Before you start reading a book for any reason other than pleasure, write down a clear, actionable purpose for your reading project. Write it in a journal, or in the inside dust jacket if you don’t mind defacing it.
I want to get an “A” in this class.
I want to be conversant on this topic at the company cocktail party so I can impress the CFO.
I want to build my skill set in this topic so I can run my company more efficiently.
I want to change my mindset about my terrible childhood.
I want to discover how to read faster.
I want to learn how the author succeeded in business so I might learn to think like she does and become more successful myself.
There is no wrong answer … just make sure the answer is specific to you and specific to that book—a purpose that this book and no other can accomplish.
Spend some time reading the introduction to the book, wherever you find it—the library, the bookstore, the newsstand at the airport.
Shopping for books online? Amazon.com allows you to preview many books, with digital scans of the first chapter or several chapters uploaded to the product page. Make robust use of those previews! Make sure you can’t wait to see what the author has to say next … before you add it to your cart and click “Purchase!”
The “high-value” text of a book is usually found at the beginning or the end of a nonfiction book.
The introduction should lay out the “why” of the book and help you figure out how well it aligns with your “why” for reading it. The introduction may also layout the structure of the book chapter-by-chapter, giving you a good idea of what you are in for.
Don’t be afraid to read to the concluding chapter! You are not “spoiling the end.” You want to know where the author is going. Most nonfiction books end with a “big-think” takeaway conclusion. This can help show you if the book aligns with your values and your purpose for reading. There will be plenty of fun in discovering how the author got there!
Scan the text for “transition” words like “and,” “but,” “because,” “therefore,” etc.
These “signpost” words show you how the author builds arguments and arrives at conclusions. If you can follow the logical leaps the author makes, you may have discovered an affinity for that author. Able to easily follow his/her logic, you will probably get a lot out of this book.
If it seems esoteric and hard to follow, don’t bother. Let somebody else become enriched by (or bang their head against) that book. Find one that resonates with you.