How to read a book

In the past few years, ParkRoyal & Lagos Finishing School has been developing a book club. We are formally going to bring this on-stream later in the year. In preparation for this, Dr T. Ayodele Ajayi, a psychiatrist and avid reader has generously contributed an article for that will transform your reading habit. Enjoy!

“There’s READING books, and then there’s DOING books. What are you DOING based on READING that book? Read, but then DO “. These are the poignant words of Daren Hardy, Success Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief in a recent post. I could not agree more. So, how then, do you read a book? In other words, how do you ensure yours is not just a case of going through books, but the books getting through to you?

Here are four suggestions on making you a doer rather than a reader of books:

Be intentional in choosing – Obtaining optimal benefit from a book starts when deciding on what to read. Reading to a carefully designed plan pays off. It is helpful to periodically decide what areas of your life you need to grow and develop a reading plan to meet those needs rather than play things by ear.  One can incorporate such a plan into a personal end of year review or New Year goal setting. What are the leading titles in your area of need?  The social media is a good sounding board to identify the must-read titles and authors in your area of interest. For instance, John Maxwell is the leadership guru, Marcus Buckingham an authority on playing to personal strength, Darren Hardy the go- to man on peak performance; and Jim Rohn on business philosophy.

Be realistic in expectation – Since reading Bill Newman’s book Soaring with Eagles, I have adopted his tips on turning good intentions to practical habits when reading any book. So impactful and pragmatic were Dr Newman’s six steps, that I obtained his kind permission to cite him in my own book Footprints of Giants. Simply put, he advises readers to select not more than three lessons to faithfully apply promptly until these become lifestyle habits.  In reality, although authors usually write to cater for wide audience, only selective content of any book is relevant to your personal needs. The recognition that you are reading for your development, and not to pass an examination frees you to skim through or skip irrelevant portions.

Be systematic in recording – What’s the point in obtaining potentially life changing content from a book when you can’t quickly retrieve the information? Many avid readers have devised their own colour-coded system of highlighting relevant information. Here’s the code I use. Information of general interest is marked in yellow, new words in blue, and action points that require prompt attention in red. Public speakers are ever in search of interesting stories, anecdotes, interesting quotes and statistics to illustrate points. I mark this re-useable content in green. Some of these are then transferred into my journal or kept away safely in an electronic or paper file marked for future blogs.

Be prompt in application – The Law of Diminishing Intent states that the longer you wait to do something you know you ought to do, the less the likelihood of doing it. Aim to apply what you read to your life as quickly as you can. A simple means of doing this is to re-read your highlights after your first reading of the book. The second reading focussing on your highlights allows you to collate your lessons and formulate them into a maximum of three action points. Armed with your action points, you can share the lessons with a friend or reading buddy. It helps to keep a handful of reading buddies with similar interests. Cultivating such an association also promotes accountability and encourages execution of goals from your reading.

A free smart phone application on has assisted me in prompt application of my reading. This versatile tool is equipped with a dictionary, thesaurus, and phonic device that pronounce words out loud. You can check the meaning, grammatical application and pronunciation of new words immediately as most of us usually have our phone at hand. I highly recommend it to you as it would improve your vocabulary over time. Remember that improved vocabulary is a key to better communication. Excellent communication skill is in turn associated with success whatever your endeavour.

I expect applying these suggestions will make you a doing reader on the short term, and better communicator in the long run.

Dr T. Ayodele Ajayi MBchB, MRCPsych is a practicing psychiatrist. He is the author of Footprints of Giants, and writes a daily Facebook and Twitter blog titled ‘Footprints for Today.’