How to Read?
As a lover of reading for many years, I believe that there is indeed a method for reading. A good method can make the actual content we read more intuitive. I myself have been adhering to the six rules of reading that I have summarised: overview – itemisation – creation of associations – diversion – recall – communication.
This is a complete chain of reading for me, so that I can use a book as a source and in the long run find more realted content, which form my own reading system over a longer period of time.
I. General overview
1, preface – learn to read the preface of a book and form a preliminary framework for the subsequent scattered reading of the book’s sub-chapters. This will be of great help.
A qualified book’s preface will be the author’s years of research position, system, direction to do a basic overview. This is a relatively complete overview of the author of the book and the text is generally concise and short, with few qualifiers, making it a relatively efficient read. Each of the subsequent chapters is summarized and the overall scholarly direction of the book is outlined from the standpoint of the author and publisher. Some of the more rigorous scholars who publish will also state directly the immediate uncertainties of their own research direction and the possible intellectual limitations of the research itself due to the limitations of their existing knowledge. So the preface, which most of us read and ignore, has a very important role to play. These short sections often allow us to establish a relatively clear framework of knowledge at the outset of our reading, in order to create a direct link to the scattered chapters later on in the book. To a large extent, this can directly improve the experience of reading a new book without a framework of knowledge to guide the discrete and uninformed control of the book.
2, the table of contents – the table of contents is a distillation of the book’s sub-chapters. It is the book’s knowledge for the first time scattered statement, but extremely concise.
This is the most important part of the book in my opinion. The table of contents is actually the most simple knowledge of the book written content stratification. The table of contents is in fact the simplest way of layering the knowledge of what is written in the book. Generally from chapter 1 to the last chapters and how many sections, etc. An important problem when reading the table of contents is that when reading unfamiliar books it is often difficult to identify or understand the contents of each chapter in the table of contents. Even if many of the key words are unfamiliar. In this case I usually keep a slightly stronger impression in my head. It is very effective for me to read the rest of the book with these keywords in mind. Especially after reading a whole book and then going back to remember the first time I read the table of contents. It’s a stark contrast to the enlightened clarity I feel now! At first, when I was figuring out my own way of reading, I couldn’t say one, two or three things about reading the table of contents! Now I think I can do this
The overview method is to use the preface to establish an understanding of the basic background of the book’s position, research direction, and academic views, and to use the table of contents to understand the basic subsections and chapters of the book, so that the subsequent chapters can be read within a framework, which will greatly reduce the feeling of newness when reading a new book.
1, to trim – the content of the body of the book one by one reading is a necessary process for readers. When faced with a thick book, the main text often consumes most of the reader’s time. Removing the trim will make the thick book thinner, lighter and more efficient.
I often do a brutal thing when reading a more technical book: I erase all meaningless metaphors, modifiers, prose and other things that have nothing to do with the technology itself with a stylus as I read. This has the remarkable result of reducing an otherwise thick book to a third or even less than a third of its content. Of course for many novels, literature, etc. These crossed out things may be the most important part of the contextual rendering and may be somewhat inappropriate, but in my own case I have actually accumulated some selective methods of removing useless content from texts. Relatively it is inconvenient to share here how to remove useless statements in the book, modifications and other approaches to different books and different readers. I just only advocate as a specific reader of each individual that we can be in the usual reading to experience the summary of their own refinement of the reading method!
2, against the table of contents – in the process of reading the body of the text is very recommended to compare the table of contents twice, locate the reading nodes in the book general description of the chapter location, and relatively clear before and after the text of the connection relationship.
Once the habit of thinking has been formed, an unexpected effect of reading in this way is that you begin to anticipate the reading process. You will unconsciously start to anticipate the next chapter or the next section. Instead of a boring, passive intake, the reading becomes a conscious or unconscious active anticipation. This shift has transformed the subjectivity of reading from a passive waiting to an active conception. The reader will begin to interact with the author’s silent mind, and only then will we be in the process of being surprised by the reading process, possibly by various other ideas that completely disagree with the author, and even more likely to finish a book and decide that it is a piece of crap! — so it’s important to note that reading needs to have a global structure!
Third, the creation of links
1, chapter links – chapter creation link is more the overall connection of the book chapter, in the process of reading which can be repeated.
Faced with a new book, the most difficult thing is always the elimination of the unfamiliarity of the new knowledge, and how to do with their own existing knowledge system to effectively connect. The many chapters, the scattered arguments and the divergent areas of each book all pose a challenge to the readers. The first thing we need to do is to build up a deep knowledge of a single book. The process of deep plumbing requires repeated self-connection backwards and forwards again and again. This creation of connections goes beyond the creation of a link between the previous section of a chapter and the one after it, and gradually crosses over into an effective leap between any of the previous chapters and any of the chapters after it. This kind of argument and association is multi-directional and multi-dimensional, and it is this kind of creation that will deepen the reader’s control of knowledge again and again.
- Cross-book creation – making connections with other texts beyond the book.
This approach poses a high challenge to the reader himself, and is more difficult for readers who have not been reading for a long time. But for those who have been reading for a long time, it can significantly deepen their objective knowledge of the book. They are able to place the ideas and content of the book in a timely manner in the context of many other books, so that they can quickly judge and establish their own judgement of the quality of the book’s content, the correctness of their position, the newness of their ideas and the depth of their thinking. Readers who have read enough can even make direct inferences about what the book is likely to say in the future at this stage. Not every book has to be read in its entirety from beginning to end, and this external creation of a link can be a timely reminder to make a decision about whether to read the book intensively or extensively. The implication is that there are some books that we can put down after reading just one beginning, and others that we can chew over and over again and still have meaning.
1, knowledge dispersion – that is, for the knowledge expressed in the book to do possible dispersion of thinking, we can find more interesting content. And we can build a deeper understanding of the book’s original knowledge in these connected divergent contents.
To read a book but not just one book is a realisation of reading. You must be able to disperse the knowledge in the book and in the process of doing so, you must be able to build up a self-knowledge of the knowledge itself, to accept information that is useful, and to have the courage to reject information that is not useful. And you must be good at the book content to understand the knowledge of the integration of your own understanding of the system, so that the knowledge of the book comprehension can reach a degree of self-use.
2, text dispersion – text dispersion means that through a book to discover more books. Thus, over a long period of time, gradually build up their own empire of book categories.
Recall is actually one of the rules of memory. In short, it is through the constant knowledge of repeated recall to achieve the brain’s forced memory of reading content. This is a method taught to me in junior history and has been used ever since. Getting into the habit of reviewing what you have read in your head before you take a break or go to bed, can be very helpful in slowing down the forgetting of knowledge. A review on the same day is usually the most effective, and can triple the retention of knowledge in the mind. If you consciously recall the books you have read in a structured way, with intervals increasing from short to long, you can greatly increase your effective memory of the books you have read. As the habit of reading develops, the time consumed by such memory itself will become shorter and shorter, and more and more knowledge will be accumulated, so that quantitative and qualitative changes will occur.
- Self-communication – this is the first communication of reading, which arises from within oneself. It arises from the collision with one’s own previous knowledge.
This is a process of learning to apply, including the previously mentioned book to be read and their own knowledge constitute the first connection is in fact a kind of communication. This is the exchange, in such self-communication , slowly newly reading content gradually become their own control of knowledge. This is a sublimation, a typical process of applying what we have learned. Only through such a process can we claim that the books we read are meaningful! Only in this way can reading be truly meaningful to the reader, rather than reading a million books and ending up as a nerd, with all the knowledge simply remaining in theory and on the paper.
- The exchange of others – this is the second exchange of reading, arising from the intellectual discourse and mingling of others.
How to Read a Book for Maximum Learning gives Matt Morris’ strategy for becoming a business leader, speaker and author.
These are some of the lessons I have learned from reading over the years, and even now I am still using them and improving them over time. Although I have said a lot of things about the method, for me personally I still believe that reading is a very personal thing. So other people’s way of reading should not be copied wholesale, but should be adjusted appropriately and timely in accordance with their own actual situation. At the same time, reading is also a very emotional thing, and for those who love to read, it is possible to devote oneself to reading in a more timely manner, regardless of the time, place and circumstances. I hope that those of you who read this answer will try the various reading methods I have tried over the years. May every book lover gradually establish his or her own way of reading, and may every book lover be able to swim in the sea built by books!
In order to celebrate his two awards nominations, announced in a previous post, E-Reads has declared October to be Dave Duncan month. We start off the celebrations with an interview.
E-Reads: Although you’re clearly a genre writer in the sense that your books use elements of typical fantasy settings, magic, strange creatures and so on, my sense of your work is that you’re creating from more classical models than Tolkien and everything that flows from that. If I had to guess at influences, I’d suggest Alexandre Dumas, Rudyard Kipling and Rafael Sabatini, among others. I also see indications of the real classic literature (Greek and Roman sources) in your work. Am I on the mark or way off? If the latter, who are among your influences?
Dave Duncan: My “literary” background is a little off-beat because when I was child in the UK there was a war on and a shortage of new books. So, yes, the old “classics” like Kipling, Dumas, (no Sabatini, that I recall) R. M. Ballantine, Rider Haggard, Bram Stoker, John Buchan, Dean Swift, and so on—most not being regarded as “literature” nowadays but all great storytellers. Only when I came to Canada in 1955 did I plug in to North American writers like Heinlein, Philip K Dick, and Fred Pohl. I was not a “fan” in the usual sense—I did not know that fandom existed until after I had sold a novel and was invited to a be a guest at a con.
ER: Were you an established reader of genre writing (Fantasy, Science Fiction and/or Horror) when you first started writing or did your own ideas and the work you produced lead you to discover the field?
DD: My decision to write speculative fiction was partly personal taste (write what you want to read) and partly commercial. The Canadian market is very small. My preferred reading was and still is, non-fiction history or science, and in fiction was mainly SF or murder stories. Whodunnits must be set within specific legal jurisdictions, historical novels require a lot of work, but SF has a universal appeal, so I could aim for the U.S. market. Lately, with my The Alchemist’s Apprentice and its forthcoming sequels, I am combining fantasy, history, and murder mystery in the same book.
ER: Do you read widely within the field and, if so, who are among your favorite writers and what are some of your favorite books?
DD: I spend my days driving my keyboard around in my own imaginary worlds, so I don’t read much in others’. Apart from wanting a change of scenery, I find them distracting, because I tend to read them as if I were editing my own work—the characters, the pace, the vocabulary &c &c. That’s not much of a holiday! I do have a few favorite authors, but I prefer not to name them and thus exclude all the rest.
ER: A lot of your work comes in the form of multi-volume series, which, for the current fantasy market, makes a lot of commercial sense. However, I’m inclined to perceive your individual volumes as carefully-formed episodes in a tightly-structured story arc in a way
that many other writers don’t seem to work. A lot of their stories seem to be open-ended in a start-writing-and- see-where- you-end-up way, whereas you seldom seem to return to a world and a setting once you’ve delivered the exact number of titles that you promised from the beginning. How do you plan your books/series and how well developed are your story ideas when you start writing?
DD: When I talk to aspiring writers I tell them to begin at the end. There’s a lot of truth in the old cliche, “A good opening sells a book and a good ending sells the next one.” Besides, the way a story is written must depend on whether the lovers are going to live happily ever after or die in a tomb like Romeo and his wife.
I do not make summaries. I plan a good opening, and then lay course for whatever ending I have in mind. The ties and rails I lay down as I go, and that way I have many months to polish the plot. If I wrote out a summary I would have it all set in stone within a few weeks, so I would miss a lot of good ideas. OK, once in a while a story will swerve away from me and head to an unexpected conclusion, but not often.
A well-written series has a minor ending at the end of each volume and a big one at the end of the last episode. When I was starting out I was writing mass market originals, and Del Rey published them every 3 or 4 months, so those were true serials and I could end each book in a cliffhanger. (The worst example being Magic Casement where everybody jumps out a window.) In hardcover you have to lay out the story arc more carefully. And series can suffer from dinosaur disease. I could name more than one where I found the first few books very gripping, because of the richness and complexity of the world, but lost interest when the plot expanded endlessly or the gaps between books became so long that it felt like waiting for Halley’s comet.
ER: If you had your druthers, would you be delivering and publishing much longer single-volume novels rather than instalments?
DD: Yes and no. The huge cast and landscape of a series are a wonderful challenge, and only the first volume requires the writer to invent all that afresh, so the effort per book is less. On the other hand, I am slowing down and becoming aware of my age. My “Dodec” series for Tor was a duology and the “Apprentice” series for Ace consists of complete novels, not episodes. Alfeo, the hero, never gets older. My next for Tor is a standalone, Ill Met in the Arena, but I hope that another two-book series will follow it. So I am still writing series, but not as ambitiously as before. It would be unfair to my readers and myself for me to undertake anything colossal now.
ER: Have you published many works pseudonymously? Your biography at E-Reads mentions an historical novel but doesn’t reveal the title. Are you committed to keeping a totally separate existence for your more mainstream work or are you willing to let your genre fans know what else they should be looking for if they want to be Duncan completistreaders?
DD: You are modest, John! Don’t tell me you have forgotten “The Years of Longdirk.” (An example of a series that never got finished, by the way.) Apart from those 3 and Daughter of Troy, I have always been me.
(Editor’s Note: Some years back, I worked on the “Longdirk” series with Dave Duncan, writing as Ken Hood. Daughter of Troy was published as by Sarah B. Franklin. The E-Reads bio has been revised to include this information.)
ER: You’ve published quite a few books in a relatively short period of time and seem capable of producing at least three books a year on a regular basis. What are your writing habits/disciplines? Do you set yourself a daily target output? Do you work on more than one book, or series, at a time?
DD: Your estimate is too high. I had no new book at all in 2005. In my youth (my fifties, that is) I averaged two-and-a-half books a year. Now I’m down to two or less. My first was published in 1987 and my thirty-ninth and fortieth will come out in 2008.
The time between starting a book and seeing it in print may be as long as seven years. I work on one book at a time, but I almost never finish it in one continuous spurt. I may be interrupted by deadlines or editorial duties or just plain loss of interest. If I’m on form, I work obsessively. I used to run off 2500 or more words a day (although that ignores later revision time) but now I find 1500 is ample. By then I’ve run out of words and pictures and I go off and do something else. At the time of writing this I am expecting the page proofs for The Alchemist’s Code (March 2008) shortly, am making some amendments to Ill Met in the Arena (August 2008) in response to my editor’s comments, have completed another story (working title The Alchemist and Honeycat: 2009?) that I will be submitting in the new year, and am anxious to get back to three partly-written MSS on the shelf.
ER: Since you have produced a lot of books and publishers have a tendency to keep only the most successful titles in print, you end up with a fair percentage of your catalog not readily available except as used titles. How much of what you have written has fallen out of print? How much of that have you made available as ebooks and POD titles? (Note to Readers: Some titles are available from E-Reads, with more on the way soon in both ebook and POD formats.) How happy are you with the results of your ventures in less traditional book channels such as I’ve mentioned?
DD: By my count I have eleven books (out of thirty-eight) still in print. I am very happy to see so many of the others available in download or POD format. The web helps in another way, too, in that it has made possible the free exchange of secondhand books through ABEbooks and Amazon.com. I don’t see any money from those, of course, but they help keep my work alive.
ER: Are your mainstream publishers making your newer titles available as ebooks at the same time they print and distribute them in the more traditional forms?
DD: HarperCollins put the “King’s Blades” series up on line right away. Tor and Ace do not. The publishing industry, like everyone else, is still adapting to the global village.
ER: In the spirit of making sure that our readers have more information than they might have expected and also making sure that good publications get some worthwhile exposure, I should also mention that you did an interview for Locus in January 2006 an extract of which they can link to here.
DD: You could also mention a scholarly critique of my oeuvre linked from the last paragraph on my website. It’s very flattering.