7 Ways to Retain More of Every Book You Read

There are many benefits to reading more books, but perhaps my favorite is this: A good book can give you a new way to interpret your past experiences.

Whenever you learn a new mental model or idea, it’s like the “software” in your brain gets updated. Suddenly, you can run all of your old data points through a new program. You can learn new lessons from old moments. As Patrick O’Shaughnessy says, “Reading changes the past.”

Of course, this is only true if you internalize and remember insights from the books you read. Knowledge will only compound if it is retained. In other words, what matters is not simply reading more books, but getting more out of each book you read.

Gaining knowledge is not the only reason to read, of course. Reading for pleasure or entertainment can be a wonderful use of time, but this article is about reading to learn. With that in mind, I’d like to share some of the best reading comprehension strategies I’ve found.

1. Quit More Books

It doesn’t take long to figure out if something is worth reading. Skilled writing and high-quality ideas stick out.

As a result, most people should probably start more books than they do. This doesn’t mean you need to read each book page-by-page. You can skim the table of contents, chapter titles, and subheadings. Pick an interesting section and dive in for a few pages. Maybe flip through the book and glance at any bolded points or tables. In ten minutes, you’ll have a reasonable idea of how good it is.

Then comes the crucial step: Quit books quickly and without guilt or shame.

Life is too short to waste it on average books. The opportunity cost is too high. There are so many amazing things to read. I think Patrick Collison, the founder of Stripe, put it nicely when he said, “Life is too short to not read the very best book you know of right now.”

Here’s my recommendation:

Start more books. Quit most of them. Read the great ones twice.

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