How I Read Books

4 min read

I read a lot of books in 2019 and then I fell off the wagon. This year I got back into reading and I realize how much I missed it. There’s some books that I read a while back that I forgot. So I decided to re-read some of them.

About 5 of the books I read this year are books I’ve read in the past. Good books. Great books! Why don’t I remember them?

After reading 2 of them I said to myself, “You can’t let this happen again. You need a better system.”

This required some deep thinking and experimenting…

I love reading on my Kindle e-reader. It’s a distraction-free device that is comfortable to hold. I can sit, lie down, stand, be in the car, on the bus… anywhere. I love Kindle! But I don’t take great notes on Kindle. This is not a promotional post. Use whatever device you prefer.

Placing notes in an online note taking app is best for long-term searchable notes, but not great for learning. And we all know how distracted we get while using a internet connected device like a computer, tablet, or phone.

Handwritten notes are the best overall. They engage your brain in a way that highlighting or typing can never replace. There’s plenty of studies on this. But while I’m reading I don’t want to have an extra book on the side. Also, handwritten notes are not searchable.

So I want to read on a Kindle, handwrite my notes, and make them digital for long-term storage and retrieval. Sounds like a lot.

I believe I have a pretty good solution right now and I can walk you through the phases of development for people with different budgets and preferences.

Phase 1: Highlighting

Those of you have an e-reader like a Kindle know how easy it is to highlight a passage of text. You can highlight a word or even a few pages. These highlights are accessible on the Kindle e-reader and on the Kindle app available on computer, tablet, and phone.

Advantage: I don’t need an additional device or notebook to take notes.

Disadvantage: Even if you read your highlights later, your brain was never really engaged with the material. Plus you can easily highlight too much and have no way of actively recalling the core principles of the book.

Phase 2: Typing up the highlights

Since the highlights weren’t really sticking with me, I decided to type up notes again. I would read a book and highlight as I please. Once complete, I would review the highlights in the Kindle app and then type up my own words.

Advantage: Still don’t need an additional device for notes. I also get a condensed long-term version that I can review.

Disadvantage: My brain is still not making deep connections with the material.

Phase 3: Handwriting then typing up the highlights

Comprehension and recall are most important when learning, thus I spent some time only reading if I had a notebook nearby. I’d still highlight notes, but anything I felt truly inspired by, I would spend some time to write on paper.

Advantage: Deeper understanding and appreciation of the text. Writing slower forces you to write more efficiently, forcing you to think and summarize better.

Disadvantage: I need an extra device or notebook when I’m reading. This means I can only really read at a desk, limiting when and where I would consider reading.

Phase 4: The Kindle Scribe

The Kindle Scribe… no affiliate link… wow! Finally a device where I can have it all.

I can read with the Kindle experience, highlight with the Kindle experience, and now you can handwrite little sticky notes right on the book!

Since the Kindle Scribe has notebooks by default, now I copy and paste my handwritten sticky notes into a notebook. I try to make a one page summary for each book that I can review as often as needed.

Advantage: No additional device for notes. All the advantages of handwriting. I can still type a long-term searchable version of my handwritten summary.

Disadvantage: Price? But if reading is an important part of your career and even your life, it may be worth the investment.


Regardless of whether you prefer physical books or e-readers, I believe most humans need to handwrite a summarized version of the book in order to commit the key concepts to long-term memory. For me it’s important to find the right tools that make this process enjoyable.

Before the Kindle Scribe, it was all about perfectly selected pens and notebooks. I could go back to these, as they are still wonderful tools. I have been using my Kindle Scribe daily for a few months now and I will continue to do so.

This is not a promotion for the Kindle Scribe. Just a promotion for finding tools that help you read and learn in a way that is most suitable for you.

Written on September 17, 2023

The opinions expressed here are my own and do not reflect any individual or organization from my past or present.


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