Zettelkasten Forum

How do you read a book?

I was diagnosed Type 2 Diabetes a year ago. Since then I always want to have a systematic study on how to prevent complications, plan my diet and exercises.

I just need to figure out where to begin all this.

My current plan is to use the DK's Diabete's Handbook as a lead-in, which I hope could give me a systematic overview, and then I plan to add more articles and books to each part of the topic.

Then I start my plan last week by reading the handbook, but I notice I have no idea how to read a book. I admit it indeed sounds silly. I was a good student when I was in the college. Now I'm not. I don't know what to do when I go through each line, paragraph on the page.

So I'm wondering if anyone could share a realistic approach to read a book/books/article. By realistic, I mean I really hope it's not some theory education with really confused vocabularies. Think me like a 12 year old student, not some top scientists.

Thank you and wish you all well.


  • edited March 20

    My recommendations for reading are:

    If I understand you well, your end goal is to "have a systematic study on how to prevent complications, plan my diet and exercises".

    Reading is a way to get the necessary knowledge to achieve the goal. However, just reading may not be enough to get that knowledge (because, maybe, the books or articles you want to read are too hard to understand or apply directly).

    So, one way to solve this problem is to read and process what you read. This way, you will be able to get knowledge even from hard-to-understand sources.

    In this sense, the Barbell Method of Reading is a workflow for reading sources (having in mind that later you want to process them), and the Knowledge Cycle is a reminder that is better to do short cycles of reading and processing.

    The last thing is: How do you process a lecture?

    Use the Zettelkasten Method :-)

    For more advice for reading: you can check https://zettelkasten.de/overview/#reading

    “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” —Isaac Newton

  • edited March 20

    Good timing. Just watched this medical student's (Zain Asif) video last night. He talks about "reading in layers"; skim first to get big picture, reread for structure and key ideas, then final read to fill in all the stuff you missed, all the while writing down "Recall Questions" to help you remember what you read.

    His approach is for studying, but would likely be helpful in tackling a big diabetes handbook.

    Layering method:

  • The Barbell Method of reading is excellent advice and I always suggest to read with a pencil in hand. Aside from that I recently saw this video and found interesting the advice of synoptical reading and having a goal while reading. Another good insight for me was to STOP reading to actually give time to modify the habits in your life and start to practice what you learn.

    Also this is an excellent resource, not only for advice on taking notes while reading, but regarding learning in general.

    Good luck out there.

  • @Jackhansonc said:
    I was diagnosed Type 2 Diabetes a year ago. Since then I always want to have a systematic study on how to prevent complications, plan my diet and exercises.

    I had the same diagnosis 4 months ago. I did what it sounds like you also did - read as much as I could find, from various reputable sources, about the condition.

    Before you get carried away with "old" (1980s/1990s) conventional wisdom, I recommend also learning about relatively "new" (2000+; still evolving) concepts in this area. A good place to start is Dr. Jason Fung's book "The Diabetes Code" (he is a Toronto doctor who specialized, to start, in kidney problems and has for the last 15-20 years run an obesity and diabetes clinic). His book is widely available and can be purchased at a low cost on Kindle (Amazon). This book opened my eyes, and, at least in my N=1 experiment, his advice was right on target.

  • Sounds like you might be interested in doing a syntopic read of the topic as it affects your particular health. Here, I'd highly recommend the following which lays out several methods of reading which are sure to help your process immensely:

    Adler, Mortimer J., and Charles Van Doren. How to Read a Book: The Classical Guide to Intelligent Reading. Revised and Updated edition. 1940. Reprint, Touchstone, 2011.

    Starting with a handbook as an overview is certainly a good start.

    website | digital slipbox 🗃️🖋️

    No piece of information is superior to any other. Power lies in having them all on file and then finding the connections. There are always connections; you have only to want to find them. —Umberto Eco

  • edited March 21

    Let me throw something from another direction:

    I am in a similar situation, though it doesn't look like it: I know very little about branding, need to learn about it and need to learn about it for purely utilitarian reasons.

    My approach is to read a couple of books on the topic. They will provide the raw material that I need to build the structures in my Zettelkasten. However, I don't care so much about the "why" but more about the "how" and the "what". The intricate mechanics are only as interesting as the knowledge about enables me to action.

    The top level structure will be a note that provides me with various tools (templates, checklists, etc.). The other, perhaps even more important, goal is to create both habits, reoccurring tasks/projects and one-off tasks/projects.

    In your case, you need the same thing.

    The hard part is rarely understanding/learning, nor it is the most important part. The bottleneck is almost always implementation. I could give you sufficient information on type II diabetes in a few thousand words and some images. But then you are still stuck with changing your life.

    So, instead of thinking that you need to learn proper reading technique (which is beneficial on its own, of course), ask yourself, first, what you want to build from the raw material that accrues. This will give you a proper framework within which you can make informed reading decisions.

    @GeoEng51 Does Fung make proper citations? (Footnotes/Endnotes)

    I am a Zettler

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