Rereading great business books

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I do not know how many times I’ve reread Peter Drucker’s excellent book, The Effective Executive. I do know that I wore out one hardback and three paperback versions before I finally bought an electronic version. Now that the book lives on my Kindle, I don’t tear up bindings anymore, but I’m still rereading.

A young friend once asked me about that Drucker book, “Why do you keep rereading something you already know? I think it makes sense to read the new books.” Well, maybe.

Why Reread?

Great books have more than you can register and use the first time through. Rereading a great book is a high value experience.

Besides the fact that you won’t get everything from a great book if you only read it once, there’s also the fact that we have differing views of what constitutes “great.” Peter Drucker’s books are on my great list, but they might not be on yours. Think of this. Most business books are not great. Of the few that are great, only a few will be great for you. When you re-read, you can choose a book that you already know is high value for you.

So, assuming I’ve convinced you that rereading is a good idea, here are some tips on how to get the most out of it.

Reread the Whole Book

When most people think of rereading, that’s what they think of. Starting at the beginning and going all the way through again. That’s good, especially if you highlighted important passages and made marginal notes the first time or two through the book. Those notes will help you connect the book to your thinking and the notes you make now will help you get an idea of how your thinking and life and challenges have changed.

Browse the Book

No one says that you must read a book all the way through to get value from it. That’s especially true if you’re rereading. Open the book at any point and start reading. Scan the table of contents for ideas about the most important chapters.

Let Your Notes Be Your Guide

From The Power of Full EngagementYears ago, I developed the habit of marking the interesting pages and chapters of each book inside the front cover. Later, I evolved to making my notes in a little more detail on index cards that I stored inside the front cover.

When you’re rereading, those notes can guide you to interesting pages and chapters. They can guide your browsing, too. You can go right to pages you already thought were interesting without just browsing in general.

When I shifted to making notes on index cards, I could add more specifics. If you do that yourself, you’ll find that you can identify specific topics that you want to read about merely by going through your notes. The illustration on the left is the thirteenth card of notes for the book The Power of Full Engagement.

A Benefit for Kindle Users

I like the Kindle feature that lets you view what other people have highlighted. When I go back through a book, I often find that someone else’s highlight is a pointer for me to ideas or insights that I may have missed.

Bottom Line

Rereading business books that have helped you in the past will help you remember lessons you’ve forgotten, learn lessons that you didn’t get the first time around, and get the most out of every book purchase.

Why not set a goal of rereading at least one great business book every year?

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