Be An Active Reader: How to Retain More of What You Read

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Posted by on June 8, 2018

Reading a lot of non-fiction books is a valuable habit for anyone who wants to accelerate their learning. In their book, The Power of No, James Altucher and Claudia Azula Altucher suggest we read 500 books on the subject we want to become an expert in.  500 books sounds like a lot. Even at the rate of one a week it will take you ten years, but as the old saying suggests, the time will pass anyway. Think about that.

The next ten years is going to pass anyway. You might as well read a book a week, so that when it's passed, you've read 500 books. Click To Tweet

However, it’s not enough to read a lot of books if you can’t recall anything about them. You need a system so you can track what you read, when you read it, and what you learned from it. Otherwise, you’ll be relying on your memory which may not always be accurate. Tracking what you read needn’t be boring or difficult. Here are a few tips to make it easier.

Be An Active Reader: How to Retain More of What You Read

Disclosure: Sometimes my work here (and all around the web) contains affiliate links. Find out what that means here.

Invest in a Reading Journal

This is where you’ll record your thoughts on everything you read. There are a plenty of journals available at a variety of price points, but one of the most popular ones is The Book Lover’s Journal. You’ll have plenty of space to record what you read and what you thought about it.

Start with These Facts

You want to record the basics first like the title and author name. You may also want the page count and publisher information. This can be helpful if it’s a resource you plan to recommend to friends or if it’s a technical book that may be updated by the publisher periodically. Next, grab the book summary. You can write your own if you prefer to share your impressions of the book. But if not, then use the book blurb found on websites like Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Capture the Details

Now that you have the basics out of the way, it’s time to focus on recoding details about the book you’ve just read. Note any quotes you loved or passages you want to remember. Be sure to add the page number or chapter title so you can find them again. Next, rank the book. You can create your own ranking system if you like or you can keep it simple and use the five-star method that’s popular on Amazon. You may also want to include three to five tags to jog your memory later or help you if you want to recommend the book.

Take Notes

Finally, take some time to craft your own notes. These don’t have to be shared with anyone else and don’t need to be long or complex. You can write 3-5 sentences talking about the book. You could say something like, “Great book. I love the points made in the first three chapters but the middle was a bit repetitive. I’d skim read those chapters on a re-read.”

Consider reviewing the book

I love to consolidate my learning by writing a review to post online. You can help other readers (and the author) out by posting this review on Amazon or Goodreads. Or you can turn it into content for your own blog or site and post it there. If you like to write short review that won’t make a post or article on their own, save your reviews and write round-up posts. I do this regularly, then compile the reviews into posts like Five Business Books That Will Help You Work Smarter and Five Books that Will Fuel Your Online Business Success.

Use an App

Some people prefer to track their reading digitally. If that describes you, then you might be interested in the Goodreads app. You can post your own reviews and add books to your virtual shelves called tags. It’s part catalogue system and part social network so you can interact with other users and discuss your favorite books.

Want to really deepen the knowledge you get from some of the books you read? Consider a subscription to Mentor Box. Their subscription service selects amazing books, on the topics of business, career, wealth, networking, leadership, influence, and more. Then supplies you with speed-reading cheat sheets, audio summaries, video lectures, and college-style classes by the authors summarizing their own books for you. Oh, and a 30-day money-back guarantee if you don’t love their service. Check them out here.


At the heart of all my writing is the desire to help people live better, happier, more creative, productive and abundant lives. So I’d love to send you my free checklist: 20 Things To Do Every Week To Infinitely Improve Your Life. Get your copy here.

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