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What does it really take to read technical books?
How can you improve your ability to read these books? Most likely, as most people, your ability to remember is much lower than you would like.
You and I are confident that we are able to read. But this ability doesn’t give us possibility quickly and correctly understand the written text. The process of developing reading ability stops in school. At 6 form to be precise. What I’d like to say is that in average graduate and student are reading not better then six-grader 🙂
A good way to continue study personally is to learn how to read correctly.
Technical books, certification preparation guides, for instance, are special. It’s not detective or science-fiction where read can be a pleasurable experience. That’s not the case when you can go and find something else.
Reading usually requires more of your attention. It requires a tremendous amount of energy just to understand the material before memorizing.
Now I’m preparing to CCSP exam and have 500+ pages book in front of me. How I’m going to “eat” it?
The technical book reading challenge
The goal of the technical book is to teach, not deliver pleasure. Practical technical books are different. They don’t simply show the issue but describe how to solve it with some actions. The reasoning is complicated. Some of the cases may not be present in your professional life. You may need the experience to understand them.
We are reading technical books for the sake of knowledge. Reading for the sake of knowledge can be:
- to get information
- for comprehension.
Reading to get the information we get to know, select, memorize facts. Such reading may be effortless. Memorization is just prerequisite to understanding.
To understand means not just to memorize but rather correlate with your experience, try in your practice.
What can you do if the text is too complicated?
Reading for comprehension is a hard work as is requires being focused, sitting on the table, with a pencil and slowly. Probably 10 books per year.
Reading and memorization are different stuff and better not to mix them. You can do some comments in a notebook or on the fields, highlight or underline, draw charts and diagrams. Try to avoid conspectus. It doesn’t have thoughts, it’s just a copy.
Better to have recall session to memorize selected information.
There are 3 main ways to read for comprehension:
Structural reading rules
- Determine the type and theme of the book. You can get the understanding of the book and it goals from the title, subtitles, annotation, and foreword.
- Check the book structure, determine the number of key parts, track their interdependency. Analise each part with the same way according to internal structure.
- Determine the key problems that author try to solve. The problem is the question and the book contains answers to it.
2nd reading. Interpretation
- Find the keywords and try to determine their exact meaning in this context.
- Find the key statements. To make sure you understood the meaning:
- try to retell them in other words. If you can not pick up other words it’s mean you didn’t understand the meaning,
- prove it with your own experience or find other similar examples.
- Track the arguments. They may be based on facts or generally accepted truths, axioms, and generalizations. You must be prepared to assess the arguments quality.
- Determine which problems author was able to solve, which new were risen and to which level author is sure that all problems were solved.
Critical reading. The book score as the mean of transmitting knowledge
Reading the book is not finished with it understanding. You need to set your own attitude.
- Let the author tell the final word before to criticize him/her.
- It’s not necessary to argue if you are not sure of your rightness.
- justify your critical judgment.
- You need to focus attention. Multitasking is not working. Our mind is switching from one task to another. We can think that are really doing several tasks simultaneously. In fact, we do not do anything qualitatively.
- Accuracy is important. No speed-reading.
Do you agree that to understand some books you need personal experience?