Reading and Critical Thinking Update

22:57 Sun 18 Feb 2007
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Last month I wrote about wanting to change my reading habits, so that I would think more while reading, and read more critically. Since resolving to do this, the main difference is that I’ve been reading far less.

I still read plenty online, but offline my reading has dwindled. This is definitely due to resistance to critical thinking while reading, leading to simply not reading.

That’s really not the intended outcome, and in fact is quite counter to the whole plan. I was willing to accept slightly slower reading as the price for increased focus, but no reading and no increased focus doesn’t seem quite the way to go.

I mentioned this to Brian during the week and he sensibly suggested trying to improve focus slowly, and not in large leaps. I think that my original plan, ill-defined as it was, represented too much of a jump from my deeply-ingrained reading habits. So I need to accept that I’m going to continue to read without tremendous focus, and without a lot of critical thinking going on, while attempting to slowly increase the amount of critical thought I put into books.

I had intended to summarize every chapter I read, but that has proven too much of a barrier. I think that this time I’ll try something simpler: at the end of every chapter I read, I’ll ask myself a question about the chapter, and answer that question (probably in my head, although I might write it down). That seems a reasonable start, and it means I might actually finish another book this year (since adopting the more-thinking plan in January, I’ve remained more or less in the same place in my re-reading of Gardens of the Moon).

So, this is a smaller step, and hence a more reasonable goal. I’ll see how it works out over the next month or so.

4 Responses to “Reading and Critical Thinking Update”

  1. Lev Says:

    I know exactly of what you speak. Last night I settled down to read the gripping conclusion of Hyperion but somehow got distracted into thinking about the physics of travel at near light speed and ended up blogging about thermodynamics. Somehow it seems much easier to read/write/think in hypertext… is this evo or devo?

  2. Tadhg Says:

    So where is the line between being distracted from the text by thinking on other topics, and exercising critical faculties on the text which involve the analysis of related topics?

    I don’t know the answer, but I entirely agree about writing and reading in hypertext.. As for thinking, isn’t it the case that hypertext is an attempt to catch up to how we think?

  3. Lev Says:

    I would say that the line lies at whether you can follow through with the task at hand, despite careening off on various tangents. I’m deliberately putting off reading that essay that you so cruelly hyperlinked to your comment in order to complete this comment. One could argue that expository writing is a deliberate attempt to yoke our flighty, wandering minds to a useful endeavor.

    And, BTW, I still haven’t managed to finish Hyperion…. another example of how my efforts to complete tasks encounter asymptotic resistance.

  4. Tadhg Says:

    Hmm, that’s interesting, is any of the Hyperion-completion difficulty due to not wanting such a good series to be over?

    As for that line, well, what timeframe governs it?

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