The holidays always seem to pass by much too quickly for my taste, but as Chaucer put it, “all good things must come to an end”. Now I must face the music, or more accurately, the books. I’m not exactly enthusiastic about the prospect of spending over a hundred dollars on a book that I’m only going to read once, but I have found ways to make even the most grueling and mind numbing book into an enjoyable experience.
1. Find Interest in the Topic
A lot of information is contained within the pages of a textbook, and sometimes just thinking about how much you’re going to have to read and remember afterwards can be daunting. What I look to do is pick one thing that the course covers that I find to be the most interesting and easiest to remember, and then find a way to tie everything else back to that topic. I know this seems like you would be creating more work for yourself, but it will be helpful come exam time. I usually like to find something in my own life, and then direct or indirect links between that and what I’m reading.
2. Application of Imagination
I’m sure I’m not the only person who has done this, but I like to create a visual story in my mind as I read. I usually take characters from my favourite books or TV shows, and I set them in specific roles. Then, as I read, I can see them acting out or applying the concepts that I am studying. It’s kind of like writing a better version of the book you’re reading, or perhaps a series of short stories. Just be sure to imagine something that you will remember later, otherwise you just end up distracting yourself from what you’re reading.
3. Who’s Narrating?
This is yet another guilty practice of mine. When I’m reading, I like to replace my own mental reading voice with someone else’s, preferably someone who I would enjoy listening to as they talked about nature of human existence or why certain elements of foreshadowing were used in a story. I usually fall back onto the voice of Patrick Stewart, occasionally sneaking in some of his memorable catch phrases from his role as a star ship captain. Not that it has to be the voice of a celebrity, but they do tend to have the perfect voices for narration.
4. Don’t bite off more than you can chew
It’s best to only read a little bit of the textbook each day, otherwise you’ll just end up overwhelming yourself with too much information. I like to use little sticky notes, and mark off a certain number of pages for each day, or week depending on the size of the book. This way, you know exactly what you need to read, and you can set it for an amount that you feel the most comfortable with. It’s not a race, so take your time and get the most out of it that you can.
5. DON’T HIGHLIGHT EVERYTHING!
It’s a terrible habit, and many people do it, but in the end, highlighting everything does nothing to boost how much you remember. If you are planning on highlighting, only pick out those pieces of information that you know are important, or have something to do with the lecture. This is why I like to read the chapter after the class, so that I know what the critical concepts are. Not everything that is covered in the textbook is covered in the class, so you need to be careful to not highlight things that will not be covered on the exams. It also helps to highlight in different colors, depending on whether it’s a specific definition or just a random fact that may help in understanding that concept.
There are many ways to get the most out of textbook readings, but these are the ones I have picked up after being in university for two and a half years. As always, leave any of your comments, questions or concerns in the comments below, and if you have any other reading tips, feel free to share them. And, as always, happy reading!