Taking notes while reading

This is just going to be a rather short post on reading or to be precise; note-keeping whilst reading. I have covered this a little bit before, but it seems to be an area where I keep refining my technique. Some techniques stay with me, others drift away – but these following points have stayed with me for some time, and seems to be a good mix of effort and reward.

To be clear; I only use these techniques for non-fiction books, or perhaps even more precisely; books I read in order to gain some knowledge or insight. This is not applied to leisure-reading. Of course you may use it as you please.

Photo 31-05-14 20.16.24First of; I mark paragraphs in the book as I am reading along. This is nothing new and I even think I have written about it before, but just to show an example(here from Ryan Holidays, The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph)

This does a fine job of highlighting passages that I find valuable or things I would like to remember afterwards. The downside of this, is that in order to find all the marked passages afterwards, you have to go through the entire book.

What I started doing then, was every time I made a mark in the book, I would write the page-number in one of the last blank pages in the book. To simplify it a bit further I would only write the number of the left page, if I made marks on both sides and if I hadn’t made any notes on the left, I of course would write the page number of the right one, given that it had any content I marked.

This made me a personal index at the back of the book with everything that I found valuable from the content. But in some cases there might be content I found extra valuable. So I needed a way to distinguish “regular” notes from “extra important”.

Photo 31-05-14 20.21.55The simple solution to this was just to underline the page number in my personal index. Then what I end up with, is an index I can use if I have relatively good time to read through the valuable notes, or if I am in a hurry, I can just browse through the underlined page numbers, containing the extra valuable content. In practice this looks like the following(here from Marcus Aurelius’, Meditations: A New Translation)

In retrospect, I would have loved to have this technique a bit earlier. There are quite a few books I need to go back through – some only needing the index others does not even have marks in them. But to help others that might gain from these techniques, they are now shared.

Happy reading folks!

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