How To Effectively Take Notes From a Book

How To Effectively Take Notes From a Book
  • Opening Intro -

    Television, as we know, is a passive medium—we sit in front of the screen and receive its messages as it asks so little of us. Reading books, on the other hand, is more demanding.


It engages the mind in a way other mediums do not. In fact, some works ask more of us than we can initially handle—Russian literature may come to mind here.

In these cases, we must not only read but take good notes. To learn more about how to effectively take notes from a book, read ahead and keep a pen close by.

Don’t Lose Your Train of Thought

Taking notes is important to reading effectively. Nonetheless, notetaking can become a forest-for-the-trees situation, where, in your zeal to take down constructive notes from your reading, you may become distracted from the source material itself.

Don’t take so much time taking notes that when you resume reading, you’ve lost your train of thought or burned yourself out on the book and don’t wish to read any further.

Whether annotating the text itself or keeping your notes on adjacent paper, beware of notetaking so extensive that it becomes a distraction.

Write by Hand

In an age of laptops and tablets, an approach as atavistic as taking your notes with a pen and paper may seem strange. But it can also deepen your understanding of the material you’re reading.

Professional educators and pedagogues believe that the act of longhand notation is more effective in committing information to memory. Even if rote memorization of facts and figures is not your goal, writing out your observations and insights on pen and paper will be more useful than typing them out.

If nothing else, it’s good practice—your penmanship may atrophy from years of keyboard exclusivity, and you never know when you’ll be called upon to write legibly.

Highlight With Care

If you were a bright student who nevertheless lacked the rigorous study skills of your peers, you may have been mystified by highlighting. Your peers seemed to deploy their highlighter—sometimes even multiples in varying fluorescent colors—with great talent, and since then, you’ve coated your texts in neon yellow to make yourself a better reader.

But don’t highlight everything. Only highlight the most important words, phrases, or sentences so they jump off the page. Use your highlighter sparingly, and if you are annotating digitally, the same principle applies.

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Consider a Study Guide

Sometimes, you need a second book to read the first. This commitment may sound unpleasant, especially if you’re in adulthood and reading for pleasure or personal growth rather than for grades.

However, to effectively take notes from a book, you can benefit from a study guide, which exist for many popular and canonical novels. First-time Bible readers, intimidated by the sheer breadth of the text, often benefit from not only thorough notetaking but also a study or reference edition.

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