never read this book and lack any idea of the subject matter. How would you explain it to them?
As you are reading a book, write your chapter summary right at the end of the chapter. If your reading session is over, this helps synthesize what you just read. When you pick up the book tomorrow, start by reading the previous two chapter summaries to help prime your mind to where you are in the book.
Stay focused 聚焦
Decide that for the time you will be reading, you will focus on the book and nothing else. No quick Twitter checks. No emails. No cell phone. No TV. No staring into midair. Understanding and absorbing a book requires deep focus, especially if the subject matter is dense or complex. Remember, we are aiming for active reading. Active reading requires focus and the ability to engage with the words on the page.
Referring to the time before the internet, Nicholas Carr writes in The Shallows: “In the quiet spaces opened up by the prolonged, undistracted reading of a book, people made their own associations, drew their own inferences and analogies, fostered their own ideas. They thought deeply as they read deeply.”
When you’re looking for results, for some tangible change to come out of reading a book, you need to engage with it as you’re reading it. And that requires focus.
If you’re struggling to stay focused on a particularly difficult or lengthy book, decide to read a mere 25 pages of it a day. It takes only a few minutes to nibble away at a challenging text. Completing a long book in this manner might take months, but at least you will have read it without getting overwhelmed or bored.
Mark up the book 在书上做标记
Most of us were taught as children to treat books as something sacred—no folding the page corners, and no writing in the margins, ever. However, if you want to remember what you read and you have the means to do so, forget about keeping books pristine.
Go crazy with marginalia. The more you write, the more active your mind will be while reading. If you can’t mark up the book, do it on paper and note the page numbers.
Jot down connections and tangential thoughts, underline key passages, and make a habit of building a dialogue with the author(s). Some people recommend making your own index of key pages or using abbreviations.
The first time you write in a book can be unnerving, but in the long term, it leads to a rich understanding and a sense of connection with the author.
Make mental links 建立心理链接
Books do not exist in a vacuum. Every concept or fact can be linked to countless others. Making an effort to form our own links is a fruitful way to better remember what we read.
Building vivid mental pictures is one of the most effective techniques for remembering anything, not least what we read. When you come across an important passage or concept, pause and visualize it. Make the picture as salient and distinctive as possible by connecting it to other ideas already in your brain.
Another way of building links is to hang everything on a latticework of mental models. Having a framework of deliberately constructed concepts enables us to better understand and synthesize books by allowing us to make connections to what we already know. Knowledge sticks in our memories easier if it attaches to something we already understand.
Using models while reading can also help you get more out of the book. Here are some examples of paths they might lead you down:
- Confirmation bias: Which parts of this book am I ignoring? Does this book confirm my opinions? (Okay, but does it actually affirm your beliefs or are you just seeing what you want to see? If you cannot think of a single point in the book that you disagreed with, confirmation bias is likely distorting your reasoning.) 确认性偏见：我忽略了这本书的哪些部分？这本书是否证实了我的观点？(好的，但它是否真的肯定了你的信念，还是你只是看到了你想看到的东西？如果你想不出书中有哪一点是你不同意的，那么确认性偏见很可能扭曲了你的推理。)
- Bayesian updating: What opinions should I change in light of this book? How can I update my worldview using the information in it? Keep in mind the words of John Maynard Keynes: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir? 贝叶斯更新：根据这本书，我应该改变哪些观点？我如何利用其中的信息更新我的世界观？牢记约翰-梅纳德-凯恩斯的话："当事实改变时，我就改变我的想法。你是怎么做的，先生？” （@XDash 标注：贝叶斯相关基础文章，我写过这篇）
- Incentives: What motivates the characters or the author? What are they seeking? What is their purpose? Here’s how Kurt Vonnegut described the importance of incentives in books: “When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away—even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.” 激励措施：是什么激励着人物或作者？他们在寻求什么？他们的目的是什么？库尔特·冯内古特是这样描述书中激励机制的重要性的。"我以前教创意写作的时候，我会告诉学生，要让他们的角色马上就有所求——即使只是一杯水。被现代生活的无意义所麻痹的人物仍然要不时地喝水"。
- Availability bias: Are the books I have recently read affecting how I perceive this one? How are my immediate past experiences shaping my reading? Am I assigning undue importance to parts of this book because they are salient and memorable? 可用性偏差：我最近读过的书是否影响我对这本书的看法？我过去的直接经验是如何影响我的阅读的？我是否对这本书的部分内容给予了过分的重视，因为它们是突出的、令人难忘的？
- Social proof: How is social proof—the number of copies sold, bestseller status, the opinions of others—affecting my perception of this book? Is the author using social proof to manipulate readers? It is not unusual for authors to buy their way onto bestseller lists, providing social proof that then leads to substantial sales. As a result, mediocre books can end up becoming popular. It’s a classic case of the emperor having no clothes, which smart readers know to look out for. 社会证明：社会证明——售出的数量、畅销书的地位、他人的意见——是如何影响我对这本书的看法的？作者是否利用社会证明来操纵读者？作者通过购买方式进入畅销书排行榜，提供社会证明，然后导致大量销售，这种情况并不罕见。因此，平庸的书最终会变得流行。这是一个皇帝没有衣服的典型案例，聪明的读者知道要注意这个问题。
- Survivorship bias: Is this (nonfiction) book a representation of reality or is the author failing to account for base rates? Survivorship bias is abundant in business, self-help, and biographical books. A particular case of a successful individual or business might be held as the rule, rather than the exception. 幸存者偏差：这本（非虚构）书是现实的代表，还是作者没有考虑到基本率？幸存者偏差在商业、自助和传记书籍中比比皆是。一个成功的个人或企业的特定案例可能会被认为是规则，而不是例外。
- Utility: If a book offers advice, does it have practical applications? At what point dodiminishingreturns set in? 实用性。如果一本书提供建议，它是否有实际应用？在哪一点上？
Stop when bored 无聊就停止
When it comes to reading, you don’t need to finish what you start. As a general rule, people who love reading never, ever finish a crappy book.
As Arthur Schopenhauer once wrote, “One can never read too little of bad, or too much of good books: bad books are intellectual poison; they destroy the mind.” Life is much too short to finish a bad book. You need to be ruthless and heartless. Don’t let sunk costs guilt you into wasting your time.
正如阿瑟-叔本华曾经写道："一个人永远不可能读太少的坏书，也不可能读太多的好书：坏书是智力的毒药；它们会摧毁人的思想。" 生命太短暂了，无法完成一本坏书。你需要做到无情无义。不要让沉没成本使你愧疚，浪费你的时间。（@XDash 批注：人生应该「反脆弱」，我收集了你应该极力避免的 75 件事。）
Author and librarian Nancy Pearl advocates the “Rule of 50.” This entails reading the first 50 pages of a book and then deciding if it is worth finishing. The Rule of 50 has an interesting feature: once you are over the age of 50, subtract your age from 100 and read that many pages. Pearl writes:
“And if, at the bottom of Page 50, all you are really interested in is who marries whom, or who the murderer is, then turn to the last page and find out. If it’s not on the last page, turn to the penultimate page, or the antepenultimate page, or however far back you have to go to discover what you want to know.…When you are 51 years of age or older, subtract your age from 100, and the resulting number (which, of course, gets smaller every year) is the number of pages you should read before you can guiltlessly give up on a book.…When you turn 100, you are authorized (by the Rule of 50) to judge a book by its cover.”
So you’ve finished the book. Now what? How can you use what you have learned? Don’t just go away with a vague sense of “Oh yeah, I should totally do what that author says.” Take the time to make a plan and decide how to implement key lessons from the book.
Apply what you’ve learned 应用你所学到的东西
Reading alone is not enough. We have to contextualize the knowledge. When does it work? When doesn’t it work? Where can I apply it? What are the key variables? The list goes on. If you can take something you’ve read and apply it immediately, it will reinforce the learning and add context and meaning.
Another way to reinforce the learning is to apply the Feynman technique, named after the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman. You can think of it as an algorithm for guaranteed learning. There are four simple steps: choose a concept, teach it to someone unfamiliar with the subject, identify gaps in your understanding and go back to the source material, and review and simplify.
Teaching others is a powerful way to embed information in your mind. Upon completing a book, grab the nearest (willing) person and tell them about what you have learned. You’ll have to remove or explain the jargon, describe why this information has meaning, and walk them through the author’s logic. It sounds simple. After you try it the first time, you’ll realize it’s not easy.
If there is no one around who is interested, try writing a review where people are encouraged to comment and debate.
In order to think for yourself, you need to reflect on your views and see how they stand up to feedback.
Make your notes searchable 让你的笔记易于检索
There are endless ways of organizing your notes—by book, by author, by topic, by the time of reading. It doesn’t matter which system you use as long as you will be able to find the notes in the future.
Having a catalogue of everything you learn from reading creates a priceless resource that can be consulted whenever you need an idea, want inspiration, or want to confirm a thought. Over the years, you will build up a bank of wisdom to refer to in times of crisis, uncertainty, or need. It is hard to convey quite how valuable this can prove to be.
As General Jim Mattis wrote: “Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.”
The options for cataloguing your notes include the following 对你的笔记进行编目，有以下几种选择:
- A box of index cards, ideally organized by subject, topic, author, or time of reading. Index cards can be moved around. 一盒索引卡，最好按主题、话题、作者或阅读时间组织。索引卡可以随意移动。
- A commonplace book (again, ideally organized by topic, author, or time of reading). 一本普通的书（同样，最好是按主题、作者或阅读时间来组织）。
- A digital system, such as Evernote, OneNote, or plain old Microsoft Word. Digital systems have the added benefit of being searchable, which can save a lot of time if you refer to your notes on a regular basis. 一个数字系统，如Evernote、OneNote或普通的Microsoft Word。数字系统还有一个好处就是可以搜索，如果你经常参考你的笔记，可以节省很多时间。
Schedule time to read and review these notes. 安排时间来阅读和回顾这些笔记。
（@XDash 批注：如果你时间充裕，强烈推荐拿出 2 小时看完我的直播分享回放：我如何成功运用打游戏的思维来读书和做笔记。）
Reread (if you want to) 重复阅读（如果你想）
“Read a lot. Expect something big, something exalting or deepening from a book. No book is worth reading that isn’t worth rereading.” —Susan Sontag
Skim a lot of books. Read a few. Immediately re-read the best ones twice. While rereading can seem like a waste of time because there are so many other books to read, this is a misunderstanding of the learning process. The best time to start rereading a great book is right after finishing. The goal is not to read as many books as possible. The goal is to gain as much wisdom as you can.
Rereading good books is of tremendous importance if we want to form lasting memories of the contents. Repetition is crucial for building memories.