How to read and memorize: 8 tips for smart people



Paper or screen? My choice is clear: paper. Holding real books in our hands, we are completely immersed in reading. In 2017, I did an experiment. I put paper editions aside and read from my phone for a whole month. Usually I read 4-5 books in 6 weeks, but then I only finished 3. Why? Because electronic devices are full of triggers that cleverly catch us on the hook. I kept getting distracted by notifications, emails, incoming calls, social media. My attention wandered, I could not focus on the text. I had to re-read it, remember where I left off, restore the chain of thoughts and associations. 

Reading from a phone screen is like diving while holding your breath. There was enough air in my reading lungs for 7-10 minutes. I constantly surfaced without leaving shallow water. Reading paper books, we go scuba diving. Slowly explore the depths of the ocean and get to the point. If you are a serious reader, then retire with paper. Focus and immerse yourself in the book. 


Writer and literary critic George Steiner once said, “An intellectual is a person who holds a pencil while reading.” Take, for example, Voltaire. So many marginal notes were preserved in his personal library that in 1979 they were published in several volumes under the title Voltaire’s Reader’s Marks Corpus.


Working with a pencil, we get a triple benefit. We check the boxes and send a signal to the brain: “This is important!”. When we underline, we reread the text, which means we remember it better. If you leave comments in the margins, then the absorption of information turns into active reflection. We enter into a dialogue with the author: we ask, we agree, we refute. Sift through the text for gold, collect pearls of wisdom, and talk to the book. 


At school, my mother called me a barbarian, and my literature teacher praised and set me as an example. “That’s the way to read!” – Olga Vladimirovna said approvingly, showing the whole class my “Hero of Our Time”. An old, dilapidated little book from the home library was covered up and down, all in curled corners and colorful bookmarks. Blue – Pechorin, red – female images, green – descriptions of nature. With yellow markers, I marked the pages from which I wanted to write out quotes. 

Rumor has it that in medieval London, lovers of bending the corners of books were beaten with a whip and imprisoned for 7 years. At the university, our librarian also did not stand on ceremony: he flatly refused to accept “spoiled” books, and sent students who had sinned for new ones. Be respectful of the library collection, but be bold with your books. Underline, take notes in the margins, and use bookmarks. With their help, you can easily find important passages and refresh your reading. 


We used to write essays in school. In high school – outlined lectures. As adults, we somehow hope that we will have the super ability to remember everything the first time. Alas! 

Let’s turn to science. Human memory is short-term, operational and long-term. Short-term memory perceives information superficially and retains it for less than a minute. Operational stores data in the mind up to 10 hours. The most reliable memory is long-term. In it, knowledge settles for years, and especially important ones – for life.


Abstracts allow you to transfer information from short-term storage to long-term storage. Reading, we scan the text and focus on the main thing. When we rewrite and pronounce, we remember visually and auditory. Take notes and do not be lazy to write by hand. Scientists claim that writing involves more areas of the brain than typing on a computer. 


My friend Sveta is a walking quote book. She knows dozens of Bunin’s poems by heart, remembers entire fragments from Homer’s Iliad, and deftly weaves the statements of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Bruce Lee into the conversation. “How does she manage to keep all these quotes in her head?” – you ask. Easily! While still at school, Sveta began to write out the aphorisms she liked. She now has over 200 quote notebooks in her collection. For every book you read, a notebook. “Thanks to quotes, I quickly remember the content. Well, of course, it’s always nice to flash a witty statement in a conversation. Great advice – take it! 


You must have heard of mind maps. They are also called mind maps, mind maps or mind maps. The brilliant idea belongs to Tony Buzan, who first described the technique in 1974 in the book “Work with your head.” Mind maps are suitable for those who are tired of taking notes. Do you like to be creative in memorizing information? Then go for it! 

Take a pen and a sheet of paper. Center the key idea of ​​the book. Draw arrows to associations from it in different directions. From each of them draw new arrows to new associations. You will get a visual structure of the book. The information will become a way, and you will easily remember the main thoughts. 


The author of Dennis Callahan publishes materials that inspire people to learn. He lives by the motto: “Look around, learn something new and tell the world about it.” Dennis’s noble cause benefits not only those around him, but also himself. By sharing with others, we refresh what we have learned.


Want to test how well you remember a book? There is nothing easier! Tell your friends about it. Arrange a real debate, argue, exchange ideas. After such a brainstorming session, you simply won’t be able to forget what you read! 


A couple of months ago I read The Science of Communication by Vanessa van Edwards. In one of the chapters, she advises to say “me too” more often in order to find a common language with other people. I practiced for a whole week. 

Do you like The Lord of the Rings too? I love it, I’ve watched it a hundred times!

– Are you into running? Me too!

— Wow, have you been to India? We also went three years ago!

I noticed that every time there was a warm sense of community between me and the interlocutor. Since then, in any conversation, I look for what unites us. This simple trick took my communication skills to the next level. 

This is how theory becomes practice. Do not try to read a lot and quickly. Choose a couple of good books, study them and boldly apply new knowledge in life! It is impossible to forget what we use every day. 

Smart reading is active reading. Do not save on paper books, keep a pencil and a quote book at hand, take notes, draw mind maps. Most importantly, read with the firm intention of remembering. Long live books! 

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