When asked whether reading was essential to his success, Microsoft Founder and Billionaire, Bill Gates, replied:“You don’t really start getting old until you stop learning. Every book teaches me something new or helps me see things differently…Reading fuels a sense of curiosity about the world, which I think helped drive me forward in my career.” —Bill Gates
Like Bill Gates, we also know how important it is to read books, but we often struggle to retain what we read: How often do you spend hours reading or listening to a book, only to forget the most important ideas a few days later?
Here are 8 of the best strategies I’ve discovered on how to retain more of what you read, without taking notes.
1. Share What You Learn to Others
2. Make Connections to What You Already Know
3. Binge Read Similar Topics
4. Read Books You Can Apply Immediately
5. Keep Your Notes and Highlights Organized
6. Listen Slowly For Learning and Fast For Entertainment
7. Only Read Good Books You Enjoy (Twice)
8. Read Before Bed
An effective 3-step strategy to help you sift the best from the average books:
Step 1: Quickly read the table of contents to get the “gist”of the book, then skim over the first few paragraphs of the opening chapter and the last few paragraphs of the concluding chapter. Only proceed to the next step if the book appears to be valuable.
Step 2: Skim through the first few paragraphs and the last few paragraphs within specific chapters that are of interest to you. Only proceed to the next step if the book still seems useful to you.
Step 3: Open the book anywhere in the middle and read one full chapter. If you’re still hooked, it’s probably a good book to read back to front.
As a general rule of thumb, great books tend to be thought-provoking and leave you feeling slightly exhausted after reading. They don’t just make you more knowledgeable, but also wiser. If the book you’re reviewing passes through all three steps and meets these criteria, then it’s probably worth your time reading the entire book. But we’re not done. Whilst bad books should only be tasted and good books devoured, great books should be chewed and digested thoroughly. In other words, great books should be read more than once. And in the words of the playwright, Oscar Wilde, “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.”