Exploring Books as an Adult

We learned to read as children, starting with simple books, simple words, and silly situations to spark the imagination and capture the attention.

As we got older, we read longer and longer books, with more complex words, realistic situations, and demanded we monitor our own attention. First we started with simple chapter books and by the end classics of literature -Catcher in the Rye, The Scarlet Letter, Crime and Punishment. All of these books require finishing the book to fully understand and grasp the meaning, the themes, and lesson the author is teaching.

As an adult, and as a working professional, you may find yourself reading non-fiction books - a book my schools prepared me little for reading, consuming, and understanding. These books are a different beast from the fiction we were taught to read.

The good thing is, we’re adults and we get to decide how much we’ll read, what we are going to read, how much we’ll read and most importantly, why.

Because you decide why you read and what you want out of it, you get to dictate the approach you will use. I see too many adults, including many working professionals, choose not to read at all, which is a shame, because a lot can be learned from a book.

Most of us approach a book like we were taught as kids - to read it cover to cover. There are alternatives to this approach.

Using Priming, we start by understanding what the book we’ve chosen is about, consider why we are reading this book, and what we hope to learn.

Armed with this pre-work, we can proceed along one of three paths, skimming the book and looking for key points and the information we want, start at the beginning and read the key chapters, or, start at the beginning and read until we’ve extracted what we wanted to learn.

After reading, capturing notes, and analyzing nearly 100 ‘books, I’ve noticed a pattern. Most books will begin with the problem the author is exploring, then provide the author’s solution. Once the solution has been shared, the author then explores various dimensions of their solution and corollaries from it. If all you were seeking is to understand the solution, then skipping the corollaries and details might be fine.

Reading a book as an adult does not need to be the same as when we were students. You get to decide why you are reading the book, what you want from it. how you will read the book, and when you are done with it. Most non-fiction books can be understood in just a few chapters. The Pareto principle, or the 80/20 rule applies to non-fiction books - 80% of the value of the book comes from 20% of its chapters. Don’t feel bad if you seek those chapters at and more on to the next book - there’s a lot of great ideas to explore out there.