Will reading save the world? Yes. This is an ongoing series about books and reading that I am carrying over from the previous incarnation of this blog. Here at Bloom, I will continue to highlight books that I love but also delve deeper into my thoughts about what reading books means to me. This week, I explain my book notes.
I have been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be an active reader. In my mind, it means questioning the content as one navigates through the highs and lows of a book. It means grappling with conflicts, contemplating ideas, and seeking insight. Reading guides us into exploring stories that relate to our life experiences and emotions.
It is all of these things and more.
So then, my next question is how? How do I become a more active reader? Is it enough to just read the story? I have come to understand that active reading is more than just reading.
It’s more like hunting for treasure. As you read, your eyes move along until you come across a quote, an idea, a message, or a moment that elicits an emotional or physical response from you. Maybe you laughed out loud. Maybe you started to cry. Whatever it is that made you do that–wouldn’t it be wonderful to remember it? Maybe it is a brilliant quote or a poignant passage. Wouldn’t it be awesome to hold on to that treasure?
My answer to that question is an emphatic “YES!!”.
This is why I have started to take notes from most of the books I read; however, they are not just merely words scribbled down on paper. I found a way to make it a little more creative and fun.
My friend and fellow artist Megan Kelley (@studiomnivorous on Instagram) takes the coolest notes when she is in an audience and listening to a speaker. I’ve seen her doing this for months and decided to try it out for the books I read. Here is a photo of what my book notes now look like thanks to her inspiring note-taking template:
These notes are from a book I read a while ago called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. (This is a fantastic book by the way. It serves up an insightful and decisive primer on how to live a meaningful life. ) I generally do not acquire this much information from most books I read, but there was so much knowledge from this particular book that I wanted to document it all for future reference.
With my book notes, I basically go all arts and crafty with them. I use one notebook until the pages are done. I include the name and author of the book, and I make each idea or quote part of a visual whole on the page. Not only is this a lot more fun than just writing something down, but it helps me to process the information better by allowing each note/idea to be its own vignette.
You do not have to be a graphic artist to be able to do this. The goal is to enjoy yourself and make the notes look awesome on the page. Use different colors. Create shapes. Be goofy.
If there is one hard rule that I follow, it is that the notes still need to be legible. If you can’t read it later, it becomes worthless. Remember that.
If I am reading the actual book and do not want to stop reading, I mark the desired passage with a pencil or fold the corner of the page. This lets me get back to a noteworthy point later on to add it to my book notes.
You might find just two or as much as twenty items from a book that are worthy of documentation. In either case, this is a fun way of keeping those treasures for posterity and future inspiration. By the way, if you have a child who loves to read, this form of treasure hunting might be a way to make reading more engaging and enjoyable.
Go ahead. Hunt for treasure. Take your own book notes. Make them fun.
Special thanks to Megan Kelley for ongoing inspiration.