Friday, August 03, 2007

Books I have recently skimmed

I have extolled the virtues of How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler several times. Mortimer breaks reading into four types. One is how to get the most out of a book in a limited amount of time. This is often called skimming. If you haven’t read How to Read a Book, I strongly encourage you to buy a copy. There is an online copy of the book here at Questia’s section for Mortimer. And of course, you could skim the book first before buying it. I’ve developed a template that I use to skim more efficiently. A copy of my template is at the end of this post.

My reading/skimming list is a bit eclectic. I get recommendations from many different sources. For example, reading one book can often lead to another. I recently reread The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Malcolm wrote about an interesting test developed by Howard Friedman. I googled around but couldn’t find the test. I came across an email for Mr. Friedman, so I asked him if it was available. He politely responded no, but that some of the ideas behind the test were in his book The Self-Healing Personality. I borrowed the book from the library and skimmed it for about an hour. The book explores how factors other than the traditional medical approach can influence our health. He reviews research which shows our attitudes and lifestyle have a great impact on how healthy we are. For example, Howard wrote about a case where a woman would vomit when ever she thought about being pregnant. The book has some interesting thoughts, but I don’t plan to read it for now.

The Tipping Point covers in some detail the midnight ride of Paul Revere. Malcolm wrote that Paul Revere’s Ride by David Haskett Fischer was a great biography of Paul Revere. My original intent in skimming the book was to just get a little better understanding of Paul Revere, but the book is very interesting and well written. I am fascinated by the early history of the United States. After just thirty minutes of skimming this book I decided to add it to my next Amazon order.

I’ve forgotten where I learned about Our First Revolution by Michael Barone, but I’m glad it came across my radar scope. This book is about Britian’s Glorious Revolution from 1688 to 1689, and how it set the stage for the American Revolution. Michael Barone argues that the Glorious Revolution was about limiting the power of kings, and the American Founding Fathers looked back to the ideas and principles of the Glorious Revolution as they struggled to maintain what they saw as their rights as Englishmen. This was also added to my list of books to buy.

Blogs are another good source for learning of books to read. Bruggie Tales mentioned a couple weeks back Why Our Children Can't Read by Diane McGuinness. Diane writes about the horrible state of reading in public schools, and proposes a solution which sounds like phonics. The book seemed interesting. Since my older two daughters are now fluent readers (My oldest read the last Harry Potter book in five to six hours, and my second daughter read it in about eight hours), I’ll keep this book in mind in case I ever need help in teaching someone to read.

Silva at Po Moyemu had a good quote by Neal Boortz, a radio talk show host, on public education in his recent book: Somebody's Gotta Say It. The book is fairly entertaining, and a quick read. In an hour, I read more than half the book. I found Neal to be opinionated, and disagreed with some of what he wrote. However, he made several good points about problems with public education.

Family and friends are another good source for finding books worth reading. My sister is designing a web site for purchasing horse supplies. She said the Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords was the best book she had read on how to generate traffic. I borrowed the book from the library and was pleasantly surprised to find one of the authors is Perry Marshall. Perry is a homeschooler! I came across a few good quotes by him last year and blogged about them. The book is straight forward and seems very pratical. I’m an engineer and do little marketing, but this book seems like a great resource.

Over the last couple years my father has loaned me several books. I’ve been trying to work my way through the stack. At one point I had ten or twelve of his books, now I’m down to seven. The last book I’ve been skimming is The Future and Its Enemies by Virginia Postrel. She blogs at Dynamist. In the book Virginia explores how people look towards the future. One group is those who are excited by the possibilities of the future and are comfortable with the chaos and change. She writes that others are scared of the future, they want things to be static, and often long for the good old days. This book was hard to put down. There are a lot of interesting ideas here. I’m afraid my father will have to wait a little longer.

There you have it. These are the books I’ve skimmed over the last two weeks. If you are not in the habit of skimming books, give it a try. I think it will improved the quality of your reading as you end up spending more time with good books, and skipping over the rest.


As promised at the start of this post, I’ve include my skimming template below. Each time I skim a book, I’ll print off the template. I created the template based on “How to Read a Book.” The template provides a focus to help me maximize my time and get the most out of the book in a limited amount of time.

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Template for Skimming Systematically

Title of book:
Author of book:
When published:
When skimmed:
How long:

Checklist:
1) Read the title Page & Preface
What is this book about:

2) Study the Table of Contents
What is the structure of the book:

3) Check the index, look up a few key references
List a few key terms:

4) Read the publishers jacket
Does the publishers blurb summarize the book?


Note: You may chose to stop here

5) Look at the chapters which seem pivotal to the argument of the book.
Read the opening and closing statements closely

6) Skim through the book, read the last few pages

7) Rate it in terms of how good does it seem. (1 - poor, 3 - average, 5 - good)

8) Rate it in terms of will I read it: (1 - don’t, 3 - if interested, 5 - need to read it)

Main points & thoughts:



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6 comments:

Silvia said...

I'm glad you got to Neal's book! And if a person isn't opinionated ("obstinate or conceited with regard to the merit of one's own opinions"), then they don't think much of thier own thoughts, eh? :) But I also like Ben Franklin's comment: "For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions, even on important subjects, which I once thought right but found to be otherwise." Humility is also a good thing.

Dana said...

Last Child in the Woods is a great book, if you haven't read it yet. I'm really enjoying it.

Henry Cate said...

I agree that humility is very important, otherwise growth becomes almost impossible.

Dana, thanks for the recommendation, I've requested it from my library.

Heather said...

All of these sound interesting, but most particularly Adler's book. Thanks for mentioning it---I hadn't heard of it before!

Henry Cate said...

Adler's book is great. I plan to have each of my daughters read it a couple times.

Since I was ten or eleven I've always read. In high school I use to read a book a day.

Ten years ago I came across Adler's book. I learn so much from that I felt I was only then really reading.

Callista said...

Got here from the Bookworm Carnival. Great post! I learned how to skim books back in grade school and use it at bookstores and libraries to see what I want to read furthur or just to learn something new. I've never bothered to right anything down though.