Reading for educational purposes can be tough, especially if you don’t read or simply read for fun.
Like any worthwhile endeavor it takes discipline, purpose and the right kind of attitude to be successful. When I began my informal education in history and political theory my reading projects majorly kicked my butt. However, if my laborious struggles can serve as an aid to others in their search for knowledge then I would happily do it all over again!
Here are the 7 most helpful things I could recommend to my fellow bookworms and knowledge seekers:
7) Read the Editors’ Notes
As with anything in life the most important factor is context, context, context! All that stuff at the beginning may seem like a waste of perfectly good paper which is inhibiting you from the gems of wisdom contained in the pages of the classic you hold before you (after all, these texts have been around for centuries so no introduction necessary, right?). Not so much.
Often these editors’ notes have been prepared to give important historical context, and also notations on translations.
Think of it this way, if not for context someone might think that Tom Marvolo Riddle was a “pretty cool guy”…yeah.
6) Try to Read in “Distraction-Free Zones”
In today’s ultra fast-paced society, it’s almost impossible to imagine finding a moment of silence, free from busyness.
When reading for education purposes, I’ve found, it is super helpful to turn of the TV or put the phone on “Do Not Disturb” if possible. Even music can potentially distract the brain from the material an individual is reading.
Being realistic about this is important, it is certainly better to read something even if conditions aren’t ideal, but when it comes to things that are in the knowledge-seeker’s control it is definitely a great move to diminish any and all distractions to learning.
5) Consistency, people!!
Finding time to read daily, again, isn’t always the most realistic goal. Trust me, I have children. However, all great disciplines require some level of consistent application so when it comes to reading try to section out at least 15 minutes a day to read something that expands your knowledge. After awhile, you’ll find you prefer reading to spending time on your Newsfeed or re-watching that show you’ve seen a billion times on Netflix.
Highlighting is a great tool one can use to reference ideas and concepts that stand out in a work. When it comes to weight training, an individual doesn’t need to be an expert on every element of the subject to know what their body needs to focus on, and what exercises they need to know most about. Same thing is true in reading.
Even if a book is fascinating in all phases, there are key takeaways which a person can apply in everyday life and these are the ones which ought to be highlighted. This way you don’t have to re-read the book, or guess by the table of contents which section the concept was in!
3) Read for the Challenge
Reading for entertainment is a very good thing. It is great for the imagination and the creative capacities of the mind, but it can only stretch your brain so far. Sometimes dry is good…kinda like wine (Though I’m sure my wife would vehemently disagree with that notion).
When I first read Locke’s Two Treatises on Government, I was way over my head. The prose, and density of the text was nothing short of overwhelming. What I did discover, after soldiering through, was that subsequent works of the time period become much easier to read once you get the hang of it. Sometimes you can pick up even more nuances after reading a certain style for awhile, which is a total bonus.
2) Reference the Writers’ Inspirations
Many times in historical, or political theory works there will be references to even earlier texts, and philosophies of other writers. Sometimes the author will even make reference to a certain pamphlet or book which inspired him or her. Follow up on these if you have time. To understand an author, it is imperative to understand not only their time period, but those who greatly influenced their thinking as well.
1) Look Up Words You Don’t Understand
I swear I’ve found an abundance of ridiculously awesome words (OK, nerd alert) in these old books which no one could ever hope to find anywhere else in modern society. Because our modern society kinda sucks, and most people don’t know how to use intelligent language when they speak. #ThanksObama
So there you have it! These are things which have helped me in my quest for knowledge. Please comment, share and use your education to serve others in the process! I would also love to hear your tips for self-education so feel free to comment on this article and let me know what worked for you.