Saturday, August 13, 2011

Speed Reading for the Digital Age

There is so much useful information out there for anything you want to learn about. Take Surfing - I found 2,530 books on Amazon with a search, and 187 MILLION pages through Google. Obviously there is so much, you couldn't read a tenth of it. So out comes the reading wisdom:

  1. Audio books during your commute makes Auto University.
  2. Speed reading classes or techniques will help you cover more material.
  3. The fastest way to read a book is to not read it. Be selective, and be willing to toss a mediocre book aside.
  4. Use recommendations to get the right one. Amazon reviews are great for this.
All of these are useful, and all of them I use. However, I've just found a new way to cover some literary ground - online book reviews. Especially in the case of books with action plans, a certain list of main points, or a few key ideas, book reviews could give you the outline, a feeling about whether you want to read, or it could really give you the whole book! Let's look at a few examples, quickly culled from
  • Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: this one seems a little sparse, this one takes some work through their links, and this one gives you most points in under 10 minutes!
  • Your Money or Your Life: this one has the key points, but is a little light on details, where this one goes into more details (lists key questions, etc.), and this one is a feel for the book with little or no actual content.
  • The Celestine Prophecy: wikipedia and goodreads came across as far too brief to replace reading. Wiki seemed good for follow-up information, and goodreads only an indication on whether it would be worth your time. This review is more typical for a somewhat opinion book like this - either you like it or you don't, and cherry-pick facts to support your opinion.
  • The Millionaire Mind: two good reviews, one a little more free-flowing and one more a breakdown of the book. Interestingly, the second review states that reading chapter one gives a good 'short version' of the whole book, my goal here. I wonder if he used it as an outline for his post?
I simply typed in 'book review' and the name of the book for each. I looked for common blog names, stayed away from sites like Amazon or stores, and learned (in the process) to avoid popular book sites like goodreads, and wikipedia.

In the course of writing this article, I now feel like I read two books and re-read another. Celestine Prophecy mostly felt like a wash, and I wouldn't recommend using this method for books that aren't presenting a system - how to save money, create a business, travel, etc. Stories, biographies, new age or religious books all lose a lot in abridgment.

So what is the best way to use this method? Find or create a list of books you want to read that can be summed up, every day pick two and search for a good review or two, then go through them or save them on your Reader of choice for later that day. In a month, you've absorbed 50+ new books, and found 2-3 must-reads to maybe buy!

If you're looking for financial reads (probably the best application of this method), find a blog that lists their top books, and work your way through the list. I kept coming back to The Simple Dollar for great reviews, so I am heading over there now to look for his list of recommendations - especially if he reviews many of them. I expected to find more from Get Rich Slowly, but was having trouble loading the page. J.D. has a great site (disclaimer - we went to school together and I wrote a book review there), and a booklist here.

As The Millionaire Mind asserts, personal development works. The more you read, and the more efficiently you use your time, the more successful you will be. Take advantage of what's on the web, and build your success faster.

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