Let's take a look at learning from a more hands-on approach. How to read a book?
Books are traditionally considered to be depositories of knowledge.
And why not? Books are efficient: low cost of production, no junk advertisements interfering with your reading, and likeness to spoken language, so not too much energy has to be invested in decrypting the intended meaning. As a backside, books do enforce linear thought.
Reading the book begins when buying it (or acquiring it otherwise):
Unless I know the book by reputation, I inspect it more or less carefully: I take a look at the cover, read the title, take a look at the back cover, open the book at random and read several sentences. If the book seems to show some promise, I inspect a few more random parts and take a look at the structure. A good layout can enhance the learning (sometimes it's even outright necessary).
Then, if the contents of my wallet permit, a good book is bought.
If you are reading a novel for leisure, read parts of it or read it from beginning to end. After all, it's your time and you spend it any way you like.
If you are reading a book to gain insights into a subject, I advise a different approach:
- Read the front and back covers.
- Read minor parts at random.
- List through it without reading.
- Glide your eyes over the introduction and table of contents.
- Examine any charts, pictures or diagrams you want. (If there are any.)
- Dip into reading/browsing any chapter you want.
- Dip into other chapters.
If by this time you have gained sufficient insight, if it's a nice looking book, put it on your prominent bookshelf. If it's not, lend it to someone.
(Alright, you may loan the nice books too. But duct-tape the edges of paperback covers to reduce the wear if you want it back in a useable form.)
If you haven't gained sufficient insight yet:
- Read the book from beginning to end. You may skip the boring parts or read every other sentence.
- Read chapters at random from beginning to end.
- List through the book and read the table of contents.
- Read the book from beginning to end.
- Repeat the process if you want, but if you're still not satisfied, better get some other books on the same topic and read them first.
Reading books is a one way communication between the author and the reader.
For a successful communication, the author has to invest energy into conveying his/her thoughts clearly, and the reader has to maintain a flexible and clear mind to absorb the words and ideas into his/her thought processes.
A final piece of advice: if you read a book on the computer, experiment with the layout until it suits you.
(A not too wide central column with white letters on black background seems to work well and inflict less eye-strain.)