Doing more with what you read

Action is the only prerequisite for impact

Afterthoughts: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

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For most of my life, I have been a consumer – be it of products, services, or content – and this year I want to produce more. One thing that I have been consuming in vast amounts lately has been books. Fiction or non-fiction, you name it, I probably have it on my Goodreads to-read list. While I find the act of reading itself incredibly valuable, I felt a little guilty I didn’t do more with them. This article is my remedy to that, I will outline the following ways that one can “do more” with what they have read i.e. produce something from it.

Twitter thread

Tweet a thread of learnings or similar is the lowest friction thing that I can think of. The thinking of what to include may take a little while, but once you have it clear in your mind, the actual creation and delivery of the thread takes at most a couple of minutes. It is one step towards making yourself reflect on the work, how it challenged you, or not, and really formulate your thoughts around it. One reason why I like it is that it’s an authentic thing to tweet about, and it is inherently interesting content.

Write a “review”

From the start of this year, I have written what I labelled “reviews” for every book I have read. After about 20 or so, I realised that reviews were not what they were. My critical eye did not appear much in them, and they mostly devolved into a discussion about the ideas, themes, and artefacts from the work. Basically me ranting about anything and everything that resonated or that I found interesting. It is a rewarding exercise because as my memory fades, these “afterthoughts” will be a clean record of my impressions and thoughts immediately after finishing the book.

Build a personal “literary map”

This is something that I have begun to do the more I read. It is a supplementary to the “afterthought” piece I write for each work. It is where I try to draw broader links between different works, and try to find the deeper insights through this. It is akin to a scientist doing a literature review of a specific topic and doing their best, not only to summarise the state of it, but also to try to unearth hidden associations or inconsistencies. The first step in the process is identifying books that share similar themes and ideas. My main method for doing so is the shelving feature on Goodreads. For example, I have split non-fiction into its different genres like philosophy, psychology, memoirs, etc. Then, through tools like Roam Research and the magic of bi-directional linking, letting my head simmer unravel these maps. Once a map begins to take shape, it will be much easier to write form interesting connections and investigate them further.

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