Thursday, August 15, 2013

How I became a boss at dropping quotes from books.

People think that just because my father is a genius and an avid reader, it means I have the natural ability to plow through books and immediately internalize everything they say.  They're wrong.  I once hated reading too, and I don't believe reading comes easily to anyone.  But it comes easily to me now, and here is how.

The best advice I've ever gotten on reading is something my brother once told me, "Never turn the page until you completely understand everything written on it.  Don't even go on to the next paragraph until you can summarize what the one before it was saying."  Something else Tony taught me is that you have to be constantly relating what you are reading to yourself and to things you've learned in the past or from other places.

Those two points, 1) making sure you understand before you go on, and 2) connecting it to yourself and things you already know, are the reasons why I am able to naturally remember so many quotes and passages that I read.  Those are also the main two mechanisms by which we form memories in general, whether reading a book, having a conversation, or observing a scene around us.

This is also the best study strategy I've ever had.  When I am studying for a class, I usually only have to look at the material once, because when I spend time studying it, it becomes ingrained in my mind.  Although it is time consuming, it is immensely helpful for my philosophy degree, which includes a lot of dense reading.  I've also naturally become a much faster reader, and much better at picking up and remembering things.

I really don't read that much.  When I'm dropping quotes in a discussion, it is usually from the same few books.  And I don't do it by sitting there and memorizing quotes all day.  I just make sure I get absolutely everything out of the book before I move on to another one.

People ask me for books suggestions all the time, and sometimes they are disappointed.  I tell them a book is amazing, and later they come telling me it wasn't as good as they expected it to be.  I bet they don't read like I do.  Something I remind myself of is that this person whose book I'm reading is infinitely smarter than me, and if they thought these words were worth it and I don't, then there is something wrong with me and in how I'm understanding it.

If you say, "I'm just not a reader," you're an idiot.  Stop complaining.  And don't turn the page until you understand everything on it.  It will be painful at first, but soon, young jedi, you will become great.

A great post by a blogger I love on the concept of deliberate practice:


  1. loved this :) Im rereading "Mere Christianity" because I think I read it too hopefully will reread it slowly and summarise taking the time to digest it all

    PS loved your first line to this blog -- made me giggle :) give the family my love!

    1. YAY!!!! I definitely get something new out of it every time I read Mere Christianity. I have the audiobook too, I can pass that along to you. I'm picking about my audiobooks, I have to like the person's voice and how they read, and I really like the guy who reads this one. It actually helps me understand and soak it in better.

      Hahaha, I will! :-D

      Thanks for commenting Donna!

  2. So true, Martha! Was just talking with a friend about something very similar the other day. Loved your point about book authors thinking that their words were worth it; every book is a treasure and an opportunity for growth if we want it to be. It's always about what we make of it. I, too, believe that everyone can be a reader :)

  3. This is a great post. Do you still read like this? I'm gonna start reading/studying like this.