Read with Intention (Breezing Through Non-Fiction Books)

Photo by Robert Anasch on Unsplash

Most good books have a single message.

It’s the examples, that help illustrate that message, that comprise the bulk of the book. If you can spot the message early, and through a thorough pre-reading routine, you can save a ton of time and still get the book’s gist.

Here are the questions I use to help guide me through most non-fiction books.

  1. What is the question the reading is trying to answer? Authors write books because they have a question that deserves a closer examination. This question guides their writing. Some authors are explicit about what question they’re answering. Some aren’t and you’ll have some work to do. But once you figure out the “research question,” you can view the other ideas through that question.
  2. How does the author answer it? The author can answer his research question in a number of ways. Many authors use topic sentences as chapter titles. These descriptive titles make up the book’s skeleton. You can see the author’s line of thought if he decides to use descriptive title headings for his chapters.
  3. What kind of logic does the author employ? Does the author move to a general conclusion from a specific instance? Or does he move from a specific example to a general conclusion? You should look out for general themes in his logic.
  4. What’s the author’s evidence? Are the examples the author uses to support his premises believable? Are there any issues with the presented evidence?
  5. How persuasive is the argument? Are you convinced? I have fallen into the flawed thinking that just because a publisher printed the author’s work that it is without erroneous thinking. Trust your judgment on this. If something doesn’t feel right, question it.
  6. What are its chief flaws or weaknesses? Identify the parts that don’t feel right to you. These could be some flaws in the author’s thinking.

This list seems exhaustive and time-consuming. But as with anything else, it requires repetition. The more you do this, the easier it becomes. The efforts will be rewarded.

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