How Kevin Eikenberry gets the most from the business books he reads.
I am happy to share some thoughts on how I read a nonfiction book for two reasons – because it is a valuable exercise and it is something I do a lot! I hope these ideas are helpful to you.
Maybe this shouldn’t need to be said, but I am going to say it anyway, if you start reading with an open mind, I don’t know how you wouldn’t get at least some value from any nonfiction book. While I realize that might be a tall order for some of us on some days (or with some books we might be tasked with reading), I’ll leave “have an open mind” as an assumed starting point for the rest of my list. Here is my advice or getting the most from a nonfiction book.
Have a purpose.
Perhaps you are being asked to read the book for an upcoming workshop, a book club at work, or some other reason. If that is true go back to my assumption above and read with an open mind (starting with “I have to” read this book seldom is a good start). Whether requested to read or reading of your own choice, have a purpose for reading. Are you reading to deepen your knowledge, learn a skill, or expose yourself to something new? Any purpose will be fine, but your reading will be more valuable if you read with that purpose in mind.
Before you start reading, look through the table of contents and glance through the book. Why? It gives you a sense of how the book is laid out, what the key content areas are, and the style of the book. This gives you a good starting point for reading, and might direct you to the places the book might be most helpful to you.
Have a pen nearby.
Yes, I read some books on a e-reader, but for most nonfiction, I don’t. Why? Because I want to write in the book, highlight in it and more. (I’ve even read some books on a tablet, then read again – or read sections again in print). Maybe you don’t like to mark up a book (or you love reading on an electronic device) – if so, have a journal and take your notes and capture your ideas there. If you are reading with a purpose, why wouldn’t you want to annotate, take notes, or at least capture some key ideas?
Share with others.
I’m not saying to be “that guy” that tells every story and cites all the research you learned in a book; but I am saying that when you share some ideas that you have learned, whether with a colleague, your team, on a blog, or even by writing a review or a note to the author (author’s love that by the way) you lock in what you learned for yourself. And if you are reading to learn, this will help you tremendously.
Wally’s Comment: Book reviews are a regular feature of Kevin’s blog. Here a link to a recent review.
Enjoy the process.
If this feels like too much work, I’m either explaining it poorly or you are doing it wrong. Find your own rhythm and approach, but if you remember your purpose, you will likely enjoy the process.
Stop when you want.
Repeat after me – you don’t have to finish every book that you start. Refer to the previous point – if you aren’t enjoying the process, this might not be the right book for you. If you are in a section that doesn’t really apply to you, you don’t have to read every word, or you can skip to the next section. You are reading for you, not for the teacher you had in the eighth grade.
Bonus tip: skimming is ok, and important in your overall reading process.
A few days after you finish, look back through the book and/or your notes. Reflect on what was valuable to you and what you might apply or use (or what you learned). Smile and know that you have invested your time wisely, and gotten more from this book that you would have if you had just read it straight through.
That’s how Kevin Eikenberry does it. Now it’s your turn. How do you get the most from the books you read?
Check out Read Like a Leader to learn more about Intentional Reading and the bios of the Intentinonal Reading Panel. Reading is an important part of self-development. The 347 tips in my ebook can help you Become a Better Boss One Tip at a Time.