I remember Seth Godin saying once that every business book can be summarized in just a few pages but the book itself is a story. I think it goes beyond just that idea and is The Exercise in reinforcing ideas. Yes, you don't need to spend 10 hours to memorize an idea: _move fast and break things._ Yea, I get it.
But what does that actually mean? How do you actually implement that philosophy? How do you internalize it? How do you navigate situations where you will revert back to your old habit or philosophy? I think you have to spend 10 hours thinking about it and then taking actionable steps to implement it in order to make it useful. Teaching and writing are similar exercises that I have found helpful as a learning tool.
I only just stumbled upon why I like to read. It is likely very personal. But I have found that removing the distractions and habit of "horizontal reading" makes me happier. I'm looking forward to reading the referenced book by Birkerts.
(Aside: At times, I have found reading to be an excuse for not getting things done on my projects. _I just need to know more about x, y, and z before I start_. Ironically, the quest for knowledge can be distracting itself.)
Their business model is in a way the complete opposite of the ideas in the article (although there is admittedly a difference between fiction and non-fiction books):
They show pictures of very busy business people that can't fit a book into their tight schedule; one of their ads said something along the lines of "80% of successful managers read at least 20 books per year" (which is probably just completely mixing up correlation and causation).
I'm thinking specifically of some books that I've read in the past couple of years that include:
* Deep Work
* Thinking Fast and Slow
* Predictably Irrational
* Getting Things Done
* How to Win Friends and Influence People
You can understand the basic premise of these books by just reading the summary, but you need a lot of reinforcement to internalise the idea and want to execute on it.
That's just how learning works.
There are certainly some fiction books that could use some shrinking down (For Exhibit A: Crossroads of Twilight -- book 10 of the Wheel of Time)
BTW, laboring the point is precisely the phrase I was looking for but couldn't recall.
That said, I struggle to find business books that are actually meaty enough to warrant reading more than the first chapter, as many of them seem to just have filler content (like many blog posts coincidentally). I'd love to find some way of identifying quality books in this genre.
Meanwhile, I try to carve out time for reading fiction because spending my day between HN, Reddit, random blog posts, etc. for my "news and info" can't be healthy for me, and I absolutely feel it in my attention span when trying to read an actual book.
(I liked this summary - I found the link a few weeks ago on here. Thanks to https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=sivers)
I've found that summaries can give you quite a good idea of what the book is about in most cases. I read the full book if the summary interests me.
Spot on and cue page turns! Fan open a book and read horizontally. Have intermediate stops between chunks of text on two well-formatted pages and then transition to next. A second to soak in the content in between with time and space makes for a huge difference!
Scrolling animation can never achieve or serve this sort of efficiency!
I recently wrote an essay on some of the underlying psychophysics and varying outcomes of user interfaces (UX/UI) and how pagination with page turns (codex) helps in reading and forming memories.
> Birkerts coins his own terms: the deep, devotional practice of “vertical” reading has been supplanted by “horizontal” reading, skimming along the surface.
My inner monologue is where I really begin to understand / remember / question concepts.
That's also why I like writing difficult concepts down, because then I will be forced to put it through my inner monologue once more.
You can literally watch a video at any pace you want.
I don't get romanticism around books and I can't help but eye roll when someone a) gushes about reading or b) waxes poetic about the past.
We have access to nearly every book, article, paper, video, song, etc. ever written or recorded within seconds. When I want to learn, the most efficient path is usually not through a single author. Why should it be? Why is it bad if we predominantly piece together information through multimedia? I don't get this article or the "reading club" mentality at all. Though I often hear it come out at parties as virtue signal.
True in a literal sense, but irrelevant.
In order to change the pace a video, you need to actively interact with the video player; it's hard or impossible to get into a state of flow if you need to constantly press buttons to pause, skip or replay parts of the video, change its speed, or find the specific second you want to analyze.
This affects the depth of reasoning about the concepts you're getting from the media. In a written text, you can naturally pause and reflect upon a paragraph, or re-read recent paragraphs only by moving the eyes up, slowing down at particularly difficult or interesting sections.
This state of mind of "intense mental concentration" when reading is a good basis for learning and reflection, and can be combined a more powerful range of options when reading; with video you can also get into that state, but then the video moves forward uniformly, and the pace at which you're confronted with the concepts is defined by the media, not your mental processes.
> We have access to nearly every book, article, paper, video, song, etc. ever written or recorded within seconds.
While I have some reservations about digital texts, I agree that the situation is far better than it was 30 years ago. I fear that many people have forgotten how long it used to take to find information in the past, never mind obtain it, never mind the financial cost.
As for those reservations, they are mostly the product of the digital environment that we have created and accepted. They have very little to do with access to access to or the nature of books. The article hinted at this when it mentioned greed. Common dedicated e-readers are designed to sell books as much as designed to read books. Most websites are designed to deliver advertising as much as delivering content. General purpose devices present a continuous stream of distractions that leave us victim to our own vices. It does not have to be that way, but it takes a proactive approach for it to be otherwise.
We would be better served if we acknowledged the shortcomings of electronic texts (as well as audio and video delivery) then took the initiative to address them.
For whatever it was my English professors had, it was my creative writing professors with real acclaim and ability.
But it would be great to get chapters of books woven in between long and short form textual content whose sources are personally curated. If someone thinks they can either work out a deal with Amazon or otherwise get around the DRM issue in a commercial product, drop me a line, I'd love to build V1.
Think about it, all text content, sliced and diced for maximum consumability. It just might make feed readers sexy again.
Why do you want to slice chapters from separate books together and insert 'textual content' inbetween them?
So I can read, say, a NYT article, then chapter one of a book, then maybe a blog post, then chapter one of a different book, then a long-form article, then chapter two of the first book.
Last night I watched an episode of True Detectives. Tonight I'll look for a hockey game on TV. Tomorrow I might watch some Game of Thrones. I also have a couple episodes of Better Call Saul on my DVR. I watch (and read) the thing that appeals to me at the time I want it.
To read attentively—not to be satisfied with “just getting the gist of it.”
-- everybody since
These days I take reading not as a data input but as a personal game. Authors ideas are mostly a way to let me have my own little intellectual creative game. It avoid reading from authority, passive absorption, weakening of thinking.
I also think there is a lot of therapeutic power embedded in literature (fiction and nonfiction) and I've created some 15 minute literary guides too for lots of different issues and interests: https://www.booktherapy.io/collections/literary-guides
Do you sit down and try to read and understand as much as you can? Or do you just read during your downtime?
It builds on the idea of 'bookmarks' and we have a new take on them called 'pagemarks' which is basically a box that spans multiple pages.
This way you can keep track of the parts of the book you've read and jump around.
I like reading multiple textbooks, articles, etc and go back and forth often.
This allows me to easily suspend and resume.
I worked on a proof of concept about 6 months ago and I've been expanding it in my spare time.
You can read about it here:
Polar is free and Open Source btw.
It blew up on HN a few months ago:
I'm about to re-announce as we're just in the process of porting it to the web to make it more accessible to people (mobile, tablets, chrome OS, etc.).
It goes FAR behind this though and supports document management, offline, and supports capturing web pages for offline usage and archival.
Additionally it supports annotation so you can take any page and add highlights, comments and flashcards.
I'm going to keep these a surprise though.
I like to read on my laptop and not mobile though... but maybe that will change.
Not wanting to belittle what you've done as it sounds like a really useful product, but this sounds like exactly the same way I use "highlights" on the Kindle.
Too few websites offer an experience for someone to read the content, and so we will see "Reading Online Content in the Age of Constant Distraction" in HackerNews.
Poetry, on the other hand....there are some types I like, but there are certain poems that seem to be made only to make imagery. Can't get into much of it.
Or a jungle where you have to crawl and climb over obstacles to move around.
Imagination isn't just visual. Just because you can't "picture" something in your head doesn't mean you have no imagination.
My story is antidotal, but your hypothesis is also not backed by data. I'd like to purpose a counter hypothesis: spending time in interactive 3d worlds requires building internal maps of the environment. Exercising these portions of the brain improves Visual Imagery Vividness.
There are lots of unforeseen consequences of screen time. I suspect this isn't one of them.
I can remember every WoW raid environment, every detail of every CS map I played, etc.
Didn’t mean to single out people with aphasia or any other similar disorder at all.
The main problem with this, is they often choose books that I'm not that interested in reading. Sometimes I plow through it anyway and sometimes I just skip that month. That's why I'm in multiple groups, so I can see what each group is reading and pick the one or two books that look the most interesting from those.
But sometimes the books I'm really into. Like I got excited when The Devil and the White City was one of them, and one of them is currently reading the Deep Work book, which I'm finding interesting and wanting to incorporate some of its ideas in my own life.
It sounds to me from your comment that you need to break away from your book club and go your own way and do your own thing. They have piqued your interest and pointed out a way but that way is now yours. I have no idea where you are in the world but if you have a local lending library within reach, that might be a good place to consider visiting. I'm from the UK and what little is left of our library system after much cutting of budgets (generally outside Laaaaaandon) is still legendary but sadly being diminished by London/Cardiff/Edinburgh/Belfast focused knob-ends.
There is no greater pleasure to be had than from a damn good book and very few books are not damn good. OK, there are one or two other things that are quite fun ...
But I have found that for all the interesting articles online, if I reflect back on them after a year, I can remember approximately 0% of what I read, while I can remember at least which books I've read and something interesting about them, so I wonder just how useful reading those articles are. Hasn't stopped me from doing it, but I don't think it's quite so useful (I'm not really counting tutorials in this, where I actually gain tangible skills by following what I read, though).
And I still buy and read my own books. I just wish I could finish a book, go someplace for dinner and discuss it with a few people afterwards like I can with the book club books. It is also harder for me to finish books I want to read, though, because I don't have that looming deadline reminding me. I suppose I could set my own deadlines, but I know from past experience that I don't treat those seriously.
It's the same thing for me with game design. I do still design game in my spare time, but I get a looot more work done when I know there's a looming game convention or a competition deadline coming up. Same with writing. I get the vast majority of my new writing done during the month of November each year, during Nanowrimo. The rest of the year moves at a crawl. It's that comradery and not-imposed-by-me deadline that helps keep me motivated.
As we become adults, with responsibilities Time is incredibly hard to find. Big readers tend to be productive people and as such the more active and busy we are the harder it is to sit down and read. This might sound like a straight forward problem but I find myself bookmarking great articles or
writing down great books I heard about only to never really find the Time to go back and read them.
As a little shameless self promotion this problem of not having enough time to read led me to build an App that lets me listen to any article from the web. It converts the article to Audio using some amazing open advancements in AI/ML. Now when I’m standing on the train with a coffee in my hand and holding a pole with the other I can get through a ton of this content from the web distraction free.
You can check the app out here: https://articulu.com
Try replacing “can’t find time” with “not a priority”. It means the same in practice and makes for a huge shift in perception and your own personal feekings towards stuff. Especially in the guilt department.
You have more important things to do and that’s okay. When you come across a book that’s important enough you will magically have time for it. Priorities are fun like that.
"Sorry reading books is not a priority"
Wait ... then what is a priority? Social media? Screw that!!
And it prompts you to [try to] do better with your time.
Remember when we used to read books a few pages at a time on the pooper instead of scrolling through twitter or hackernews? Good times.
For example, when you read you can pause, re-read, etc. On the other hand, who watches the news (for example) and uses pause and/or 30 second rewind? Not to get off topic but my personal theory is this is why journalism today is so shoddy - because it can be. It's just an endless stream and no one is pausing long enough to say "Hey! Wait a minute!!"
Between family, my full time job, side projects.. I had no choice but to listen to some of these books as Audio books.. I ended up pretty much listening to 25+ audio books this year.. the only way to make the content stick is to:
1) take a ton of notes
2) do exactly as you say, rewind over and over until you can mark it down.
These are the next few features I want to add to this thing, taking notes and rewinding quickly and bookmarking snippets precisely because of your point that audio requires a little more work to retain. Still worth it though, I would have never been able to read that many books this year given how busy I am.
Ultimately I will concede that it will never beat reading, but when we have no time or are commuting? This, in my opinion, is the next best thing for busy people.
Also something that displays diagrams/maps sensibly would be good too!
Edit: And by "love" I mean "pay" - I'd happily pay the same amount as my Audible subscription for a service that helped with this.
1) It was recommended to me at one point to listen at a faster playback speed. Evidently, the novelty forces the brain to focus more, and thus have better retention.
2) What about a audio effect for highlighting? Some sort of filter? Or perhaps more bass? Something to say "you liked this bit before"?
The second one is super interesting.. I’ll have to think about it a bit but it’s a great idea for sure.
__That__ might be something I'd like to try.
I hadn’t thought about emailing that though, it’s a solid idea thank you.
Fwiw, I've been wanting to do a website where I - and others? - could share the highlighted bits (in an easy on the eye pull quote-y sorta way). More or less my personal notes in public. Kinda like Cliff Notes meets meme-y inspiration type quotes. But also as a sample of the book for those curious about reading it. That's why I'd want a transcript. For my records, so to speak.
I should ask mention, 95% of what I read is non-fiction.
If you're interested in how technology might cause self-interruptions that make things like sitting down with a book more difficult, I recommend checking out "The Distracted Mind". 
Ultimately, St John’s generates a lot of lawyers and humanities grad students, but not a whole lot else without extra pre-grad school to school to get some of the STEM prereqs out of the way. I love that the school generates humanities scholars, but it’s not my bag, so I moved on.
If I had the money, I’d love to go back and finish when I retire, but at 40 I’m already not as smart as I was in college, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be too dumb to be a useful classmate when I retire!
If you haven’t gotten to Euclid yet, do yourself a favor and get the Heath translations with his notes. A few of them are really, really hard for people trained in late second-millennia mathematics to be able to get through without some hints.
It was well worth it for me, at age 54, and for participants who were retirement age. At 40 you may be feel less smart than when you were younger, but you're very likely more mature and a better reader.
St. John's offers week-long Summer Classics sessions, which convey a lot of the same experiences of reading and discussion:
I started tracking my progress because I wanted to see how much I can actually read in a day on a regular basis without losing focus and abandoning it, I even got a Kindle because it was on sale.
Long story short, 10 pages a day was what I settled on as a reasonable goal, and here I am not keeping up with that.
I actually should mention too that there is a person on GitHub who converts texts to epub/mobi as a hobby, and that's how I saved $50 on my copy of the SRE book and workbook, Kindle edition, which are freely available in HTML format, thanks Google!
Beeminder is all about beating yourself up. But derailing is not failing. You don't fail if you set a new goal and start again. I decided that I will get from my current location at 32% completed to 100% completed in about 7 weeks.
This is conservative to account for the fact that I should be able to read other books in this time, as they strike my fancy! It will probably also help that I no longer have to count the number of pages, now that I've switched to tracking percent. I did the math and the new goal is a little less than 10 pages per day now. Thanks for the encouragement!
Alternatively, if you don't want to use the tool, I would recommend getting a nice notepad to write in some short book reviews, which will give you your endorphins as you fill the book up more. And you get the additional benefit of being able to look back through your notes to see what you thought of various books and how your thought x time ago.
We found that among teens for example very few people read anything from news websites very rarely but almost every single teen had read at least one article in depth on very niche topic that appealed to them. (For example reading about affairs for their favorite pop star). Most teens performed very poorly when they were given 1 hour and asked to prepare a presentation on "any american hero".
I was a terrible reader growing up, I had ADD before the days when they diagnosed that.
My son also has ADD and strangely, he is an avid reader. I've caught him reading two books at once (both in his lap) and swapping between them and he was comprehending them (I did some Q&A).
At least on the very surface to me that might mean that reading is not necessarily antithetical to someone who is prone to distraction / lack of focus .... or a distraction heavy world.
We've seen history full of predictions what the phone, or video games, or computers would do to seemingly related technologies, and not been good at predicting the result.
Another recommendation would be Brandon Sanderson's Cosmere multi-series (Mistborn, Stormlight Archive), currently in progress, closer to WoT thematically.
I agree, I think where distraction comes into play is an inhibitor to actually get started reading.
It's a big reason why we're launching https://mypapermag.com/ It's an app (web only for now: vue/django) where you select great long reads selected from our partners, but the important thing is that you actually get them in print in your personalized magazine every n weeks. This way you get the distraction free experience of a regular magazine, the freedom of choice of the web, the best articles from our partners and the best tech for reading (paper) in one place. It's what we're trying to achieve at least, still in private beta and only in France for now but please let me know if you want to try it out or if you have any feedback, firstname.lastname@example.org </ShamelessSelfPromotion>
According to Wolf, our "reading circuits" are changing on a neurological level, affecting reasoning, critical thinking and even empathy.
On the other hand were getting better at skim reading, quickly sorting through mountains of lower value information.
This article in the Guardian gives a great summary:
Another good article on the topic, if you happen to prefer French, from Usbec & Rica:
(Disclaimer: Both The Guardian and Usbek & Rica are supplying articles for our platform)
For eInk, it was mostly because I could take it to more places, stuffed with many books. When you can get through a book in 2-3 days, a 2-week vacation needs quite a few!
But smartphones were the real gift. Now I have all my books right there in my pocket whenever I go, so in any situation where I have to wait (lines etc), I can just whip it up and continue reading. Even if it's 10-15 minutes at a time, it all adds up. This doesn't work well for technical books because of interruptions, but it's perfect for fiction.
Another nice things about phones for reading is OLED screens. Because they're "perfectly black", I find it to be the best low-light reader for night reading in the dark, before sleep.
Long form news articles and technical books consumed in pomodoro-sided is what I have to get by on.
Since cancelling Audible, I started buying paper books on Amazon and I have experienced much better focus, and much greater enjoyment from the books I've read.
More importantly, I want to read at my own pace, not someone else's. I often go back and re-read recent paragraphs, for example.
This is exactly why I read my books, but also listen to podcasts. When I need my imagination to run I need rest, time, and quietude. When I want to listen to an interview, I do that (riding my bike to school, for example).
I would never, ever, enjoy listening to a novel in audio format.
I can't explain what it feels like to read like this. I don't hear a voice except when my attention is drawn to this, like right now: I'm definitely hearing my voice when I type this, but that's because I'm thinking about it. As soon as I forget this discussion, I'll go back to silent reading mode.
Also keep in mind that right now I'm hearing my own voice, not some narrator's. I'd find it extremely distracting if it was someone else's voice, e.g. if it was a woman's voice if the writer was a woman.
PS: note that as I mentioned in another comment, now that my attention has been drawn to it, I am indeed "listening" to my thoughts as I type this. Maybe this is going all the time and I simply don't notice it normally. What I definitely do not hear is some kind of narrator voice reading carefully enunciated words to me (as an audiobook would be). That would be distracting to me.
If I'm sitting watch a film / netflix etc, there is noise and that seems to distract my brain from going to dark places.
It's like I'll be reading a page and then by the end of the page I've taken nothing in and my brain is forcing me to think about stuff I don't want to think about. Intrusive thoughts like you suck as a person,you're fat, you're ugly, why do your friends like you? You suck at your job etc.
I think this is the same reason why I struggle to sleep, just being alone with my thoughts trying to sleep ends up putting me in a bad place.
It sucks because I used to love reading.
You can't control if thoughts pop up, but you have control if you are
following these thoughts, if you continue them.
It might be very difficult to see the difference between the pop up of a
thought and its following, because if you always follow a thought you get
used to it, it just automatically happens.
It can be quite hard to get rid of this habit, it takes time and energy,
but the more you try to not automatically follow thoughts - but only if
you really want to - the less thoughts will randomly pop up.
I've also noticed that on the days I spend too much time scrolling through Reddit and skimming the news, I have this background feeling of restlessness.
I'm trying to fix this by resisting the urge to look at my phone whenever I have a spare moment - like waiting in line, or when taking the elevator. Boredom shouldn't feel scary.
Meditation and going for walks (without bringing my phone) also help.
You might want to try meditation, it let’s your brain dump these thoughts and then be more present.
However, I find that the dig at amazon and e-books is definitely unwarranted(Or at least overblown). As a denizen of the third world, Amazon and the Kindle have been a lifeline to me. It's pretty much impossible to find anything that isn't bestseller trash in bookstores where I live. The selection is limited only to what might sell to the largest possible audience/lowest common denominator. Being able to get books on demand, electronically and cheap has been the only way I've been able to keep up my reading habit in the face of tightening time and budget constraints(2 kids, a job, etc...)
Nowadays after I finish the book, I try to review the books I've read on Instagram in the form of a post or a story - some people go to the extent of unfollowing me (seeing it as a stupid use case for the service), but some people I know IRL have also started reading the same books I finish.
Not every distraction is a force for evil.
It’s distractionfree by design, and that’s why I love it. It’s definitely not just another redundant screen.
Now anytime I hear of a good book, I look it up on the online catalog and, because all the libraries in the county are linked, the choice is bigger than ever. I just request a few books and have them delivered to my local library.
The author certainly appears to have chosen their title well. <sigh>
I presume you mean that you have a book written (a tattoo perhaps) on the palm of your hand. It is either a very short book or you have one of those new fangled micro-fiche-tats.
Seems a window resize event fixes their positioning.
OK, I am being a bit unfair but I've just seen the word: "surficiality" and actually want it to not be a speling mistak. It looks like a word that really should exist on its own merit without "pe".
If you can't be arsed with the whole piece, the final para is worth reading and actually does a pretty good job as a precis of the thesis. Give it a couple of goes and roll it around on your mental tongue. A sentence like this is either bollocks or insightful: "We hold in our hands a way to cut against the momentum of the times,"
Anyway the entire article is not too long and worth a few minutes, in my opinion. The penultimate para is stuffed full of sentences designed to get you thinking. The author likes to play with words and sounds (Mairead Small Staid is a poet, critic, and essayist living in Minnesota.)
Read it backwards, para by para. It still works.