How to Properly Read a Book

Whether Fiction or Non-Fiction, pay attention to what the author is telling you

Books have a beginning, a middle and an end. As such they should be read from start to finish. To properly read a book, you should pay attention to its importance. With non-fiction books it is important to read the text in its entirety but think about only the major points the author is trying to convey. When reading fiction, read the book in its entirety but stop every now and then to think about characters and plot development.

1 For Non-Fiction

2 Choose a well lit

Choose a well lit, quiet place to crack open your book. Turn off your cell phone if you have to and make sure your attention won't be distracted by a window or a television. You are more likely to concentrate on the words on the page if you are not distracted by noises or visual stimulation.

3 Decide you

Decide how much time you want to devote to the reading. For example, if you have a 250-page textbook, commit four hours on detailed reading and one hour on note-taking. You may want to adjust this time allotment up or down on how lengthy and difficult the reading material is.

4 Write in your book

Write in your book. If you own your text, use note-taking symbols in the paragraphs. For example, if you find something that is important, put a star next to it. If you are unsure of something and it needs more research, put a question mark next to it.

5 Highlight text headings

Highlight text headings, passages, phrases and words that seem important. These may include dates, proper nouns and definitions. Have a dictionary on-hand in case you are not familiar with a word.

6 Look out for lists

Look out for lists. For example, an author may write, "The three effects of this major event include" and then give examples that may be a paragraph long or a even a page long. Jot down notes on these examples.

7 Write answers

Write answers to questions at the end of your reading and give definitions of important terms. For every 100 pages of text you should have at least three to five pages of written notes. Use your own words to answer your questions. If you are using a computer to take notes, don't copy and paste text from your reading.

8 Commit your reading to memory

Commit your reading to memory. You do not have to memorize the whole book to fully understand the concepts. When you are done with your notes, read them over a couple of times. Cover up terms and definitions with your hand and quiz yourself on the significance of them and what they mean.

9 Fiction

10 Choose a book that interests you

Choose a book that interests you. An avid reader is more likely to finish a book that is based upon something he can relate to. For example, if your favorite movies are horror films, try a Stephen King novel.

11 Choose a quiet spot like a library or coffee shop

Choose a quiet spot like a library or coffee shop where you can enjoy your book with little or no distraction.

12 Read the author's biography

Read the author's biography, which is usually located in the back of the book. Familiarize yourself with the book itself by reading the spoiler on the back cover.

13 Follow the book chapter by chapter

Follow the book chapter by chapter. As you read through each one, take a moment at the end and think about the characters and what is going on in the story. Make predictions about what is going to happen in the next chapter. By doing this, you are challenging yourself to read more of the book.

  • Non-fiction books tend to have an "hourglass" structure with general information being presented to the reader at the beginning and end of the book as a whole, or in each paragraph or each chapter. Detailed information usually appears in the middle.
  • Not every fiction book will be engaging to you. At least try to read through the first couple of chapters. If you aren't enthralled with the book, don't worry, as there are plenty of books in the library.

Sarah Brooks has been writing since 2008, contributing articles to various online publications. She previously served as a staff reporter for a daily newspaper in Amsterdam, N.Y. Brooks holds a bachelor's degree in magazine journalism from SUNY Plattsburgh.