How to stop forgetting what you read
My approach to the four levels of reading and note-taking
A few months ago, I realized I have a problem. I read a decent amount of books. But when people asked me ‘so what’s the book about’ I could only recount random bits, and usually didn’t recall all its main arguments. Worse even, a few months down the road, I had forgotten most of a book’s content. Damn you, human memory!
I came across Julie Zhuo’s awesome article, Always Be Learning, where she describes what she learned coming from a similar situation: “The value from reading doesn’t come from quantity. I used to think it was way better to read twenty books than two. Now, I think what matters most is how much you retain. It’s a shame how many thousands of books I’ve completed that I can’t really tell you very much about.”
I started looking for more effective ways of reading. My goal was to learn more and forget less.
There were two main ideas: the four levels of reading, and the importance of taking notes. After some experimenting and tweaking, I came up with a ‘reading system’ based on both ideas. It’s been working well for me, so I want to share it with you — here’s what I learned.