Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How to Read Books

Non-classical Top 1000 Amazon Reviewer Irfan Alvi reviews Rong Fan's How We Read here and offers bullet points of the best advice he found from the book. In order to further condense the knowledge, here are what I consider the key points from his review of the book I haven't yet read:
3. Since time is limited, choose books very carefully. Books of intermediate size, written by a single expert author, are often best. Use resources like Amazon to help find suitable books (since you're reading this review, you already know that).

6. Mastering the general principles of a subject is more important than remembering details, so read accordingly. For this purpose, read introductory chapters and paragraphs very carefully.

9. Take regular breaks during your reading sessions, even if you'd rather push on. Allow longer reading sessions for more complex topics.

12. Don't bother with speed-reading. Read at the proper pace to learn well, with slower usually being better.

21. Recognize that reading must be balanced with hands-on experience. Reading informs experience so that more is gained from experience, but reading is never a substitute for experience. For that matter, balance reading and experience with other aspects of your life, including rest and recreation. In other words, don't become a bookworm.
I just happened upon Irfan's reviews of books, and they're awesome--he clearly knows how to read books quite well himself. Here he reviews Secrets of a Buccanner-Scholar (and offers a defence of academia), here he reviews How Doctors Think (huge uncertainty means medicine is not a science), and here he reviews Creativity in Science, which is the best book I read all year.

Here he reviews Quantum Enigma and trashes it (correctly, from my opinion on QM and consciousness), but still gives it three stars! This indicates that you need to be fairly positive about a book even when you don't like it to get to the top 1000 reviewers. And it is more evidence for why Amazon needs to go to a ten star system--the five stars just aren't enough to fully indicate one's opinion.