A book as an instrument for active learning

When you read a book, who’s in the driver’s seat? Is it the book, or is it you? In my case, it has always been the book. I usually read cover-to-cover. But in recent times, especially with non-fiction, I have began to change that.

Sure, authors invest great effort in organizing information logically. However, that cannot correspond with what is best for every one of their readers. This is truer still in the age of just-in-time information. If I am already familiar with part 1 of a book, have no interest in part 2 and am fascinated by part 3, I ought to have the freedom to divide my attention accordingly.

When we do this, a book transforms into an active instrument of learning. We must be immersed in every line of whatever we read. If not, we must ask ourselves why not, put it down or skip to some other chapter. This requires us to uproot our deeply ingrained habit of cover-to-cover reading. And there comes a stage in every reader’s journey where she ought to learn how to do that.

This is something that physical books let us do far better than the Kindle. The e-reader is hardwired for cover-to-cover reading. Sure, it might let you jump to a chapter or skip to a page, but you simply cannot put your thumb into the side of a book and flip through its pages.

Francis Bacon said, “Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly”. His wisdom applies just as much to different chapters in a book. Additionally, some ought to be skipped all together.

Therefore, it helps to think of non-fiction books as a collection of articles (like Naval Ravikant does). Further, the folks at Amazon (and other e-readers) could work towards making e-books more flip-friendly.

Inspiration: Naval Ravikant’s interview with Shane Parish – a storehouse of gems

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