As a student, there is a lot to read for class- and usually not enough time for all of it. But there is a degree of forced engagement with the material. There will be questions, discussions, and tests to follow, so you read to remember. But what about our other reading? Our reading for leisure, or for our passions? Do we remember as much of our reading when we are not required to give it further consideration?
If you’re reading this then chances are you probably read other books and material as well. Being on vacation, I myself just finished reading Better by surgeon Atul Gawande, and during the past trimester as pre-bed reading I consumed books by Kurt Vonnegut, Mark Twain, Patrick McManus, and J.R.R. Tolkien. I did not have to spend more time thinking about these books. But you know what? I enjoyed these books- so I did continue thinking about them.
I am sure that you have experienced the same. Who can read Vonnegut without coming across some striking quote or observation about humanity that sticks deep in your brain? How about some guidance from Gandalf that deserves to be posted someplace you can see it on a bad day? Or, just try reading something along the lines of Malcolm Gladwell’s Freakonomics without learning something applicable to your own life. Similarly, if you are in medicine like me, Better provides more lessons than you could take away in a wheelbarrow.
Here is my challenge to you: the next time you pick up a new book, be it adventure, humor, biography, math, medicine or otherwise, grab a full sheet of paper. Any paper. Fold it in half and make it your official new bookmark. Now put it to use as you read by jotting down a page number and a quick note or quote when you feel inspired. I guarantee you’ll take away just a bit more from the book than you would have otherwise.
My own implementation of this challenge served me well this week. As I read on a long plane ride, I pulled out my thoroughly marked-up bookmark, only to find I had neglected to pack anything resembling a writing utensil. I turned to the woman next to me, who had not said a word previously, and asked to borrow a pen from her deep purse (always a reliable source of pens). She obliged, and we got to talking about the reading. It turned out that Diane was a nurse by training, and we must have chatted for half of our flight about school, what it takes to live a healthy life, medical innovation, and what life is like in different areas of the country based on our travel experiences. All from me wanting to add a quick note to myself to my messy bookmark. Now that’s what I call bringing a book to life.
So give it a try, and see what you get from it. Then come back here and post your book and something interesting: a quote, fact, theme, discussion, or takeaway from it. No matter what genre or topic, it is all about keeping the ideas flowing!
…Although, if your book involves Fifty Shades of anything, this might not be the right place to discuss. I am available for coffee at a location of your choosing.