Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members


Reading is an enriching habit, but it can help you in real life, only if you remember what you have read. Many people profess to be avid readers but struggle to draw lessons from their readings as they tend to forget what they read. The reason behind this is simple – it all depends on how you read a book.

Here are a few simple rules to follow taken from an fs.blog article that can inculcate good reading habits in you and enable you to remember what you read, so that you can utilize the lessons learnt from books in your real life:

Be an active reader

The first and most important distinction is between active and passive reading. Passive readers are inclined to turn the pages without really absorbing the thoughts and arguments portrayed in the book. Such readers are more likely to forget what they read.

Active readers are extremely involved in the process of reading. They develop mental mechanisms to store important ideas presented in the book by reflecting internally. This enables them to discard unimportant details and retain great observations and learnings that are useful and can help them make decisions in real life. Active readers are more voracious readers and tend to read faster when they read more.

Develop mental models to increase retention

When reading a book, you must process what you read. It helps you to synthesize and understand books better. You must examine the core ideas presented in the book and check in your mind if it has influenced your beliefs in any way, and if it so happens you must update your views. Researching the context of a book and reflecting about how much of the portrayals match with real incidents helps you to develop your own worldviews.

While reading a book you must be able to differentiate between fluff and the most important bits. This enables you to retain significant and useful details. When you come across a striking idea while reading, you must pause and think about how you can apply it in your life and later actually try to do so. This should ideally be practiced while reading non-fictional guidance books. When taking advice from such books, always check if practical applications complement the ideas.

Take notes or mark the book

If you are serious about retaining what you read, you should take notes of the most significant observations. Fancy gadgets and tools would be an overkill; you can use a simple pen and diary or make notes in your laptop or computer, but make sure to maintain an index, so that you can revisit the notes whenever necessary. You can also simply highlight or underline the text in the book or scribble notes to enhance your retention.

Read with a purpose

The first step of reading is picking a book. You must select a book for a specific reason – it can be entertainment, or for developing a better understanding of a subject, to develop a new skill, to build a business, etc. Whatever your reason, make sure you filter the book based on its merits and your own personal interest and not just because it is a classic or a bestseller. You can select a book focusing on a combination of factors – a) Books that stood the test of time; b) Resonates with your present situation; c) Piques your interest; d) Is about a person you revere

When you read with a purpose, you must never hesitate to stop reading a book if it bores you or simply doesn’t stand up to your expectations and standards. You can use the 50 pages mark to take that decision.

Changing your reading approach by following these few steps can help you become a better reader and enhance your retention phenomenally.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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