Reading is Like Raking Leaves

3 ways to remember everything you read.

Source: Unsplash

The entirety of the book rested in my left hand; The Circle by Dave Eggers. Only a few more pages until I add another to my modest shelf of paperbacks.

Man, it feels good to finish one more.

Reading is powerful.

It’s a remarkable and effective way to gather up all kinds of new ideas, stories, and information. We turn to books for a variety of life lessons: cooking, finance, mystery tales, self-help, historical studies — it’s all right there.

Books are direct paths to enlightenment and well-being.

We’ve come to expect a lot from these little stacks of white offset paper. We need them. And more importantly, we need to remember and internalize what we read.

Can you relate?

Have you ever read a book that’s completely evolved your perspective? You turned over the last page, set the book down, and ever since, life has never been the same.

If you’re lucky, that’s maybe happened a handful of times.

Now picture this: You finish a book — you enjoyed it, it was nice, but it didn’t necessarily move or teach you anything significant. Less than a week later, the book vanishes from your memory. Poof! Gone.

This second experience is much more common.

Because we spend such a handsome amount of time, energy, and money on books, we’ve come to expect an appreciable return on them; they are like little mental investments.

But, more often than not, we come out with little or no long term benefits from any given book. If you’ve ever closed a chapter and thought “wait, what happened,” you know what I’m talking about.

Sometimes, we let the moral of the story slip away; we forget important concepts and big ideas.

You can’t retain it all.

There’s a predicament on our hands.

How do we get the most out of our reading?

Rake it up.

I’ve come up with a (somewhat) clever metaphor to explain how you can get more out of what you read:

Reading a book is like raking leaves.

The book is like a tree.

The leaves are bits of information.

You, the reader, are the rake.

If you wish to benefit from the tree and collect all there is, you must go over the leaves again and again.

In other words, if you want to benefit from a book over the long haul, you have to go back and reflect over what you’ve read.

When you finish a book one time through (without ever reviewing or reflecting), it’s like dragging your rake through the leaves just once.

What have you gathered?

Yeah, you caught a few and there’s a decent bunch at your feet. However, if you want a substantial, wholesome pile, you have to go over those leaves multiple times.

Look, I’m not dropping exclusive knowledge here. You know you should revisist pass readings. But do you? Hopefully, this symbolism will really stick it to your brain.

I promise this helps.

Bring it forward.

I know it sounds tedious to assess what you’ve already read… like studying for an exam. But think about the sheer amount of content in a single book. You simply can’t go through it once and expect to capture everything you should.

You’ve got to focus on bringing what you read forward.

Here are a few strategies to achieve this:

  • Mark-up pages as you go. You’ve heard it, but do it. Grab a highlighter, make notes, circle interesting ideas, and tie information to your everyday life.
  • Summarize each chapter. Start a notebook. Title the top of the page after your book. After every chapter, record what you learned and observed. Doing this will come in handy for the next point.
  • Review and reflect. Once you finish the book, look back on it from time to time. You don’t have to re-read the entire thing, but at least go over your notes. Read the chapter summaries you created. Look for highlights you made and skim around that section.

Then apply it in real life! Tell a friend about it, utilize what you learned, share it on Twitter— I don’t know, just do something to bring the book into reality.

Action plants it in your mind.

See, it doesn’t take much to elevate the quality and quanity of what you read. This is not rocket science; it takes maybe 5 minutes of your day.

Small change in reading habits create a HUGE difference over time.

You’re a smart individual; I’ve got faith. I know you’ll make the most of what you’ve read here.

- AZ

Bored, uneducated, homeless — em dashes are my specialty. I write what I see, think, and feel. That’s it.

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