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How do YOU read non-fiction?
Old 09-04-2018, 11:18 AM   #1
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How do YOU read non-fiction?

Well this might seem like a silly question. I find that some non-fiction, especially long biographies and history books, defeat me because they are so detailed. I struggle to retain much of my reading. Clearly for me, reading it like a fiction book (page by page) is not the answer. And also I'm a slow reader. I have an engineering education and my college days did not emphasize comprehensive reading of literature.

I'm impressed with some of the people's reading lists in the thread "What have you read recently?".

I'm experimenting with reading first sentences in each paragraph in a chapter and then going back to read the more interesting parts of that chapter.

Anyone here have good methods they would like to share?
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Old 09-04-2018, 11:24 AM   #2
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I just skip the parts that bore me (usually with too much detail, or a diversion into a topic I don't care about). It's sort of like fast forwarding through parts of a videotaped lecture you don't want to bother with.

Basically, I read what interests me, and when it stops being interesting, I will skip ahead -- either a little or a lot. Sometimes I'll just skip ahead a few paragraphs and see if things have changed, but often I'll skip the rest of the chapter, or at least skip into the next section heading.

I'll also skip large sections in the latter part of a book. I find that authors often say most of the important stuff in the first few chapters or the first half of the book. After that, it's mostly elaboration and repetition of themes. So I'll often stop reading two-thirds of the way through, or I'll skip to the last chapter for the wrap-up.
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Old 09-04-2018, 01:07 PM   #3
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I sometimes skip less interesting sections in the non-fiction books. For example, in the "Eisenhower vs. Warren" book I just wrote about, I skipped a short section about Eisenhower's command during WWII because war stuff bores me. I am more interested in the politics stuff when he was running for and became president than his wartime service. Thankfully, the part I skipped was a small portion of the book so I remain very interested in the subsequent chapters.


Once in a while, I will find myself skipping so much in a book that I will imply return the book to the library.
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Old 09-04-2018, 01:14 PM   #4
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I tend to read it as illuminated pixels on my iPad or iMac.
Magazine length articles.
I read a lot every day.

A few times a year I tackle a long printed book. Three books so far this year.
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Old 09-04-2018, 01:34 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Lsbcal View Post
Anyone here have good methods they would like to share?
I guess I just choose non-fiction that interests me because I don't have this problem.

In general, I far prefer non-fiction to fiction.

And I read on my Kindle. If I find any book uninteresting for some reason, I simply move on to the next. I usually have a few hundred books handy at any one time.
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Old 09-04-2018, 02:29 PM   #6
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I only read about subjects I am interested in, so I don't feel the need to skip any sections that might be rather "dull".

I only read non-fiction. Fiction (make believe) no longer interests me as it did many decades ago. I do however enjoy fiction presented in movies, just not in print.

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Old 09-04-2018, 03:04 PM   #7
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Read mostly non-fiction and don't skip anything. Don't think I've ever read a book that's too wordy, well maybe The Winds of War and War and Remembrance. Just finished The Wright Brothers and wished there was more details.
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Old 09-04-2018, 03:14 PM   #8
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I only read non-fiction. Fiction (make believe) no longer interests me as it did many decades ago. I do however enjoy fiction presented in movies, just not in print.
I hear you.

I find that sometimes the fiction book upon which a movie was based is better than the movie itself.

One huge exception I can think of - The Godfather. Good book, great movie.
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Old 09-04-2018, 03:41 PM   #9
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My reading is at least 75% nonfiction, and mostly on my Kindle.

Can't say I've ever skipped a section in a book, because if it's not holding my interest after the first few chapters I'll just get rid of it. Fewer than 5% of my books fall in that category.

I typically have five or six books going at once, and it's easy on the Kindle to switch around among them for a change of pace.
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Old 09-04-2018, 03:47 PM   #10
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I take 2 different types of books from the library: readers and skimmers. A reader would be a novel or something like historical non-fiction. A skimmer would be something like a book on personal finance (where I have a reasonable grasp of the subject but want to get a particular author's take on it) or a //fill in the blank// for Dummies book where I want to learn more about a subject but perhaps only certain aspects of it. I am a fairly slow reader so readers normally take me a while. Sometimes I can knock off a skimmer in one sitting.
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Old 09-04-2018, 04:06 PM   #11
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I guess I assume the author has some sequence in mind when telling a story, even a non-fiction story, so I try to read it in order. If the chapters are not really related, I have no problem skipping a dull one. Too many dull ones, and I'll skip to one I don't think will be dull, and if it is, that's it for the book.

I get the idea of skipping sections, but using the example made of the Eisenhower war years, I try not to because I assume things that happened then, and relationships he made, formed a part of who he was during his presidency.
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Old 09-04-2018, 04:17 PM   #12
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Depends a bit on the book, obviously. Read a book about young hitler a while back, and what I did there was skim the parts that I didn't like. Talking paragraphs, not whole pages.

Further along it ends up with his political career, and I wasn't that interested in it so I just didn't read that part. Same thing with Sapiens, much of the later half I already knew so just glossed over that.

With the moon program (different book ..) I skipped whole pages.

Some books are really interesting but dry. Those I usually alternate with less dry books.

In rare case I just skipped ahead to the chapter I really wanted to know (biographies usually).
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Old 09-05-2018, 03:38 AM   #13
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Most of my reading is non-fiction.

I let myself read at whatever speed is comfortable. If I want to pause and ponder about what I just read, I do.

I think fiction is meant to be read more quickly than non-fiction. Maybe just giving yourself permission to take your time when reading non-fiction, will make the experience more fun for you.
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Old 09-05-2018, 04:54 AM   #14
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I tend to get more deeply interested in subjects. I read everything that I can about that, then reread the better books or important chapters of a book to refresh details. At some point, I move on. Now, there is so much information on the internet that I don't bother with books until later in my chosen subject of the quarter year quest.

I seldom can read a nonfiction. Character development invariably follows archetypes and plots become formulas. Simplistic writing bores me quickly. When I was young, I was a voracious reader with no filter for good storytelling. Later, as an adult, I was able to go to college. I lost my ability to read fiction in college.
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Old 09-05-2018, 09:03 AM   #15
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I read a ton of stuff. Most of it is easy to read thrillers and the like but I also gravitate to science and politics that can be much denser and more challenging. If a book interests me and is well written I always read all of it. If I like the general topic but get distracted by boring details that feel like an overkill effort at plot development or unnecessary details, I will start skimming using a technique sort of like you mentioned - skim the first and last sentences of paragraphs, include a middle sentence for long paragraphs. When the pace picks back up I drop back to normal reading. If a book just doesn't work for me I will abandon it, usually after 70-100 pages. I will say, skimming is not easy but it does work if you want to get by lengthy details that don't interest you and don't seem to be critical for getting the gist of the thing.
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Old 09-05-2018, 03:28 PM   #16
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I mostly read non-fiction, except sometimes on the treadmill when I just need the distraction of fiction. On the treadmill I have 3 sources of entertainment in case one or two fail (device charge runs out, TV not working etc). I have music going on a Shuffle, a book on the Kindle, and the TV tuned to news with a station that does the crawlers at the bottom, no sound.

I do most of my non-fiction as audio books so I can do something else while listening. When I encounter a boring part, my mind just goes elsewhere. Sometimes with technical material I end up with only the gist of the subject though.
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Old 09-06-2018, 08:53 AM   #17
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Thanks for all your responses.
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Old 09-06-2018, 12:34 PM   #18
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Some authors produce more readable work than others. David McCullough and Simon Winchester aren't necessarily better historians than Doris Kearns Goodwin, but they're much better storytellers. Stephen Ambrose also knew how to spin a yarn.

I've read a number of Goodwin's works, but I find her repetitious -- she'll make a point, then make it again, and then quote somebody at length to reinforce it all. I often have had to put down one of her books for a while before picking it up again. Occasionally I'll skip over segments of her books as well.

I gobbled up McCullough's bios of Adams and Truman. And if you want to read a crackerjack work of history, read "Krakatoa" by Winchester. The man writes like Michener.
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Old 09-06-2018, 07:52 PM   #19
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I read non-fiction like I read fiction - start at the beginning and keep right on until the end. When I am on vacation up in Maine, I usually go through one book per day.
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Old 09-20-2018, 10:02 AM   #20
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I read mostly fiction, but some non-fiction too. I like to read history, and I read The Norman Conquest by Marc Morris, and I couldn't put it down- it read like a novel to me. I recently read "the Case against Sugar" by Gary Taubes and the subject matter was fascinating, but it tended to drag on. Taubes (like many journalists) writes in a triangular fashion- important stuff at the beginning of the paragraph/chapter/article, and less important stuff towards the end. Taubes also tends to beat his arguments to death. So I read just until I got the point, then skipped to his next point.

It also depends on what you read. DH made me read Poland by James Michener (combination of history and fiction) and I didn't love it, though I was glad I read it. Lots of stuff he reads I just can't get into. We both read Rising Tide though, and loved it. Maybe you just haven't found the exact genre you can't put down.
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