Designing Data-Intensive Applications: The Big Ideas Behind Reliable, Scalable, and Maintainable Systems
4.8 on Amazon
241 HN comments
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
Jared Diamond Ph.D.
4.5 on Amazon
239 HN comments
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
4.6 on Amazon
239 HN comments
Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship
Robert C. Martin
4.7 on Amazon
232 HN comments
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
David Allen and Simon & Schuster Audio
4.5 on Amazon
231 HN comments
The Three-Body Problem
Cixin Liu, Luke Daniels, et al.
4.3 on Amazon
225 HN comments
William Gibson, Robertson Dean, et al.
4.4 on Amazon
218 HN comments
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Hardcover Journal and Elder Wand Pen Set
4.8 on Amazon
212 HN comments
Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software
Erich Gamma , Richard Helm , et al.
4.7 on Amazon
208 HN comments
How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading
Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren
4.5 on Amazon
193 HN comments
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Yuval Noah Harari, Derek Perkins, et al.
4.6 on Amazon
191 HN comments
The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing. A Book of Practical Counsel (Revised Edition)
Benjamin Graham , Jason Zweig , et al.
4.7 on Amazon
188 HN comments
Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software
4.6 on Amazon
186 HN comments
Seveneves: A Novel
Neal Stephenson, Mary Robinette Kowal, et al.
4.1 on Amazon
184 HN comments
Cracking the Coding Interview: 189 Programming Questions and Solutions
Gayle Laakmann McDowell
4.7 on Amazon
180 HN comments
loughnaneonJan 11, 2021
100% agree that a wiki-style version of the syntopicon would be excellent.
davidwparkeronJune 22, 2020
I highly recommend this book for that reason:
SquishyPanda23onSep 1, 2019
gchamonliveonJan 8, 2020
ncfaustionApr 14, 2021
50CNTonNov 27, 2016
avindrothonSep 17, 2016
A vast majority belong in the latter.
How to Read a Book is a wonderful read on this topic.
bcbrownonJune 20, 2019
nekopaonSep 20, 2015
peburrowsonSep 17, 2016
sitkackonApr 4, 2015
Alex3917onJune 8, 2011
ohduranonJuly 29, 2019
One of those books, by the way, is How To Read a Book, by Mortimer Adler. Check out my notes here: http://alvaroduran.com/how-to-read-a-book
agbellonAug 10, 2009
ncfaustionNov 19, 2017
doucheonAug 2, 2016
abc_lisperonDec 4, 2020
bitwizeonJune 19, 2009
jcmoscononApr 10, 2018
ssijakonOct 28, 2020
starpilotonSep 1, 2019
ohduranonFeb 26, 2021
rimantasonJan 2, 2017
pitt1980onJuly 31, 2019
I always wonder how many people follow this sort of advice, and how many hours are they spending when they do follow this advice
elzronAug 15, 2017
Thanks for your review by the way, it motivated me to reread Euclid.
requin246onJune 11, 2020
Highly recommended if you’re doing any non-fiction reading.
npsimonsonMar 16, 2018
siversonMar 15, 2018
This great book - "How to Read a Book" - https://sivers.org/book/HowToReadABook - has a great methodlogy for reading books deeply.
foobawonJuly 4, 2018
tomsthumbonApr 30, 2017
hahahasureonMay 28, 2021
I also have a hard time seeing how it's possible to read Plato 3 times in a week, even without a job.
chrismdponJan 7, 2015
It taught me just how much I was reading for my own entertainment, not for real information.
tmalyonFeb 1, 2019
It covers analytical and syntopical reading. But it also addresses how to read different types of texts
tagfowufeonFeb 26, 2021
nik1aa5onSep 2, 2016
lemonberryonFeb 26, 2021
has2k1onJan 4, 2015
hoodwinkonAug 2, 2016
a_conFeb 16, 2020
1. Get started, doesn't matter how dumb your notes are
2. Use tiddlywiki for connecting ideas
3. Read the book How to Read a Book
sn9onDec 5, 2017
For books in general, you might find Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book useful.
vizer20onDec 11, 2020
There is a great book "how to read a book" by Mortimer J. Adler.
It teaches to filter books and understand if it worth reading
eddylonDec 29, 2019
tmalyonFeb 4, 2019
Its a practical book
sn9onSep 3, 2017
I'd read Adler's book first, but reading two different presentations of what might be the same idea is better than reading only one.
seg_lolonOct 6, 2020
You might enjoy another metacognitive handbook in Mortimer Adlers, "How to Read a Book"
There is a wonderful hyperplane on the net in the "how to read a book/paper/something" vein. [2a, 2b]
metric10onMar 17, 2018
breckonApr 30, 2008
ohduranonJuly 23, 2019
Turned out I didn't. There's so much going on when you look a book closely that you don't even notice it's there. Also, it helped me plan and prioritise how to read. It's a wonderful read, believe me.
In case you want to check out more, I put together some notes of it here: https://alvaroduran.me/how-to-read-a-book
Happy to hear your thoughts!
marcoamoralesonJan 8, 2013
michael_nielsenonFeb 13, 2010
chensteronAug 8, 2016
yawzonDec 4, 2020
breckonJuly 28, 2008
cratermoononFeb 26, 2021
I'd argue that you can't actually learn anything from reading. Mortimer Adler argues in "How to Read a Book" that you can only actually learn by action, which means doing something with what you read.
cryoshononJune 25, 2020
it completely changes your approach to learning to be significantly more rigorous, and i can't speak highly enough about it. and of course, it's not just good for reading from books, but any kind of reading you want.
tmariceonFeb 26, 2021
Adler wrote "How to Read a Book" (which this article is about) originally in 1940, I wouldn't call that "now".
HTRAB is a bit dry and over-analytical, but it's definitely practical. It enumerates all questions that you should ask yourself while reading analytically, and while this may sound like an overkill, unless you're paying attention, you'll likely skip some of the steps. I read many great books only to find that they completely evaporated from my head in a week or two.
Isn't it a waste of time to spend months reading Brothers Karamazov, and not be changed by that experience?
Reading for entertainment and information already is easy as breathing for most people, but for reading for understanding to be as easy as breathing, you need to deliberately practice it.
While Adler's advice is valid, it lacks another important component, and that's discussion. A good book club (reading the great books, not whatever's on top of the NYT bestseller list) will change the entire experience and increase knowledge retention.
SirensOfTitanonAug 31, 2019
Most books I just read once fairly rapidly: skipping over parts I don’t get or find uninteresting. Just a few books ever get an ‘analytical’ reread.
I don’t keep a notebook generally to keep reads portable, I instead talk about what I’m reading pretty aggressively as a strategy to memorize and absorb knowledge.
joncamerononMay 28, 2015
Adler and Doren's "How to Read a Book" covers quick contextualization; there were techniques and ideas about this starting in the early 70s, most of which is still very relevant and I've found very useful in my own reading life.
dredmorbiusonSep 11, 2019
See Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book for an excellent guide. Most of the techniques it describes are ones I've long used -- it's been an excercise largely in validation, though with a few additional tricks and bits.
TeMPOraLonNov 20, 2016
I wonder what the perfect number is. For non-fiction, I guess you'll hit diminishing returns with most books in something like 5 iterations. But then again, I want to take a following challenge: pick one good fiction book, and read it 100 times. I've read (in Adler's "How to Read a Book", I think) that the way you understand and feel about a piece of writing will change profoundly after so many read-throughs.
tmalyonAug 11, 2020
smithzaonJune 29, 2020
philwelchonAug 31, 2019
breckonJuly 9, 2008
-The C Programming Language
-The Non-Designers Design Book
-How to Read a Book
-Never Eat Alone
-Art of War
-Bill Bryson's a History of Everything(~)
gdubsonFeb 12, 2019
If you're interested in how technology might cause self-interruptions that make things like sitting down with a book more difficult, I recommend checking out "The Distracted Mind". 
breckonJan 11, 2021
It's not every day that I see the name "Mortimer Adler".
He also wrote a book called "How to Read a Book" that I somehow stumbled upon in high school. That was the start of my love of reading (yes, I got off to a late start!). Not sure if any book changed my life more than that one.
Will have to get Syntopicon.
Here's a web page for the book: https://www.thegreatideas.org/syntopicon.html
At a glance looks like a great start, but works better as a git repo/collaborative ongoing project, and needs someone to take the reigns.
jacques_chesteronJan 11, 2011
It serves two useful purposes.
1. It provides a framework for thoroughly digesting important books.
2. It is a rich vein of humour for visiting friends to mine when they spot it on your book shelf.
pharkeonApr 14, 2021
Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book provides a decent framework for dealing with the variety of books out there. There are also tools like Polar that provide an easy way to do incremental reading which may help when attacking a book piece by relevant piece.
mikeceonJune 5, 2018
tmalyonJune 25, 2020
The only part that differs is they approach with trying to get a big picture rather than focusing on the only the parts you need.
I tend to agree with the Surgical Reading on focusing on the parts you need. Time is at such a premium that just in time learning is a great strategy.
guidoismonJan 4, 2020
vo2maxeronJan 4, 2020
“....a good book can teach you about the world and about yourself. You learn more than how to read better; you also learn more about life. You become wiser. Not just more knowledgeable - books that provide nothing but information can produce that result. But wiser, in the sense that you are more deeply aware of the great and enduring truths of human life.”
― Mortimer J. Adler, How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading
kriroonOct 17, 2017
The most important thing for me is to not read it from the beginning to the end (which is hard for me). Abstract->Conclusions, scan headlines. Methods is the most curious section for me. Depending on the paper and what I am working on I read the methods section last or first (even before the abstract). If it's more of a "oh that seems neat" paper I skip the methods section and mostly extract the idea. The book "How to read a book" is also a good source of ideas.
I don't think there's a one size fits all approach. I also find the various papers on writing literature reviews very helpful (for gathering an overview of a topic). Just checked my Zotero and these are the ones I have tagged:
"Using grounded theory as a method for rigorously reviewing literature"
"On being ‘systematic’in literature reviews in IS"
"A hermeneutic approach for conducting literature reviews and literature searches"
"Systematic literature reviews in software engineering–a systematic literature review"
"Writing narrative literature reviews."
Feel free to go as meta as you want ;)
tristanhoonMay 6, 2017
One of my favorite ideas from the book is the idea of reading for "enlightenment":
"It is true, of course, that you should be able to remember what the author said as well as know what he meant. Being informed is prerequisite to being enlightened. The point, however, is not to stop at being informed."
You don't just want to memorize what an author said, you want to elevate your level of "understanding" to a point where you understand the topic nearly as well as the author does! With that as a goal, your focus quickly shifts from reading 100 books in a year to properly educating yourself.
BeetleBonDec 4, 2020
The classic "How to Read a Book" kind of recommends this. They recommend skimming the book really quickly (e.g. one or two days) to get an idea of what it's about and the big picture - skipping anything you don't understand. And only then should you ponder whether it's worth a proper detailed read. They imply that most books will not be.
wirthjasononApr 15, 2021
I was shocked. Of course I know how to read a book. I made it to college after all. Curiosity got me and I checked it out from the library and read it. Turns out, I didn’t know how to read a book. :)
If you’re looking to get back into reading that book is a good start.
breckonFeb 17, 2021
Also, it's a kids book but current book with the 2yo that I really enjoy is "My favorite book in the whole wide world" by Malcom Mitchell.
Thanks for the tip to Illustrated Book Bad Arguments. Looks interesting, just ordered.
ameminatoronJuly 26, 2021
Four books that helped me along the way are:
How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler
The Book of Fallacies by Jeremy Bentham
(alternatively, I enjoyed Logically Fallacious by Bo Bennet, and it fills the same niche)
Trust Me - I'm Lying by Ryan Holiday
Asking the Right Questions by Browne, Keil
I hope that was helpful! Enjoy
starpilotonSep 30, 2010
akulbeonFeb 4, 2018
How to Read a Book - Mortimer Adler
How to Read Slowly - James Sire
The Personal MBA - Josh Kaufman
The Intelligent Investor - Benjamin Graham
Think and Grow Rich - Napoleon Hill
How to Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie
fakelvisonJune 4, 2012
Of course, I'm talking of Adler's How to Read a Book.
Admittedly, it's intention was to help in absorbing and analysing The Great Books , but I have found it of unbounded usefulness when reading any non-fiction (retention rates went through the roof). Regardless: without using the techniques he discusses (some of you may already, without knowing it) you'll never be able to read or learn from books at your full potential.
knight17onJuly 1, 2018
 : https://www.amazon.com/How-Read-Book-Classic-Intelligent/dp/...
 : https://fourminutebooks.com/how-to-read-a-book-summary/
 : http://oxfordtutorials.com/How%20to%20Read%20a%20Book%20Outl...
gyepionApr 7, 2014
I am glad to see Csikszenmihalyi on the list as well. Flow is a very powerful concept; we all know it, but understanding it and using it effectively is a different matter entirely.
After reading The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh, I realized that all three books are actually talking about the same subject from different perspectives.
To this list, I would add:
anything by Robert Grudin, but especially:
Time and the Art of Living and The Grace of Great Things
How to solve it by G. Polya
Conceptual Blockbusting by James Adams
Nice to see the Mortimer Adler recommendation as well, but I think his How to Read a Book should be a prerequisite for serious reading.
As I've gotten older, I've come to the conclusion that true understanding requires the kind of depth that comes from knowing one's self intimately. It's a lot harder than it sounds, especially for a technologist.
antpicniconDec 18, 2009
submetaonMay 3, 2020
- Ultralearning by Scott Young
- Deep Work by Cal Newport
- Atomic Habits by James Clear
- How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler
- Mindfulness Meditation (many books by Jon Kabat-Zinn
„Ultralearning“ has lots of valuable ideas. For instance: Directly attacking the skill you want to learn. If you want to learn Git versioning, practice doing it.
„Deep Work“ convinced me that I need to spend focused and uninterrupted (large) chunks of time doing the things that I want to make progress with.
Learn Mindfulness Meditation to be able to focus, to deal with inner distractions and a wandering mind.
„How to read a book“ showed me that I was only reading for information at best, but mostly for entertainment. And it taught me how to read for understanding. Reading-ability at this level is one of the most under-valued skills today (in a world full of tutorial videos).
And finally: Make a schedule, block out chunks of time, stick to the plan. Track your progress in an app or on paper. Repeatedly doing something will give you tremendous amounts of progress in that area. (see „Atomic Habits“)
corysamaonJune 21, 2016
1) Start with books like: How To Read A Book, Thinking Fast and Slow
2) Then, move on to books like: The Secret of Childhood, Instead of Education, Mindstorms
3) Then, you are ready for: Flow, The Children's Machine
Thanks for coming back to answer more questions.
If you've missed 'Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind', I do recommend it. IMHO, Gladwell's Blink was HBTM with most of the material replaced with funny stories.
elliusonAug 31, 2019
aftabhonFeb 26, 2021
> Let it be understood at once that we are wholly in favour of the proposition that most people ought to be able to read faster than they do. Too often, there are things we have to read that are not really worth spending a lot of time reading; if we cannot read them quickly, it will be a terrible waste of time. It is true enough that many people read some things too slowly, and that they ought to read them faster. But many people also read some things too fast, and they ought to read those things more slowly. A good speed reading course should therefore teach you to read at many different speeds, not just one speed that is faster than anything you can manage now. It should enable you to vary your rate of reading in accordance with the nature and complexity of the material.
> Excerpt From: Mortimer J. Adler. “How to Read a Book.”
groby_bonJuly 2, 2016
kd5bjoonMay 7, 2020
awaonJune 26, 2017
It also describes the next step "analytical reading" which comprises of mostly asking questions about the topic in general and about the author's intent.
MathematicalArtonApr 16, 2021
What does it mean to have read a book? To read every single word and symbol? To understand the key ideas and points?
Is every book going to be one hundred percent new ideas to you or are there thematic riffs that allow you to shortcut portions of it without loss of understanding of the entire work?
lemonberryonJan 31, 2014
sn9onApr 30, 2017
Perhaps scheduling rereading in a spaced repetition sort of way, like doubling the interval of time before you reread a text every time, might be useful.
npsimonsonFeb 25, 2014
npsimonsonJan 16, 2013
Reflection and deep understanding are important, but the mantra of "good enough" is very powerful as well, and perhaps the fastest way to "ingest" something is by pushing yourself, hard, to do something "impossible", well beyond your limits. Some people would say that if you could do it, it's not "well beyond your limits", but how do you know until you try?
For me, I have a tendency both to get distracted easily, and occasionally focus deeply (perhaps too deep) on highly specialized subjects. C++ is my current obsession, and not necessarily because I like it; there's just so many dark corners. I do need to learn and practice more deliberately, but also push myself, hard, out of my comfort zone.
And sorry to continue the free association (see how I get distracted easily?), but I feel that perhaps rejection therapy wouldn't be needed if people took more challenging opportunities, with the inevitable failures being all the rejection therapy they need.
kieckerjanonJuly 3, 2018
veskyonMay 11, 2019
I've also read Adler's "How to Read a Book" and I don't think it's as useful as you make it out to be. Annotating is good but nowadays you can take notes easily on your phone which I found myself doing for each book I read/listen to. Also one of the advice you find in your example is how truly reading a book means reading it more than once. He mentions that the first read should be superficial and fast in order to prepare you for the second, more thorough read.
lefstathiouonMay 11, 2019
Reading “thinking fast thinking slow” should not take 8-9 hours... it could easily take 50 (after all, it represents many years and thousands of hours of work by the preeminent thinker on the subject). Scholars have spent a lifetime studying the Inferno.
I am typing this as I stand in line at a coffee shop in nyc as a kid is listening to music while reading “sapiens”. How can you expect to meaningfully absorb this content in a distracted environment, no pen for annotations and your attention span completely under assault?
I believe humanity’s ascension over the past two hundred years is pretty clear proof that books (or the written word) work well as a form of knowledge transfer but they require you to work for it.
“there’s no such thing as free lunch”
Ps a good primer on this, for those who care, is Mortimer Adler’s “How to Read a Book”
nooblyonJune 25, 2018
Coursera's course "Learning How to Learn"
Thinking Fast and Slow, Kahneman
How to Read a Book, Adler
The Trivium, Sister Miriam Joseph
How to Solve It, Polya
I'd also recommend others that have already been recommended, such as the Discourse On the Method, the logic course (which I haven't personally taken, but a logic course certainly helps enter the right frame of mind for evaluating arguements with others or yourself, ime) and of course, learning more mathematics.
: There's also an excellent summary here: https://pastebin.com/wGFMM1pZ
kingmanazonSep 6, 2013
In terms of increasing reading speed, you may want to try the utility "dictator" for those texts which are electronic. For physical books I would run a finger under text to maintain momentum as Adler suggested in "How To Read a Book". Make notes in the text, being sure to use a custom set of symbols to speed notation. Write concise thoughts in the margin, don't go overboard.
squeaky-cleanonJune 29, 2021
I picked this up from Mortimer J. Adler's "How to Read a Book". There's lots of other techniques discussed in it, but the idea of "skim the content first to know what's coming up, so you have an idea of what each chapter (or lecture) is building towards" improved my retention massively and works well for things that aren't just books.
soramimoonMay 12, 2021
In a nutshell the author argues that the goal of reading is to increase one's understanding. For this the writer needs to have a better understanding than the reader. The reader must be able to overcome that inequality in understanding to some degree.
A critical first step is deciding whether the book deserves a detailed reading in the first place. Clearly, this is critical for time efficiency.
Once deemed worthwhile, you can move on to a thorough analytical reading where I think note taking trumps speed. The process of actively reading the book will help digest the author's main points and help you remember them.
Finally, if you're trying to grow your expertise in a particular area, consider reading and contrasting multiple books on the subject (comparative reading).
temo4kaonAug 24, 2019
It’s similar to progressive JPEG rendering. Your first pass is pre-processing resulting in fuzzy understanding of the whole that you then refine in the subsequent pass(es). Progressive way is more natural and effective.
I highly recommend reading Adler’s “How to Read a Book” . This exactly the guide you want to read if you want to know how to learn well from books.
cryoshononJuly 10, 2016
How to Read a Book (Adler)
World Order (Kissinger)
Der Grundrisse (Marx)
The Grand Chessboard (Brzezinski)
Manufacturing Consent (Chomsky)
Gulag Archipelago (Solhenitzyn)
On War (Clausewitz)
The Hidden Persuaders (Packard)
Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking (Dennett)
The Strategy of Desire (Dichter)
Skills acquired: intentional syntopical reading, prediction of geopolitical hinge points, and identification of absent context in media... I'm always looking for another book to read.
jonsenonApr 4, 2010
No offense meant. Just struck me. Being a teacher myself I know no one really knows the ultimate learning hacks.
Actually I'm in a similar process of brushing up my knowledge. For now I'm doing some meta reading:
How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading
bewe42onDec 29, 2017
After reading a certain amount of text, close the book and summarize in your own words what you have read. Again ask questions how the key ideas relate to what you already know.
The ultimate exercise is syntopical reading where you compare several books on the same subject with each other.
Best intro: "How to read a book" by Adler.
P.S: I'm very interested in this subject, I'm trying to build an app to support active reading.
Edit: re-reading your question, you seem to want to read faster and consume as many books as possible. As you can guess, my advice is the opposite. Read slow but deep and fewer books (just pick the best out there)
greentimeronAug 25, 2020
This quote is so preposterous it almost made me want to stop reading the article. Different types of writing should have different sentence lengths. I'm quite sure the sentence length for a math textbook and a Clorox ad should be different. There's a reason it's not common practice to measure one's average sentence lengths.
Like most material written on language, this article says almost nothing and is basically filler. "Don't be afraid to give instructions". "Use lists where appropriate". Well of course we know we can give instructions! I recently read a famous book called "How to Read a Book" that in a similar vein struggled to find anything non-obvious to say about language. It just comes so naturally to people that it's difficult to comment on. This article is coming from an organization called the Plain English Campaign that's been around since 1979. I wonder what they can have claimed to have accomplished since then.
This article reminded me of arguments I always read in philosophy about tough subjects like radical skepticism where the authors fail to make any points beyond the obvious. Sure, certain knowledge is impossible for humans to attain, but can you say anything else!?
npsimonsonNov 23, 2020
I haven't read Newport's "Deep Work" yet, but I suspect the themes are what I'm aiming for; I like to be a jack of many trades, but mastery of a few (or even serial mastery) is my ultimate goal.
blueyesonJuly 22, 2021
mateszonFeb 7, 2021
Usually many ideas spawn out of some brilliant work which is published for a while already and its really worthwhile to try to track down those.
Knowing history makes it easier to understand works which in some way depend on the original, even small bits - something called syntopical reading.
While this is obvious to many I’ve always struggled to get myself
to read those early works.
Now obvious question is what is the best book to read on the topic of reading books?
I think one of the best is “How to read a book” by Mortimer Adler. It is about all books and cannot recommend it highly enough. It is in public domain already unless I’m mistaken so here is a link .
bcbrownonDec 22, 2016
How to Read a Book, Mortimer J. Adler
High Output Management, Andy Grove
Hell's Angels by Hunter S Thompson
Programming Pearls, Jon Bentley
Autobiography of Red, Anne Carson
Letters from a Stoic, Seneca
Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Wittgenstein
Tyranny of Words, Stuart Chase
Golden Mean, Annabel Lyon
Disrupted, Dan Lyons
Big Data, Nathan Marz
Practical OO Design in Ruby, Sandi Metz
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus, Rainier Maria Rilke
Anatomy of a City, Kate Ascher
Language and Thought by Chomsky
Hero of a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell
Language and Responsibility by Chomsky
Magic, Science, Religion by Malinowski
Meditiations by Marcus Aurelius
Oranges by John McPhee
The Dream of the Enlightement, Anthony Gottlieb
Nonexistant Knight/Cloven Viscount, two novellas by Calvino Italo
Deltoid Pumpkin Seed by John McPhee
Infrastructure by Brian Haynes
I'd recommend almost all of them, but especially the first two, and Autobiography of Red(poetry).
nooblyonMar 27, 2018
: A summary of the algorithm can be found here: https://pastebin.com/wGFMM1pZ
asharkonApr 9, 2015
Mostly by introducing me to the Stoics (Aurelius especially) and a variety of Eastern, especially Zen Buddhist, works.
Revolutionary Road -- Yates
Yay, mentioned that one in two threads today and it's not even noon yet!
A History of Western Philosophy -- Russell
Vonnegut in general. Bluebeard serves as a good overview of his major themes and ideas, to pick just one book. The part about how people with small talents who were once valued by their communities have been rendered eccentrics of no special value to anyone by easy, cheap, global distribution of media is always near the front of my mind.
How to Read a Book -- Adler
alfonsodevonJan 19, 2017
Also I used to read books linearly and the whole thing, recently I'm experimenting with these other ways from How to read a Book pdf which I saw posted on HN
dredmorbiusonMar 16, 2021
Many people do, and feel guilt over setting down books. That serves you poorly.
Approach books as an inquiry or conversation. See Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book (frequently mentioned on HN). Read with a purpose or goal.
(Entertainment and distraction may be goals or purposes.)
Some books reward a close comprehensive read. They are rare.
ingveonAug 31, 2019
muzanionNov 2, 2019
First, take note of the terms used. Things like "capital markets" or "startup" which may mean very different things to different people. Especially useful for technical talks, where you can get buried in jargon.
Look for the information "pillars". These are the things that support the rest of the content. They are information dense, and thus difficult to understand. They feel like speedbumps. If the speaker spends a lot of time reviewing it, it is likely an information pillar.
You also have to practice dealing with a flood of information. Speed reading helps - learn to convert information into images, or categorize and link it to other information as soon as it arrives. You can practice with anything - articles, Wikipedia, holy books.
I really prefer taking notes electronically because it's easier to swap between a glossary of terms and sort out information in different categories as it arrives. But paper works too if you can split out the space for it.
heckandpuntonJuly 13, 2011
I spend a lot of time commuting to and from work, anything between 2-3 hours. This year i made a decision to make use of that time for reading. As of yet i've finished 24 books. Hoping to keep up for the rest of the year.
I suppose i can be more effective with reading different books with tailored strategies but haven't been able to find out anything substantial about that yet. Have ordered "How to Read a Book" by Mortimer Adler to see if it can help.
Also, at the beginning of the year, i just jumped in, without much of a definite idea on what to read. The priority for me then, was just to get started. It served the purpose. But right now, i would probably need to revisit that.
I've been doing most of my reading on a Pocketbook 360 and long hours with that, despite the e-Ink screen, feels more fatiguing as opposed to a paper book. I'm looking to alternate more between paper and ebooks.
dredmorbiusonJune 20, 2019
redelbeeonDec 10, 2020
I hadn’t heard of Great Books of the Western World before but I’ll definitely check it out! I do something similar with movies and “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die” which is also a great resource.
I still can’t bring myself to write in books for some reason, but I did take notes on all the non-fiction books I read last year. I haven’t kept up with that because it didn’t seem to help me with processing, remembering, or using the book much beyond being able to find references more easily. It was useful to find the references more quickly but didn’t seem worth the time invested in note taking. I’ll check out “How to Read a Book” to see if I can get better there.
dredmorbiusonSep 11, 2019
For reading, generally, I strongly recommend Mortimer Adler's classic How to Read a Book, itself an HN perennial, see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12209446 (or all: https://hn.algolia.com/?q="how%20to%20read%20a%20book").
If you're trying to determine what to read, or want to rapidly get an overview of a book, or are "visually grepping" for specific content, then the tricks of speed-reading, especially of chunking, skimming paragraph ledes, and not vocalising or subvocalising, help.
If you're reading for deep understanding, you'll want to fully absorb the material (and work through the exercises!), though this can also involve several passes -- for textbooks or nonfiction, I'll scan the ToC, and then the chapter (especially for section/subsection titles), then read through in full.
Treating such reading as an inquiry rather than simply as data transfer helps tremendously.
And of course, if you're reading quality literature or poetry, you'll want to savour the language, words, rhythm, meter, and rhyme. Go slow. You'll appreciate it all the more.
Reading plays or dialogue-rich content is a particular skill -- try reading with different intonation or to sort out what possible alternate meanings might exist. Shakespeare is of course excellent for this, though many other plays (or film screenplays) are as well. Realise just how much latitude the actor or director has in translating from words on the page to those uttered on the stage or screen.
dredmorbiusonJune 9, 2021
Records transmit knowledge. Not all human knowlege is equally facilitated by explitic (spoken or written) transmission. Different domains and topics exercise different skills: memorisation in the case of history and a substantial portion of practice lore, structured knowledge in the case of most of the sciences, and what might be considered cerebral skills development in areas such as maths, logic, rhetoric, management, negotiation, sales tactics, and relationship management. These are learnt in different ways, and books play different roles in their education.
Numerous HN submissions: https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&que...
Notably: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12209446 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=177214 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1002360
guidoismonAug 31, 2019
Read How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer Adler. (https://www.amazon.com/How-Read-Book-Classic-Intelligent/dp/...)
I’ve given this book to a bunch of people on my teams as it also helps with communicating ideas which is vital as a programmer.
The wikipedia page for it is a good place to get an overview of what it’s about. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_to_Read_a_Book
Since reading it I’ve been keeping a notebook, some people might call it a Commonplace Book, with interesting stuff from the book. I find that I get a lot more from books from the act of writing it down and then reading those notes later when I glance at them while looking something else up in the notebook.
One big big big thing I learned from the book is to not read a non-fiction book like it was a novel. There’s nothing wrong with skipping ahead and finding out what happens later, in fact you should absolutely skim the book first. I end up finishing a lot more books by doing this since so many books aren’t actually worth careful reading. I am able to systematically skim a book including the TOC and index and determine if it’s worth reading carefully. A lot of books are so sparse with ideas that you can get most of them through this method. Only the good books are worth going on to the second and third stages and only the great ones the fourth stage.
base698onJan 5, 2020
cocacola1onApr 4, 2018
cryoshononSep 3, 2018
one practice that i have used to great effect is circling the names of other authors and other texts which the piece that i'm reading mentions. then, if it's relevant, i can later hunt down the other resources easily. you can do some really cool exploration through certain intellectual movements that you'd never otherwise encounter. using that method i've discovered a few of my favorite authors (edward bernays, walter lippmann, etc).
notably, the book that goes into this practice and other scribblings in great detail is the timeless classic, "how to read a book" by adler. there's an entire section describing how to use marginalia to improve your understanding and set the stage for syntopical reading wherein you gain the deepest level of understanding and link-ins with outside information.
there's probably enough utility in pencil-reading to give an entire class on it. i can't praise it enough.
sfotmonJune 25, 2020
I think some people that see online essays and podcasts as a more efficient way to consume information might ironically be the most "orthodox" sort of readers. Most well-written non-fiction books provide a clear index, a table of contents that makes the process of the book clear, and introductory matter in each chapter that summarizes things for you. If you want a certain piece of information, you can go into the book and get out within 5 minutes. You don't owe every book you pick up a cover-to-cover read.
Highly recommend "How to Read a Book". It calls the author's process of "surgical reading" "syntopical reading", though they might have slightly different meanings in reality.
sbonJuly 24, 2011
Now, the process of advancing the state-of-the-art is unusually hard and there exists a good deal of very good write-ups of the intricacies involved (such as "So long and thanks for the PhD") which requires people to be driven and focused. But, at the same time, before actually starting the research that gets them their PhDs, gradute students spend time in advanced courses and later on read lots of research papers and additional textbooks. This is an invaluable process of unsupervised learning (hence the first paragraph), and I think that getting a PhD also gives you the abilities and experience to autonomously go from zero knowledge in an area to contributing new knowledge by reading. Of course, studying at a university saves you a lot of time, because somebody else--the professor--who is already very knowledgeable in the target area has already broken down his knowledge in edible--and ideally pedagogically-sound--pieces ready to be sucked up. But if time is not of the essence, and since you are already a driven and focused person, you should be able to do it by yourself.
So this was (quite unexpectedly) rather long, a more detailed discussion and probably a very good book to read for anybody can be found in: Mortimer Jerome Adler's wonderful "How to read a book". A brief summary for tl;dr reasons: I love and totally support your reading advice, but since the PhD experience enables you to work your way through literature in unknown territory, it might very well be worth the effort.
awaonNov 19, 2017
spjpgrdonJune 22, 2016
"reading a book."
I've been reading a book called,
I kid you not, "How to Read a Book:
The Classic Guide to Intelligent
Adler and Doren identify four levels
1. Elementary: "What does the sentence say?"
This is where speed can be gained
2. Inspectional: "What is the book about?"
Best and most complete reading given a limited time.
Not necessarily reading a book from front to back.
Essentially systematic skimming.
Best and most complete reading given unlimited time.
For the sake of understanding.
Reading many books of the same subject at once,
placing them in relation to one another, and
constructing an analysis that may not be found
in any of the books.
Amazon link for those interested:
dorchadasonSep 12, 2020
philwelchonJuly 3, 2018
mbrockonMar 23, 2019
Check out “How to Read a Book”, too. It presents book reading in quite a different way than you might be used to. The book as an object that you investigate almost like a strange beetle or a transistor radio—to learn how it works.
Most nonfiction books “do something” in the way that a program does something. There’s a main purpose and a lot of subroutines and maybe some boilerplate and repetition. It’s not as linear as you might think either. And they’re embedded in a web of references. It’s very interesting to think about how you actually use a book in your life...
goodlifeodysseyonAug 10, 2021
That being said, it’s much more natural to actively read than to actively watch TikTok. Thus, in practice, reading is often a better activity than watching TikTok. The first chapter or Robert Adler’s “How to Read a Book” talks about active reading in more detail; he has a few more arguments too.
Side note: unless you are a relativist and think everyone’s view about art is equally correct no matter what, the person who studies art is probably “more correct” than the Instagramer; a lot of art requires cultural context (e.g, familiarity with the Bible and Ovid) to understand. If you are a relativist, then why does nearly everyone agree some art belongs in a museum and a lot of art is garbage that nobody cares about?
JoelMcCrackenonMar 29, 2010
This book was very important for me, as it gave me a new way of approaching both books and almost everything in life. It also gives a rather thorough collection of the most important books of western culture, ordered by authors then dates.
If you ever wanted to know how to read more effectively, this book is it. It teaches you how to mark up a book in such a way that you'll be able to remember what you need from it after a few minutes of review. I highly recommend it. My life would have been much poorer without having read it.
edpichleronNov 26, 2016
hoodwinkonSep 2, 2016
nekopaonOct 12, 2016
Now this is talking about novels. If I'm reading to learn then you have to I must interact with the book, stop and think, go back and make connections, try something out etc.
This is where I like the statement in the book "How to read a book" about reading as fast as is necessary to complete the task you want to accomplish - fast for a quick read through maybe, then slower on another read through for making notes.
So I can read a novel a night, or a pop Sci book in a day, but I've been going through a math book for the last 2 months, and of course, I've been reading the first chapter of TAOCP for about 15 years (hence the math books now :)
oldsklgdfthonAug 26, 2019
npsimonsonSep 1, 2015
This old chestnut has been trod out so many times it's becoming a dead horse. Not that it doesn't have a point, but I can remember a discussion here a while back (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8492659) where we went over a very similar topic, although with not as deep connections to culture in general.
Suffice to say, everyone selects, and usually from ignorance, unfortunately. The best you can do is force yourself to look at things you wouldn't normally, get out of your comfort zone, consider expert advice like that given in "How to Read a Book". And I say this as someone who has read Pratchett, enjoyed some of it, didn't enjoy other parts, and I will (probably) never read the twilight series as I consider it garbage (and no, I've never even looked at it).
 - https://what-if.xkcd.com/76/
dbulonMay 27, 2009
MrDeltaonOct 17, 2019
Would you like us to share notes on the book itself? I've practiced its teachings for the last 3 years or so, and I'd like to chat with someone about it.
Sorry if this comment is a bit irrelevant, but HN doesn't really have a DM system. /shrug
lowdownonSep 30, 2010
Personally I think this applies to non-fiction works only. At least in my personal reading. My brain doesn't need to store the details of fictional works. It seems like it actively discards "entertainment" items in favor of knowledge I need to pay the mortgage and feed the kids. I am much more deliberate with that information.
nimnioonAug 5, 2016
garden_hermitonDec 4, 2020
Edwards is an academic historian of science who write incredibly long and dense books drawing on hundreds of sources. If anyone knows how to read, its him, and his advice was truly useful for my own reading.
fchuonMay 12, 2020
Strong advice but I feel it's much harder nowadays to go down that route when there are distractions like YouTube videos that are easy to watch and make you feel you're learning when really it's scratching a superficial curiosity itch with no depth.
That said, to answer OP's question, I got Mortimer's book called "Great Treasury of Western Thought" that has compiled quotes from Western classics into key themes (the human condition, love, religions, etc), and it provided the missing link between getting meaty samples of key concepts, versus actually reading ALL the classics (the book started as the the index or 'syntopicon' of the 'Great Books of the Western World', a full compilation of Western works)
csnewbonSep 6, 2018
Two books I highly recommend that can help you with improving reading and learning skills:
1) "Make It Stick" by Peter C. Brown
2) "How To Read A Book" by Mortimer J. Adler.
npsimonsonJuly 9, 2013
Should test scores be curved? Or does that defeat the whole point of tests (ie, to verify proficiency)? What even denotes proficiency? Getting the answer right once? Ten times in a row? 100 times separated by other different questions?
I guess it ultimately comes down to measuring what you care about, but I think that tests and teaching in general could use a lot more discussion and analysis, and at least to me it's fascinating, from many angles (eg, as you mention, student attitudes and the best way to motivate people to truly learn).
dmos62onDec 2, 2018
Reading mathematics has a whole series of additional challenges. In my limited experience with reading those: nurturing comfort in incomprehension is important; it's often better to skip a part than get stuck on it; look for multiple accounts of the same concept.
jonsenonApr 4, 2010
I found so far, that I'm not a bad reader. Apparently I already master several of the techniques described. But anyway I find it very valuable to become much more consciously aware of my own reading abilities. And I definitely expect to improve my abilities from the study of the book.
Also I find the arguments and supporting explanations in the book so far of distinct value.
npsimonsonFeb 14, 2020
This is what they recommend in "How to Read a Book". First one is called "inspectional reading" and can be anything from a fifteen minute pre-reading to decide if it's the correct book to read, to a read-through without stopping to look things up, but make notes (especially of questions).
Second one is called analytical reading, and is much more focused on asking oneself questions about the book and how it covers it's topic. Very active reading.
I've often found it is helpful to go in the order they recommend, as you can often get all you need out of a book with an inspectional superficial reading. Sometimes you can eliminate a book via the pre-reading, but the ones that are valuable enough to justify an analytical reading are well worth it. In particular, I class books with questions or exercises very highly, as I retain much more information when I have to work through problems.
tannerbrockwellonJan 29, 2018
0klonDec 16, 2019
Aurelius (trans. Martin Hammond)
Fear and Trembling
Man’s Search for Meaning
Kundera’s The Art of the Novel
After doing a thorough reading of “How to Read a Book” I decided to try rereading a few books to pull more out of them.
I can’t recommend “How to Read a Book” enough - despite its anachronisms and glaring faults, it’s the only book I’ve found that has genuinely made me feel that I’ve not really read a single book in my life.
michaelmachineonSep 20, 2015
dredmorbiusonSep 1, 2019
I read actively, and am a fan of Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book, mentioned by others. The methods it describes are much as I'd developed on my own, though I've picked up a few pointers.
I consider books resources to aid in an inquiry. I've an idea of the questions I'm interested in, and exploring the development, presentation, and explorations of those questions guides what I read.
My "to read" pile is ... unmanageable. I've collected thousands of books and articles, which I consider not an obligation to read, but a pre-vetted resource to dig into in more depth. Bibliographies, footnotes, annotations, and references within works are very useful at turning up other works. Generally, my highest priority is on foundational works within a field, or revolutionary works which either break new ground or synthesize existing ideas into a new whole. As I've studied, I've found myself generally less interested in the most recent material -- it's often far less substantive than earlier works, much rehashes older concepts (with or without credit or reference), though sometimes in the context of some contemporary crisis or issue. (Much of HN's submissions and discussion fall into this class.)
Cultivating my own discipline to work through material I've alreday surfaced is difficult, though I've at least skimmed through a reasonably large share. Tools for organising and managing a large personal research library are sadly lacking, and progress toward realising the dream outlined by Vannevar Bush in his Memex, or Ted Nelson's Project Xanadu, has been sadly disappointing.
I'm actively looking for tips at improving my tools and methods. Reducing the reading pile being a principle objective.
01aac5fcf3c89onDec 27, 2018
If you are going to design e-readers, you should read Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book. Leafing through a book and jumping back in forth is a very important part starting to get into a book, and it is the only way to accurately decide whether you actually want to read a book or not.
TeMPOraLonAug 2, 2013
I guess that's true.
The flavour of "code vs. data" discussion in this thread was one of representation formats. You could argue that when looking at works of art from past centuries one should immediately say "data!" . But in case of JSON, a format suspiciously almost identical to Lisp in structure, one needs to be careful in saying "it's for data, not for code".
Actually, I'm not sure what kind of point I'm trying to make, as the more I think of it, the more examples of things that are borderline code/data come to my mind. Cooking recipes is the obvious candidate, but think about e.g. music notation - it clearly feels more like "code" than "data".
I feel that you could define a kind of difference between "code" and "data" other than in intent, something that could put bitmaps into the "data" category, and a typical function into "code" category, but I can't really articulate it. Maybe there's some mathematical way to describe it, but it's definitely a blurry criterion. But when we're discussing technology, I think it's harmful to pretend that there's a real difference. Between configuration files looking like half-baked Lisp listings and "declarative style" C++ that looks like datasets with superfluous curly braces, I think it's wrong to even try to draw a line.
 - there's a caveat though. "How to Read a Book" by Mortimer Adler discussess briefly how the task of a poet is to carefully chose words that evoke particular emotional reactions in readers. It very much sounds like scripting the emotional side of the human brain.
 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_to_Read_a_Book
dredmorbiusonJan 15, 2020
It's a sentiment I first had on entering my uni library and its 3 million or so volumes, recognising I'd never be able to access more than a tiny fraction of them. The limits of human information processing are formidable.
Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book inspires me, perhaps, to try to attempt "How to Read 10,000 books", that being a sustained rate of 150 books a year over about 65 years, or one every two days or so. The answer would have to involve not reading much of them, as well as other techniques.
You can find the sentiments in Ecclesiastes ("Much study is a weariness of the flesh, and of the making of books there is no end."), Seneca, Diderot (his commentary on information overload is a classic), Schopenhauer, and many more.
The notion that a better bibliographic control can solve the problem is a compelling and attractive one, but also ... at odds with actual experience. It's a possiblity I'm pursuing myself (how I happened to come across Otlet), though the problems he encountered, of creating, maintaining, sustaining, and using the index, seem formidable.
With the rise of the World Wide Web and search engines, the approach has generally been toward full-text search combined with a measure of reputational assessment, rather than topical or semantic assessment, though multiple (mostly abortive) attempts at a semantic Web have been made.
My thought is that a hybrid approach combining elements, but not obsessing over the purity of any one method, might be an improvement.
dredmorbiusonOct 21, 2019
If you're going through a lot of material, the ability to rapidly assess quality vs. unrewarding content, and then rapidly extract as much value from that quality content as possible, is extremely useful.
An HN perennial, FWIW: https://hn.algolia.com/?q="how%20to%20read%20a%20book" See particularly discussion here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12209446
And yes, there's the notion of reading simply for pleasure, in which case, for quality writing, time is its own reward.
arstinonAug 3, 2017
Some readers are excruciatingly slow, so 1.25 just makes them sound normal. Other readers speed along, so 1x is like 1.5x on other books.
Some books need to be played at 1x if you're gonna follow the intricacies. Others with neither dense logical argument or thick, nuanced soul, like bestseller nonfictions where you have a sequence of little stories to illustrate "what studies have shown", can profitably be listened to quite fast, especially when also allaying their boringness with a Geometry Wars or Kingdom Rush addiction. (You might say, why read them then? Personally: as an excuse to play Kingdom Rush.)
If I'm not too into a part I'll even go faster than 2x to pick up the gist unto it catches my interest again.
Really, it's just like normal reading. Any displined reader has different speeds depending on the how much time the material is worth (Adler's How to Read a Book gives a nice model).
karatestomponMay 12, 2020
Uh, no. Lots of them definitely rely on knowing who the monks are, their reputations, and their relationships to one another. And other facts about the world in which they occur ("Three pounds of flax!"). One is not even going to get at the interesting parts of them without that. Lots will come off as gibberish or as confusing in ways that they are not intended to be without that context.
> Sure you can 'explain them' but everybody hears them where their mind is at now.
It's not about explaining them, it's about the coming-to-terms phase of reading from How to Read a Book. Even smart folks would probably have a bad time approaching a graduate-level math text book without a little context so they get where it's even starting from and understand the references and vocabulary that the book was written assuming the reader would already have.
dredmorbiusonMay 22, 2019
There is information that must be experienced, drilled, and committed to habit and muscle memory: tacit knowledge. Drill, practice, experiment, coaching. Often 1:1 or at least 1:few.
It's highly arguable that individual knowledge does not become cultural knowledge until a means of transmitting it from one generation to the next becomes both established on institutionalised. It need not be a large institution, but it must have persistence.
Within any knowledge domain, the explicit knowledge transmits more readily than the tacit. With time and complexity, I suspect a situation much analogous to Amdahl's law is reached, in which generational knowledge transfer comes to be dominated by the tacit component -- it is harder, slower, and more expensive to transmit, and tends to irreducibility.
Technical cultures which become or incorporate a tradition of shared stories and lore, as Unix and Linux have done, seem to achieve this better than others.
And that neglects issues of semantic and cultural drift which affect written texts.
Though I'd come to this conclusion some years ago, I'm finding reading Mortimer J. Adler's How to Read a Book that this is a significant theme of that work.
npsimonsonFeb 25, 2013
absconditusonJune 19, 2009
criddellonDec 16, 2019
I read a decent amount and enjoy it, but I feel in the end I don't get much from it. The time doesn't feel well spent. FWIW, I try to alternate fiction with non-fiction.
ludwigvanonSep 30, 2010
Disclaimer: Unfortunately, although I liked the book, I have been unable to apply the methods he suggested, due basically to "leaning".
eswatonAug 15, 2016
When I read stuff I usually grab a few books on the same subject and read through them, using a mix of ebooks, physical books and audiobooks, so I can fill in dead time in different contexts with reading something on the same topic. I’m able to compare the ideas of the books and that seems to collate them better in my head.
Other than that I’ve given up and consciously trying speed reading tricks like using peripheral vision to read or reading stuff one word at a time. I’m sure there’s more gains for those techniques but I just don’t have the patience to put them in muscle memory at this point.
temo4kaonAug 31, 2019
You’ll learn how to discover, interpret and judge books, and how to not waste time on poorly written books or those that don’t contain much substance. The core of the book is part 2: the rules of analytical reading, which are general rules applicable to expository works. Part 3 then discusses their modifications for particular types of literature: practical books, history, philosophy, science, social science, fiction.
Highly recommend it. You don’t want to miss it if you’re serious about reading, that is thinking, growing, educating and enriching yourself.
shannifinonSep 9, 2020
Some random thoughts:
1) Indeed many nonfiction books are full of fluff and filler. While there's a completionist in me that wants to read every word and finish all books started, I'm now in the more useful habit of skimming and reading the few chapters that interest me. I've been intrigued to see services like Blinklist that summarize the main points, and sometimes I think even those have too much fluff. Sometimes I grab my notebook to take notes only to find there's not much to take note of. But I confess, perhaps up to 95% of the nonfiction I read is ends up being forgotten because it's just not all that useful to me (more useful is just knowing where I can find the info later if needed).
(Although there are quite a few books, like Taleb's books, that have changed the way I think about and see the world, but I don't remember the details and wouldn't be great at giving a worthy summary of them; I'd just recommend the book.)
2) This topic reminds me of Mortimer Adler's book "How to Read a Book"; although I don't remember all his specific syntax, it really encouraged me to be more self-conscious about my reasons for reading.
goostavosonSep 22, 2020
Only update I'd make to those suggestions is moving writing from the margins to external notes. I'd lose so many notes, interesting quotes, or "to look into" things to the margins once I closed the book. Centralizing everything makes it much easier to search for past notes, find related ones, or just completely retrace the skeleton of a book at a glance.
Also, if you read that book in public, get ready for a deluge of strangers making the exact same joke about reading a book about how to read a book.
kieckerjanonMay 28, 2021
Firstly, I started reading short stories more than novels. A short story can usually be read in one sitting and no-one thinks a collection should be read cover to cover.
Secondly, I realized that most non-fiction is (a) badly written and (b) can be read in a non-linear fashion. Just scan the table of contents and dip into the chapters that catch your attention. Skim first and read closely only if convinced. Use the index for cross referencing. Take notes for extra points.
Oh, and read How To Read A Book, by Mortimer J. Adler.
asharkonNov 20, 2016
Literature and verse? Harold Bloom's western canon list, whatever its faults, is pretty damn good and could keep one busy for a lifetime. If you want to mix in more works by e.g. women or more asian works or whatever, there are very good lists for that, too:
(above includes Bloom's list)
Want to learn science and math from classics? The list from How to Read a Book should help, and St. John's College's reading list is public: https://www.sjc.edu
For a given topic, there's often a subreddit with a decent reading list in the FAQ.
Which topic(s) are you having trouble with?
boneitisonDec 29, 2019
Recommend: Ward Farnsworth.
Apparently some law school dean who has written some books on law, none of which I have read. I personally just picture him more as a classicist.
His grasp on English writing knocks me off my feet. It is seriously something to behold.
His book on explaining chess tactics (also available online free) is an absolutely amazing display of effective communication in writing.
In another writing style, he has three books and apparently an upcoming fourth where he presents an idea/concept, cites meaningful examples in the wild of their use, and provides his own commentary to touch up on his chosen topics. They make for delightful reading.
: Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric
: Farnsworth's Classical English Metaphor
: The Practicing Stoic: A Philosophical User's Manual
: Farnsworth's Classical English Style
nekopaonApr 26, 2010
First I have set up an intense learning regime for myself, my first 'semester' is on the basics in a lot of different subjects. (math, physics, nutrition, fitness, programming theory, gardening, writing, photography, chemistry, taoism, buddhism, carpentry and a few others)
Second I have worked up a basic triage system for dealing with all of the information that I have flowing to me: 1st off is it of interest or not, is yes then why? For entertainment or for knowledge? If it is for entertainment then I will read it if I have accomplished my learning goals for the day, if not, oh well, into the trash. If its for knowledge then does it apply to one of my learning topics? If not, then bookmarked for a rainy day or another semester.
For the stuff that applies to one of my current learning topics I apply the methodology from "How to read a book" (recommended to me by someone here, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to read to go from "understanding less to understanding more") and scan it to see if and where it has a place in my learning network/schedule, then put it into my learning tracking database for integration into this or a later semester depending on how it fits.
Its been an interesting couple of months, and I will start blogging about how this process is coming along. After a bit of a wobbly start, and a hard time finding good resources on how to make self-guided learning more efficient I am starting to see good progress in my learning, feel more comfortable with my online consumption and am really starting to make some progress on my start-up ideas and just my life in general.
colechristensenonApr 2, 2018
As an aside I highly recommend reading "How to Read a Book". I don't recommend studying every detail, there is a lot in there I don't think is particularly valuable, but some of it really shifted how I thought about and approached reading.
oldsklgdfthonMay 10, 2021
Specifically, How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler describes how one should approach reading a book. I find that even the Wikipedia entry is useful.
JachonMay 19, 2011
deregulateMedonJuly 6, 2021
Self Help is either a How To book or Philosophy?
Both have quite a bit of value to the individual. Even as the author describes this as feeding the business machine, both self help and philosophy can make you aware when this is happening.
I read these genres and can see clearly why my boss was told to repeat company statements. I sit back and witness corporate propaganda/marketing and am aware they are coming for my brain.
Without self help and philosophy, would I be hacked into mindless compliance?
npsimonsonApr 7, 2014
That being said, I am a little worried that people (at least myself) aren't getting as "deep" into topics as they might have used to. I try to solve this by (very carefully!) picking books that I can slowly digest, over multiple readings. If nothing else, just reading them at the inspectional and superficial levels can help me decide whether I need to go back for more.
 - See "How to Read a Book"
 - https://what-if.xkcd.com/76/
lemonberryonJune 25, 2020
He mentions the book "How to Read a Book". I've read Mortimer Adler's version several times. It really changed how I read and learn from books. It's well worth the investment. I haven't read the Mortimer & Van Doren version.
I've found that doing the inspectional reading really helps. I've described it to friends as "giving me something to hang my hat on" while reading. Having the high level overview acts as a conceptual glue while reading a book through for the first time.
I think it was Naval Ravikant on an episode of Tim Ferriss' podcast that described reading as the "meta skill". If you can read you can learn just about anything.
Back to "How to Read a Book": Adler makes a distinction between able to read, e.g., "See Jack run", and learning from reading. I believe he describes 4 levels. The first, the ability to read, leading to the last, reading from multiple sources to learn. It's unfortunate that our ( U.S. ) educational system doesn't emphasize this much, or at all.
billswiftonJan 12, 2011
For reading that is inherently difficult, Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren give some very helpful information in How to Read a Book. Unfortunately it is not an easy read itself.
Another book I found helpful was A Time to Learn by Phillip Bandt, Naomi Meara, and Lyle Schmidt. It has some really good ideas on diagramming complex work to help you understand them, especially how their ideas fit together.
tmalyonOct 28, 2020
There are several articles I have seen on HN over the last few months that may be helpful
I prefer to use 3 sheets of paper over an app in this case. But I think it would be useful to digitize your notes.
I like this method, it reminds me of the classic book How to Read a Book
mklonMar 22, 2015
Lately I've been reading "How to Read a Book" by Adler and van Doren , which systematises this. It applies to papers just as well as books. Get the 1972 edition, as the 1940 edition is quite a bit less readable.
josephkernonMar 20, 2013
No it advocates the entirely SAME approach.
I think if the OP had actually read "How to Read a Book", the OP might have found that there are some excellent techniques presented, and the authors make a very clear definition between reading for enjoyment and reading for education.
It is one thing to read a single novel for pleasure, quite another to survey all available literature on a subject and to figure out what has not yet been written.
Perhaps if the OP had actually read the book ...
npsimonsonJune 2, 2013
Another big helper (which works well when you're already in Emacs), is to type in and test code examples, and force yourself to solve/work all the exercises/problems given.
A couple of last things to look up: the PQ4R strategy and SQ3R strategy. I've heard these are taught in England; I really wish they would teach it here in the states early in public school.
absconditusonJune 18, 2009
A few random suggestions:
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren
Building a Bridge to the 18th Century by Neil Postman
smalltownguyonDec 27, 2009
Of course, there is the irony of having to read it. Plop down at a local Barnes and Noble or Borders and read the introduction. If they don't have a copy have them order it for you. There's no requirement to buy.
afarrellonMar 19, 2019
I’d seen that book a while ago but not picked it up. I’m now going to. Thanks!
> formulating hypotheses and questions
I think this reduces to “how do you keep those hypotheses organized?” which sounds kinda like the problem of “How do I write an outline?”
> Compare and contrast a similar project
This makes sense to me for web apps. Less so for a package manager.
I suppose that means the questions splits off into lots of domain-specific quesions like, “what should I pay attention to when reading a RESTful service?” “What should I pay attention to when reading a package manager?” Etc.
For a RESTful service, I would recommend first getting and idea of the core models from the API docs and then from reading structure.sql or models.py or whatever holds the relationships among tables. Draw an entity-relationship diagram on a big piece of paper of the important models.
Then, try and trace the path of a web request from the outside in through middlewares to the controller then to rendering and back out again.
jonnybgoodonMay 6, 2017
jkkrameronDec 23, 2008
With non-technical books (literature, history, quality-of-life), most of the time will be invested into actual reading, with a bit of pondering and maybe discussing. We can have a conversation right away, and there's still knowledge and insight to be gained.
Here are some non-technical books I'd like to read:
* How to Read a Book - http://amazon.com/dp/0671212095
* Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion - http://amazon.com/dp/006124189X
* Liar's Poker - http://amazon.com/dp/0140143459
* Growing a Business - http://amazon.com/dp/0671671642
tygoriusonAug 16, 2010
I'm not an expert on the ancient Greeks, but the last I heard there wasn't much evidence of a written language during the Greek Dark Ages. But to jump from what we know of Greek culture from written remnants (plays and poetry) it would seem to place a great deal of emphasis on "linearity".
Take the Method of Loci used to, ahem, memorize the "linear" points of a speech or argument. While it's true that you can access points at random, that doesn't take away from the fact that they are staged and memorized in a specific order for presentation.
Bottom line, I think you're accepting the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis uncritically. It seems so reasonable, but when you get down to specifics -- like the actual number of words for snow in English and Innuit -- it just doesn't pan out. Similarly, I think anyone who's read Adler and Van Doren's pre-Internet "How to Read a Book" would scoff at Carr's notion that books can't be an interactive medium. People can be mentally lazy using any media.
agigaoonJuly 13, 2018
* Faust - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
* How To Read a Book - Mortimer J. Adler
* Python Machine Learning 2nd Edition - Sebastian Raschka
* Economics 19e - Samuelson/Nordhaus
Next in line:
* The Sleepwalkers - Hermann Broch
* The Will to Power - Friedrich Nietzsche
* Oxford Handbook of Business and Government - David Coen(and other dozens of lecturers)