It’s bad form to re-sift through another blog post, but since information literacy is dubious yet still helpful, then some associated skills are of interest. In this case, the skill of reading “above one’s level.” Even one of my favorite writing textbooks, which has a fantastic page (p. 477) on different sources and when to use them lists scholarly books and journals as “Highly useful if not too high-level or technical.” I make it a point that this is inadvertently insulting to one’s intelligence, and stands in the way of the educational project of owning the hell out of as much as you can.
So when I came across Ryan Holiday’s piece in Thought Catalog, Read to Lead: How to Digest Books Above Your “Level”, I was glad to see a non-educator’s perspective to supplement my own. And he is the director of marketing at the notorious hipster-staple American Apparel, which is good or bad depending on how much fun you’re not having. Still what Ryan presents goes beyond information literacy’s operational suggestion to incorporate new information into one’s knowledge base, but to connect, apply and use whatever it is you get. It’s a message easily lost in the technical apparatus of IL.
Back to the main point: the first rule is to get out of the “School Mindset.” Holiday points out that we are quizzed on details to see if we did the work, not if we understood it’s greater points (lessons). The broader issue is that school strictly enforces sequential forms of learning along the lines of Bloom’s taxonomy of learning, which is okay for school, but limiting in the rest of life. Armed with that confidence, the steps read fairly clearly:
- Ruin the Ending
- Read the Reviews
- Read the Intro/Notes/Prologue
- Look it Up
- Mark Passages
After you finish:
- Go Back Through
- Read One Book from the Bibliography
- Apply and Use
Also, by reading from the bibliography, and not relying on search engines to define what is relevant, students better enter the stream of communication, scholarly or otherwise. This is a conversation, not a database. I’ll leave you with Ryan’s words:
So try it: Do your research, read diligently without getting bogged down in details, and then work to connect, apply and use. -Ryan Holiday, Read to Lead: How to Digest Books Above Your “Level”