This may be a bit of an odd question; on a blog that often focuses on law and technology, you might reasonably think that when I ask “how do you read books?” I’m asking about whether you read in electronic from — on a tablet or e-ink reader — or on paper. But that’s not what I’m asking.
Instead, I’m interested in knowing from a practical standpoint how scholars tackle the voluminous amount of worthwhile material that is being published these days (especially books). I am currently reading Julie Cohen’s excellent “Configuring the Networked Self: Law, Code, and the Play of Everyday Practice.” It’s wonderful, with lots to think about, but I have many more books on my list to read just for one project I’m working on (on Cyborgs and Internet regulation; more on that later this year). Other books in my queue are Brett Frischmann’s “Infrastructure: The Social Value of Shared Resources,” Robert Merges’s “Justifying Intellectual Property,” Tim Wu’s “The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires,” N. Katherine Hayles’s “How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics,” and Elias Aboujaoude’s “Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality.” And I’m wondering: How do I get through them all? Not because I’m time pressured (in some ways I am, but in other ways I’m not), but because I want to. There is certain to be great stuff in all of these books. I want to read them.
That leads to the question: How do you read books? Do you sit down and read them, putting aside other work, class preparation, writing, etc., and just try to get through them one at a time? Do you read late at night, when the “work” of the day is done? Do you grab a minute to read when you can, picking them back up whenever you can grab an in-between moment? Do you take notes, highlight, write in the margins, or otherwise “mark up” as you read? Are you a naturally quick reader (I’m trying to avoid the “speed reading” moniker here)? Did you teach yourself to read quickly? Do you read with depth (ie, slowly, pondering points as they come up), or skim read, pulling the major arguments from each section and moving on?
As I try to improve the efficiency with which I read, while not losing any of the joy and value, I would really appreciate any thoughts on how you read books.