Living and Reading 722.4

One of the most insightful and useful books I’ve ever read is a small volume by Harold Kushner called Living a Life That Matters.

Today, I want to suggest ways of getting the most out of books, at least nonfiction books, which is about all I read.

Reading shouldn’t be a passive experience. If you allow yourself to be absorbed in the interaction of the author’s thoughts and your reactions, it’s like a great conversation. I know lots of people think it’s a sin to mark up a book; I think it’s a waste to leave it untouched.

I reread complex, clever, and profound passages several times. I underline them, make notes in the margin, fold back pages, do whatever I can to highlight the parts I found useful or inspirational so I can find them again.

When a passage stimulates thoughts, I immediately write them in the margins or on the blank pages in the front or back of the book. A really good book has me thinking as much as reading, and I never read a book in one sitting. When I restart the book, I revisit my notes like they were old friends.

Both during and after the book I try to communicate what I’ve learned or the new ideas generated in conversations, letters, and even these commentaries. New insights are a great gift, and I think we should share them. I liked Kushner’s book so much that I bought 30 copies and gave them as gifts.

While writing this piece, I realized that the way I approach books is also a decent way to approach life: Live it fully and completely at the time, and live it by remembering it and sharing it.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Comments 5

  1. I love good books, especially non-fiction as well. Could you possible post your top 20 favorite books. Summer is coming up, and I would love to have some wonderful reading suggestions that inspire.

  2. At the end of the article you said you would make your life like reading a book I think that is so true because you always have to go back in life to see what happened or what you did wrong any thing like that but the hard part here is try to live your life like that many people usually fail when it comes to doing that, they have trouble viewing the positive goals in life and their future. To sum every thing up you need to judge your self first before you can judge other, I know living your life like reading a book may sound boring but if you do it you will be given many rewards in life.

  3. I don’t think it’s a sin to mark up a book, but it is a tragedy. A book is not only someone’s work, it’s also a work of art. The writer used their talents to create something of their own. Would you make notes and highlights on the Mona Lisa? What if it’s a print and not the original? The answer is no. So why don’t we treat books with the same respect? Whenever I read whether it’s fiction or non-fiction I always make sure I have a notepad. This way when a passage strikes me I will either write it down or write down where to find it. Live it fully and completely at the time, and live it by remembering it and sharing it, but think twice before you write in the book. If the author wanted you to add to their work they would have left lines for comments.

  4. Yes, the best use of a good book is to mark it and re-visit it and share the new thoughts so others can benefit. As an author I would love it if someone was inspired and even took the ideas further with their own comments – that is success.

  5. Amen ! A good book is like a good friend, and my notes in its margins and blank places is a reminder that I visit often . Even my Bible is a repository of reflective thoughts scribbled everywhere. God knows I know He loves me, but I still have questions, opinions, and sometimes honest disagreement and misunderstanding.

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