Bookmarked A Note on Reading Big, Difficult Books… (Brad DeLong’s Grasping Reality)

We have our recommended ten-stage process for reading such big books:

  1. Figure out beforehand what the author is trying to accomplish in the book.
  2. Orient yourself by becoming the kind of reader the book is directed at—the kind of person with whom the arguments would resonate.
  3. Read through the book actively, taking notes.
  4. “Steelman” the argument, reworking it so that you find it as convincing and clear as you can possibly make it.
  5. Find someone else—usually a roommate—and bore them to death by making them listen to you set out your “steelmanned” version of the argument.
  6. Go back over the book again, giving it a sympathetic but not credulous reading
  7. Then you will be in a good position to figure out what the weak points of this strongest-possible argument version might be.
  8. Test the major assertions and interpretations against reality: do they actually make sense of and in the context of the world as it truly is?
  9. Decide what you think of the whole.
  10. Then comes the task of cementing your interpretation, your reading, into your mind so that it becomes part of your intellectual panoply for the future.
Brad DeLong provides some tips for reading difficult books. This builds on Niklas Göke’s five phases for reading retention and Ryan Halliday’s discussion of reading to lead.

via Cory Doctorow