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Topic 1.3.5 of Module 1 Up One Level
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1.3.5 Read better, always better
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Summary of Topic 1.3.5
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In your business career you learn in two ways: by doing and by reading. In that context your main purpose in reading books is to gain increased understanding of business. Most of the mistakes that are made in business have been made many times before and are well recorded. So you don't have to repeat them. That way of gaining experience and expertise is slow and can be ruinously expensive.
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Read better, always better, but sometimes slower, sometimes faster. Develop the ability to read different things at different - appropriate - speeds, not everything at the greatest possible speed. When you read too fast or too slowly, you understand nothing.
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It is necessary but not sufficient to be informed: you need also to be enlightened. You are informed when you know simply that something is the case, when you can remember it. You are enlightened when you know what it is all about, when you can explain it.
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Reading well is a complex, vital, core skill that requires keen observation, good memory, imagination, analysis, correlation of ideas and concepts and serious thought. Reading is learning from an absent teacher. When you question a book, it answers you only to the extent that you do the work of thinking and analysis yourself.
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Your continuing, lifetime education depends on books so you must know how to make good books teach you well. To learn more, go to How to Read a Book
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Your Competitive Advantages from this topic
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You'll know more. Read less junk. Conserve time. Be proactive.
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1. Greater Skill. Few of your competitors will make the effort to master the art of reading better. When you do, you will have a scarce, lifelong competitive advantage over most of them. Quite simply, you'll know more than they.
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2. Effectiveness. The simple skill of inspectional reading enables you to decide quickly if a book, magazine or article requires a more careful reading. If not, discard it now.
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First look at the title page, the table of contents, the index and the publisher's blurb. That in itself may give you enough information to know that you want to read it more carefully or that you do not need to read it at all.
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If the book is of interest to you, now look at the important chapters. Many will have summary statements in their opening and closing pages. Read those carefully.  Now dip in here and there, reading a paragraph or two or a few pages, no more. Above all, do not fail to read the last two or three pages. Most authors will summarize what they think is new or important in their book there. You now know a great deal about this book, having spent at most an hour on it, often much less. In particular you know whether or not it deserves more of your time or attention.
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You now can quickly and accurately select from the blizzard of business books and publications those that are of benefit to you. Consequently you read less junk. You read only what's worth reading. This is effective use of your reading time.
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3. Efficiency. If the book is worthwhile but difficult, and some that have content that is of real value to you are, now read the book superficially, that is, read it through from beginning to end without stopping to think about things you don't understand right away. Just read on. You'll soon come to stuff you do understand. Your aim is to get the big points that the author makes. Actively ask - and answer - what is this book about as a whole? What is being said, and how? Do not miss the forest for the trees. Or, if you prefer a digital analogy, see the picture, not the pixels. This is the essence of inspectional reading.
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By analytical reading you master an individual book, you get right to the heart of it, you understand it in depth. You ask - and answer - is this book true? In whole, or in part? You have made up your own mind.
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By syntopical reading you ask - and answer - what of it? What is the significance of this book? What else follows? What is further implied or suggested? You realize that more than one book is relevant to your subject, you identify by selecting from our list of Your 25 Books or by inspectional reading which books are relevant, you find the relevant passages in those books, establish a common terminology, ask those questions about your problem to which the authors provide answers and define and arrange the issues produced by different answers to the questions. The truth is to be found in the answers or, if the answers differ, in the conflict of opposing answers and in your greater understanding of the problem which your analysis of those differing answers generates.
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The trained ability to habitually ask - and precisely and accurately answer - the four questions above is the art of reading. It is hard to read well. It's a complex skill. But it is worthwhile.
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This is the most efficient use of your reading time.
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4. Proactive. Now that you know so much, do something. Take action to solve the problem.
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Drill Down
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Deepen your knowledge of the topics above. Click the links directly above or in the left navigation bar to read further, relevant pages in our Overtake® website. Click the links in the right navigation bar for our selected books, URLs, articles, disks, audio and/or video tapes.
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Last Reviewed: 28 March 2004
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1000   overtake, gives you the edge, don't go to work without it Success
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500   overtake, gives you the edge, don't go to work without it Module
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100   overtake, gives you the edge, don't go to work without it KSF
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Authors
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How to Read a Book
by
Mortimer J. Adler
and
Charles Van Doren
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