Reading books is useless

Reading books is a bad investment when you can’t recall and apply the information. How can we change that?

Be honest, what do you remember about a book you read 3 months ago? And what about a book from 2 years ago? Do you apply the things that you found useful?. It makes reading books for learning the most meaningful and pointless activity at the same time. It is pointless because, often, we don’t use the knowledge. We read the words and that is it.

Reading books should be useful because you learn new things. That is, if you can recall and apply the information.

Our memory does not work like a computer. There you enter data once, the computer indexes it, and you find it when you search for it. For our brain, entering it once is, in most cases, not enough. We read and forget.

I like to read and learn, but I find it shocking how little I remember of many books and articles. Even if I highlight parts. This weekend I was reminded of that when I transferred the highlighted parts of a book to notes. I remembered the core of the book, but had forgotten a lot of relevant information. I had read this book less than 3 weeks ago.

And that is the problem. When reading a book, we may remember the big picture, while a lot of added value is in other details. Details we quickly forget.

Reading a book easily takes 6 - 9 hours. So if you read 12 non-fiction books a year, you're wasting almost 100 hours if you don't use the knowledge you've gained. It makes reading a bad investment.

The question is how we, as humans, can memorise what we read.

With highlighting we make small mental notes. That is a start, it is just not enough for memorising relevant information. I also highlighted in my book, yet those details had already faded away after 3 weeks.

Other methods of learning and memorising are, for example, spaced repetition or placing it in context. I will investigate how reading books becomes more lasting. And, I'm going to try it. In doing so, I make myself a non-representative research.

Do you have ideas about this topic and want to share them with me? Send me an e-mail.

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