Since I read a lot of books, I’ve developed a few ways of keeping track of what I read. I figure if I’m taking the time to read a book, especially a non-fiction title, I ought to interact with the ideas contained therein beyond just reading it and moving on. In order to solidify what I learn and hopefully incorporate it into my life, here is what I do:
Mark key or interesting parts with a temporary tab. I got a pack of these little colored tabs free from CVS once and I find them very handy. They are like removable and reusable tape. When I run across something I want to be sure to remember, I put a tab right on top of that spot. No more making a list of page numbers and then later scanning the page trying to remember what was important on it. After I’m done reading, I go back to each tab and review it. If it really was important in the context of the whole book, I transfer that thought or idea to a notebook and/or blog about it. The nice thing about tabs is that they allow me to read with the flow of the book without stopping to take notes, and then go back and digest and internalize thoughts a second time later.
Take notes as I go. Sometimes I halt the tabs early in a book and switch to taking notes as I read. This mostly happens in books that contain a lot of dense arguments that I want to read slowly and contemplatively (Knowing God is a recent example), but I also use note taking for books that cover a comprehensive system (such as the one in Getting Things Done) so that I can keep track of the flow of the system and how it all fits together. Those sorts of books don’t lose anything from a slower read through because they usually weren’t written for pace and style.
Blogging! One of the reasons I blog is to help me think things through and synthesize information. Although I have been reviewing books here since 2005, I’ve lately been trying to make my reviews more reflective of what I’m actually thinking about as I read the book, if for no other reason than to serve as a reminder for myself and to further solidify what I learn.
How do you read books? Do you read more than one at a time? Do you have a system or systems for keeping track of what you’re learning?