Absolutely. The few authors that I love the best are streets ahead of the rest. Reading other authors is for me really just a search for the Next Big Thing. As time marches on, re-reading old favourites rises in value relative to reading new stuff, on average.
>Though our eyes may pass over all of the words and our hands may flip through all of the pages, what we read is never the entire book
The idea that reading is encompassed by the eyes zig-zagging down the page like a raster scan is an example of the 'bucket theory' of the mind, as Karl Popper put it. This is where knowledge supposedly pours into the brain passively via the senses. Which is a fallacy.
>If I read for pure pleasure, what harm is there in forgetting?
This is also the reason I've never seriously tried to speed read. Perhaps I'm mistaken about this, but why wolf down an expensive meal? There's nothing to be lost from optimising pleasure since it derives from the meaning i.e. from the true content.
>When we read, certain notable phrases, concepts and ideas [...] stand out more clearly from the others.
Oh yes. This is the Searchlight Theory of the mind, where our attention is continually homing onto the most interesting or semantically useful bit of whatever we are doing.
There's a great many scientists and philosophers who were wrong about things but who provided the structure and patterns necessary for later thinkers. From Plato and Aristotle to Smith, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud...
It's changed how I read books. I used to feel that if I needed to re-read a book I did something wrong the first time – now I read a book again after some time just to get a different perspective of the book. It's the same thing that happens the second time you watch a movie: you notice details that you missed the first time around.
For some, reading a simple book on emotions will be a game changer, while for others it will be stating the obvious and they won't even read more than a chapter or two, deciding that the book was too basic or even "bad".
I've developed a habit of buying and beginning a lot of books, but many I discard or set aside for the future. Few books seem "too basic" for me, with many I sense that their time is yet to come, or their utility at this point in my life is unclear.
BTW I have the same experience with movies; some of them have a great number of really interesting detail that I often miss the first time around.
Still recommend it, though.
If you want to retain anything in more than vague details, you need to intensively practice and study.
That is not to say you should practice and study everything in intense details. There's only so many hours to practice being a world class programmer and then something else.
It's fine to be an average driver, an average cook, average almost anything.
But if you want anymore than an average result, you're going to need to invest more than average effort.
Read books for ideas. You can always look at the book for reference when you forget the details.
I despair for the people who are taught that learning is about memorizing facts. Ideas are far more powerful than facts and a heck of a lot harder to lookup.
Blanket statements like that will get you in trouble.
While I can appreciate the point of the article, it has a rather narrow view on the types of books being read.
Sure - some books are more about expanding your mental models. But in other books, the value is in the details.
I'm really good at reading lots of books. I'd read one and then jump to the next one. A little over a year ago, I forced myself to put the brakes on. Any book where I felt the ideas are important, I decided to take notes. I write them on paper as I read, and later transcribe them to a blog so I can access them anywhere.
It really reduced my rate of reading. But I'm very happy with the results. Forcing me to go over it multiple times, and then occasionally revisiting my notes, has made a huge difference.
Yes, reading once will change your mental models. And reading again will change them even more (even if just a few months later). I think it is quite rare that you will retain all the big ideas (let alone the details) in one reading. As an example: How often have you come across someone who once read a book and is trying to change aspects of his life based on principles of the book - and you've had to point out how a number of their changes are in conflict with the book's contents? (Getting Things Done is a common one people get wrong).
Derek Sivers 'Books I read' section is a fantastic example of that: https://sivers.org/book
Facts are important, however I would argue that the different conceptualizations of ideas and the relationships between them are far more important.
Let me clarify; memory is intrinsic to learning. Everything we ever know is based on remembering things.
If you mean rote memorization, to repeat something over and over again until you remember it but not necessary understand, then that is only one strategy for learning. It works but it is rather inefficient and may cause one to miss things.
Similarly, we cannot overemphasize learning concepts over practice and facts. A programmer do not look up syntax unless one is learning a new language. An even better example; quick bugfixing required a deep knowledge of the codebase, lot of experience with tons of different bugs and knowledge of debugging strategies.
To me, it seems wrong to separate facts from the concepts, and skills from intellectual knowledge.
In reality, the amount of syntax to memorize in your programming language is tiny; there are probably several keywords you don't know particularly well that don't impact your day to day. Further, almost all common languages share huge amounts of their syntax and much of the semantics of their constructs.
Many chemistry classes require students to memorize the periodic table up front. This is a mistake; by doing chemistry work, you naturally learn the table, and, crucially, the patterns involved.
Contrast this to how I was taught multiplication: memorize this table. As a result, I was both bad at multiplication for a long time as a child, and I missed out on the beauty of mathematical patterns for a long time. It turns out multiplication is actually useful, so now I could produce a times table - not from memory, but from scratch from the concept.
I see far too often students who try to memorize the code for an algorithm - or even just the algorithm - without the concept itself. This is useless, it leads to frustration, and it fucks you when it's time to rewrite it in another language or add a twist.
Seriously, do yourself a favor and stop memorizing things. Do things, and if it turns out you remember it, then that's how you know its worth memorizing.
And then there's programming interviews for big companies, where they all want me to know minute details of things I'be never encountered in my day job, that I studied years ago in college, and that I will probably not need for my actual job (90% sure about this, seeing most products released by the big companies).
You could argue that the fact that memorization is helpful illustrates how flawed those programming interviews are. It's just like any test in school, memorizing things for a short time before the test is effective, but it doesn't really help you in the long run.
Good luck with your interviews :)
Unless it has left a permanent mark in our memory, there's no "changing in the way we think and perceive".
This I agree with. Make marginal notes for some specific notable detail you think might be useful to recall in the future.
“I cannot remember the books I've read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Even if you don't have a photographic memory, reading changes our perspective in important ways.
As comrade Schopenhauer put it (
Later, Wittgenstein echoed that item - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wittgenstein%27s_ladder
A harmless affectation. No real socialism involved.
That's certainly how it went for me with the Silmarillion. I read it at 16 just after I had come off of reading Lord of the Rings and it was extremely boring. I read it again at 30 and I found it to be quite interesting. The book hadn't changed, but I had.
I'd read Adler's book first, but reading two different presentations of what might be the same idea is better than reading only one.
Incidentally, Sherlock Holmes never said "elementary, my dear Watson."
You approach rivers and wells differently, and so you probably forget books and "flow"-based articles differently.
The first time I read Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace I found myself unable to determine what was Important for much of the first few hundred pages. None of it made sense and I couldn't figure out what The Point of the book was. I kind of read the pages but didn't really take any of it in.
The second time I read it was a completely different experience: those first pages immediately made sense, and I derived a sense of pleasure in reading them that I didn't have the first time around.
When I listen to audiobooks or read for personal development or business, I make an effort to apply things I've learned from the books to derive value.
And books only exist because they are the lowest common denominator for someone to share an idea, and they are a good form of entertainment, similar to facebook posts ?