High-level Reading: Understanding the Gist
I have been looking at building my own curriculum of topics to learn. What this looks like is mostly a list of smart reads. I am compiling a list of Computer Science, AI and ML, and other non-fiction books.
As I was going over the initial list I realize that I could spend years trying to read all that material. That is likely how much time I need to read and absorb every single sentence. I got a little discouraged.
One of the books on the list is Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, and I could see myself spending a whole year getting through it. I am willing to spend a good amount of time reading GEB, but I am not so sure about the rest of the books in my syllabus.
Will I spend too long reading books that are not so important? could there be a way to get a sense of the books before I commit fully to reading them slowly and in-depth? Is there value in reading a book if we don’t absorb 100% of its content?
All of that got me thinking about striving for fast reading the books on my list. Instead of aiming to having read a book, I could aim for a high-level understanding of the contents. Even if some comprehension and detail are sacrificed, I would be extracting some value.
Instead of diving deep right off the gate, I could try to get a high-level pass. After this first pass, I might decide that I got all I wanted from the book, or that I want to re-read it this time much more deeply.
Ok, so I don’t yet have a plan about how to do this. But I do have a few ideas I might try:
- Skim the contents of a book searching for key ideas.
- Time-box how much time I want to dedicate to the first reading of a book.
- Summarize learnings or ideas extracted from the book
- Practice speed reading techniques:
- Pilot reading in new ways and measuring results.
Could I invest just a couple of hours in skimming a whole book and still get value out of it? Part of me thinks this is sacrilegious. But another part of me thinks I will never be able to read all the books I want to read. Specially if I only read them expecting 100% comprehension.
If I can read more quantity, I might discover things I would never have otherwise. This might open the door for me to explore areas of knowledge I would never have been exposed to.