The Strategy I Use to Read 1 Book a Week and Retain the Information
“The ability to read awoke inside of me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive.” — Malcolm X.
For as long as I can remember, I was always into books. The first book that inspired me was “Animal Farm” by George Orwell. I read this fascinating book in the 7th grade (I still have that same book at home).
Animal Farm kindled my flame to read, but it wasn’t until I got to college that I maintained a reading habit.
My older brother Richard recommended Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” and once I read that, it was like putting gasoline on a fire.
“My Alma mater was books — a good library… I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.” — Malcolm X.
My curiosity exploded. I became unbounded to seek more knowledge. I looked at the bibliography at the back of Rich Dad Poor Dad and read all the books on it over time.
I have been a book lover since, but it wasn’t until last year that I read a lot more. I challenged myself to read at least 1 book per week.
I had more books than I can handle, and I didn’t want them to collect dust. I had fascinating titles, and I didn’t want to part with them. So the only logical way to deal with the books I always wanted to read was to read them.
“People don’t realize how a man’s whole life can be changed by one book.” — Malcolm X.
Reading has been so beneficial to my life. Every single time I had an issue with anything — I found the answer in a book.
I was often lost in life, and books became like a GPS to help me navigate my way to an answer.
I look at books as windows into different worlds and potential conversations to have. I take counsel from authors that may have died recently or centuries ago.
I use the books to have conversations with these authors that I cannot have in-person yet (if they are alive now).
The benefit of books is like a computer program that is downloaded into your mind. You can learn anything you want. You can learn more than anyone in history with access to books, especially good ones. All you have to do is read them.
Reading is not only for pleasure and learning, but I also find it a duty and a way to pay homage to my ancestors.
It pained me as a black man when I read about slavery in the United States and its atrocities. There were so many insidious ways to dehumanize black people, and one of the ways was through Anti-Literacy laws.
One of the main ways slavery was able to persist was to keep the black slave ignorant. It was against the law to teach non-free black people to read. And if they were able to read, they had to disguise it or risk the penalty of whipping or death.
It was often said that if a slave learned to read, “It would forever unfit him to be a slave.
When I stumbled upon Frederick Douglass’s book “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.”
I was astonished by the importance that reading played in his life.
When Douglass was a kid, he was sent to live with a new slave master in Baltimore to work. His new master’s wife never had a slave before and taught Douglass the alphabet before the master found out and told his wife that such an activity was illegal. Not only was it unlawful, but the master added that if a slave learned to read, “It would forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master.”
Once Douglass heard this, he knew that learning to read would lead him to freedom;
“I set out with high hope, and a fixed purpose, at whatever cost of trouble, to learn how to read.” — Frederick Douglass.
To keep at the practice of reading, Douglass carried a book with him anytime he was sent out for errands, and if he had extra time, he would make friends with young white boys and ask them for lessons. Playing with them and also paying them in bread, if necessary, for impromptu tutorings.
“The plan which I adopted, and the one by which I was most successful was that of making friends of all the little white boys whom I met in the street. As many of these as I could, I converted into teachers.” — Frederick Douglass
Life is not as grim nowadays, but what reading gives us is just as powerful. When we open ourselves up to other people’s ideas, humble ourselves enough to learn from them, we can begin to see the world in new ways and break through the chains of our own ignorance.
It is like liberation.
Reading liberates me from my own limitations by helping me become smarter.
After a while of reading, I wanted to read more. I wanted to absorb books faster. I tried some speed reading techniques, but honestly, that isn’t for me. Speed reading just for its sake doesn’t help me absorb my lesson I am looking for.
The strategy I use for reading helps me devour a book a week, Inturn helping me increase my knowledge and my productivity.
And I believe these tips will be helpful for you as well.
Here is what I do;
When I start the book ;
— I incorporate many different styles with my reading, which helps me throughout my process.
— I select books that I am interested in reading. This interest helps me anticipate reading it. Some books I can’t put down because I am so absorbed in it.
— When I get the book, I will flip through it from front to back. Or if on a digital copy, scroll through the chapters.
— Then, I divide the pages by days in the week.
For example, 300 pages/7 days = 42.8 per day to read. I could do that in the morning, during coffee breaks, or anytime throughout the day. This gives me a target to hit — if I read more on a given day, that aids me in finishing the book faster.
(Sidenote) If you are not interested in the book, but it is required reading, then dividing the pages is beneficial. You have heard the old question, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer is, “One bite at a time!”. One page at a time will get you to your target.
— While reading a selected book, I have it in different formats. I have the PDF, Kindle version, Audiobook, and hard copy. This versatility keeps me interested in the book as it can get boring, sometimes staring at the same thing.
So at any moment, I have access to the material. And I steal away moments to read and immerse in the book throughout the day — this way, I give myself a choice of reading instead of scrolling away on the phone.
— While reading, I underline valuable passages, and I make notes on the side margins. It could be anything on the notes, but usually, something relating to my life. On the computer, I have an Evernote file I add to as I read digitally. On audio, I jot down notes in my notepad.
— While reading, I set timers for 15 minutes. 15 minutes is great when I dont feel like reading, but if I say it’s only 15 minutes, I can easily accept that. Heck, I have scrolled longer than that.
— Once I hit my 15 minutes, I restart the timer. A good session for me is 1 hour (four 15 minute blocks). I have gone on for more than that sometimes. Setting these timers gives me the necessary breakaway if I get tired. Also, it is a way to measure my progress.
— After I finish the time block, I take a moment to reflect on what I just read. I will mentally summarize it or sometimes talk with someone else about what I just read. I do this throughout my process of reading until complete.
When I finish the book;
— I add the book on a note. (Spreadsheets work fine as well). I put the date I finished, rate the book (1–5 stars), and 1–2 sentence overall summary.
— I think of lessons from the book I can apply in my life right away.
— I dive deeper. I watch interviews or read relevant articles based on the book.
When I read “Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins, I read the book and listened to the audio (which are both great, by the way), and watched 3 different interviews. I find this solidifies the lessons more, seeing the author in reality.
— Usually, 1 week after I finished, I put all my highlights in an Evernote file for future reference.
Voilà — And like that, a book is read and retained in one week.
This strategy has worked wonderfully for me.
It may seem like a lot of work, but it is well worth it if the book is of value to you.
Let me know your thoughts or your own reading processes. I am curious to know. Also, let me know if this is helpful.
Thank you for Reading