How to read a book in an hour
For those of you who have taken our Lean Experience, you know we have a very structured multi-step process to kick things off in which approximately 40 people read books, distill them to key points, share them with other, build common themes and ideas and prepare a presentation. A part of that is reading a book in an hour. This is not the exact instructions we give people, but it is a rough idea of how you can do this for yourself. Of course, it won’t work well for fiction, or a biography, or your algebra textbook. But for many business books, it will work just fine.
There are four basic questions that active readers ask:
- What is the book about as a whole?
Discover the leading them of the book, and how the author develops this theme in an orderly way by subdividing it into its essential subordinate themes or topics.
- What is being said in detail, and how?
Discover the main ideas, assertions and arguments that constitute the authorâ€™s particular message.
Read the first and / or the last chapters of the book. List the authorâ€™s main points and conclusions. (No, really, make a list). For each one of the main points list key words that relate to these points.
Return to the table of contents of the Index at the back of the book and use your main points and key words to find out where the author discusses his or her central points in detail. Read these sections and take notes.
- Is the book true, in whole or part?
You cannot answer this questions until you have answered the first two. You have to understand what is being said before you can decide whether it is true or not. Once you understand a book, however, you are obligated, if you are reading seriously, to make up your own mind. Knowing the authorâ€™s mind is not enough.
Review your list of the authorâ€™s main points. How would you argue for or against them? How convincing are the authorâ€™s arguments?
- So what?
What is the significance of the information presented? Why does the author think it is important to know these things? Is it important for you to know them? Answer the â€œso whatâ€ question for yourself â€¦ what is the real significance of what you have just read?
Did the author simply supply information or were you also enlightened? Is anything further implied? Action? Further reading?
Look to the list of reference and bibliography to identify books and articles to explore those topics which seem especially interesting or important to you.