On Reading and Learning

I take notes when I read books. Not every book, but most. I try to read for pure enjoyment sometimes, but even then I find myself taking a few notes.

One book I recently finished is Jon Acuff’s new book Start. I took 12 pages of notes. Some of you may think I’m nuts. That’s fine. My feeling on taking notes goes something like this: “Why read something if I don’t plan to take something from it to improve my life?” Hence, I take notes.

When I’m finished with the book, I review the notes. Then I make notes on my notes. Here are my notes on the notes from Start.


Action Points / Steps To Take

  1. What is my passion? Inspiration?
  2. Discover/uncover what inspires my wife and boys.
  3. Sing.
  4. Serve. Help others.
  5. Awesome is taking the detour in your day and enjoying the change of path it is taking you on.
  6. Be brutally realistic about your present and dream honestly.
  7. Forget about spending time “finding” your purpose. “Live” your purpose today. Start! Take the step. Open the door and walk through it.
  8. Gather trusted advisors. Stand on their shoulders.
  9. Document your voices. Share your voices. Share your fear and doubt.
  10. Be selfish at the appropriate time of the day. Claim your time, not others.


So now you’re asking what I did with the notes on the notes. Did I follow through on any of the 10 points? Yep. Every day I’m working on these points. Sometimes I need reminders though.

Also, writing this post ties into #7. I’m still working on all of these, but today is a new day, and I’m “punching fear in the face”.

Q: What actions do you take to remember and learn from the books you read? Let us know in the comments! Thanks for joining the conversation.

(This post originally published on August 12, 2013 on https://ricktheule.com.)


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13 thoughts on “On Reading and Learning

  1. I do it too. I keep a small sheet of paper inside the front cover and a pen nearby – usually in my hand or my mouth – and If I make a mark in the book – intentionally – I write the page number down on the paper. If it is really good I write out the sentence or paragraph. I even do it when I read fiction. Many years ago, I took away from a Tom Clancy book that – I have to paraphrase – if you don;t write it down it never existed. I quote that often – especially when I forget to write something down.

  2. I used to take lots of notes. I have somewhere a dollar notebook full of quotes. 3 X 5 cards were taped in different places…Bible verses, lines from poems, and profound phrases were tucked in books, lying around my desk and such.

    I need to adhere to #3. I should sing like I used to. Yeah, I will sing today in front of God and everybody.

  3. I usually jot down quick notes as well. Before starting any book I make sure I have plenty of room in my current notebook. After I’m finished with the book, I’ll somehow try to make a list of “key points” and implement that into a blog post somehow.

  4. I use Audible and you can make bookmarks with annotations. With Audible I can listen at faster speeds and rewind 30 seconds at a time. For the life of me, I can’t write in an actual book.

    • I usually don’t write in the book. I always have a notepad next to me. I’m trying to scrap that though too and use Evernote more often.

  5. I need to start thing notes in the books I read. I love a Kindle because I can highlight items that inspire me.

    Thanks for the reminder that it’s okay to write in the books that we read!

  6. Looking forward to reading this one myself Rick.

    I personally keep a notebook by my side when I’m reading a book so I can not only jot down ideas from the book but can also jot down things that come to my mind that might help my readers (and myself) in future posts. A highlighter is a must to me. My books get covered in highlighter and dog ears!

    I do this mainly, as many of us do, as we’ll eventually look back at these books in the future to help us in situations and to reinforce the thoughts once again. This is why I still prefer paper books to reading everything on Kindle. Don’t get me wrong, I use my Kindle on smaller reads, but when it comes to something that I know I’ll be using for years to come, I make sure I get the print version.

  7. I have trouble finding the time to sit done with a “real” book. I listen using Audible at 3x speed. If I miss something or want to hear it again for emphasis I just back it up.

    • Now there is something I haven’t done. I have never listened to a book. Not even one. I’m assuming I’ll get sucked into it at some point in time. I have never really listened to podcasts until about 8 months ago either. Now I listen to them almost every day.

    • I once took some courses that used DVDs. The speakers on the lectures were Southerners who spoke so slowly for my Yankee taste, I ran them at double time. A 45 minute DVD lecture in 22.5 minutes.

      Never tried 3x. I’m intrigued.

  8. I read all ebooks, and I have a somewhat-flawed system. I screenshot the pages I like the most in the hopes of referring back to those photos. Twice have I actually compiled those photos and re-used at a later date, so hearing about these good ideas is motivating!

    Thank you all for all the great ideas, I will begin to use Kindle’s note-taking features more often!

    (Also looking forward to reading Start. I loved Quitter!)

    • I struggle with notes when ready ebooks. I’m good at using the Kindle highlight feature, but I find I never go back to review them when I’m finished. Something to work on I guess.