Become the Book

5 May 2021

When we think of reading a book we usually think of it as a one-way street. You open it, read, read some more and then you close it assuming you finished it. But there are other ways books can be read. Becoming the book is all about absorbing a book’s juice.

There is this famous — by now — quote, popularized by Naval Ravikant. **

“I don’t want to read all the books, I want to read the 100 best over and over again”

What we can derive from this quote is that you don’t need to be in a rush to finish a book. It is not about the quantity but about the quality. Quantity is often a vanity metric, virtue signalling how smart we want to seem to others. Our end goal is to extract actual understanding from a book and build a solid foundation of understanding in order to build other ideas on top of them.

Realizing this is crucial so you can experiment with the following concepts and not worry about all the missing future books.

Drop the bookmark

You can drop the use of a bookmark. Just close the book and say ’ok I’m around page 100 somewhere.’ and when you come back at it later, figure out where you left off, reading again, skipping a paragraph or two. If you don’t understand something or forgot what you read, go back.

This approach makes you more aware of what you read and makes you a more active reader since you have to remember what you read. Whatever there is to retain, will be retained. Everything else will fade or be processed at a later time. No rush.

If a book really hits a nerve, chances are you are going to read it more than once, so you don’t have to be concerned about reading it asynchronously and losing track of where you are.

You want to become the book.

Read slow

Better to stick to a chapter longer and make sure you understand it than to go through it fast just for the sake of finishing it. Jump around, reread, repeat, stop and think and repeat.

This reminds me — probably where I took the concept from — of how musicians approach learning a new piece of music or transcribing melodic lines. Some rely purely on their auditory senses while others on written form.

When reading a score many start from the end(last meter) gradually bringing themselves to the very beginning. This way they always know what is coming next since they are able to better memorize the piece (at least that is what is said to be true). Others start from the verse or the main melody, leaving the introduction and ending last. Others listen to the piece in a recoding so they know it in their heads only after to sit and actually learn how to play it — with some singing involved as well — or just by reading the score without touching their instrument but imagining all the ways they are going to play it and where their hands should go. Pretty much the same goes when someone tries to figure out a piece by ear.

The thing is that all musicians strive for a common objective. They all want to play music. They want to become the music. But the way they are doing so varies.

The only constant is that they are taking it slow. Repeating passages, revisiting parts they didn’t quite get, and repeat all the more.

Recreate

Trying to actively recreate what you read is a well-known method for solidifying your understanding called the generation effect.

Making outlines and summaries of chapters is a great way to see what you understood. Take notes and make notes by recreating what you just read.

Try writing a book review, in the same way, like if you were going to publish it, or publish it in a blog.

You want to become the book.

There is no wrong way to read books. They are to be consumed in some way — any way really — and then be a part of us. Not all books are made for us and we shouldn’t feel guilty dropping a book if we no longer find it interesting or thinking we have to finish it. Often times a book has only a few good parts in it. We shouldn’t feel guilty reading more than one book at a time either.

In the end, it’s all about becoming the book.