Reading textbooks

When was the last time you read a textbook for fun?

While I was in k-12 I never enjoyed reading textbooks. It was always a chore because I’d have to memorize things to do well on exams. I never read a textbook because I was curious.

During the winter break of my freshman year, I took it upon myself to learn how to learn. As a student on the pre-med track, it was becoming increasingly difficult to stay on top of the material.

I read make it stick and surveyed Barbara Oakley’s MOOC on learning how to learn. This content helped me do better in the following semester’s courses.

In make it stick I learned how to read textbooks and take memorable notes.

Here are a few key points that stood out:

  1. Skim through the entire chapter first
  2. Identify key points
  3. Look through the vocabulary to familiarize yourself with terms
  4. When reading, don’t copy from the text but rather synthesize the material in your own words.
  5. After you’ve given yourself a day or two to wrangle with the material go back and review it. Forgetting is a key part of the learning process.

Reading a textbook isn’t scary to me anymore. In fact, I go out of my way to find the best one on a topic. They’re highly dense, to the point, and quickly indexable for reference.

If you’re looking for a quick way to master the fundamentals of a specific topic. Go find a textbook and take the time to read it.

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