Reading books and taking notes

March 22, 2017    pragmatic learning

Reading books and taking notes

I’m priviledged to be a part of a leadership training group at my church this year. Our pastor ( Dana Olson ) is a wonderful and wise man of God. He has many connections, traveled many places and has discipled many people as he follows Christ and leads other people towards Christ. We meet once a month and read a book, some scripture and some chapters about theology.

I share all of this, because the first day he gave us an idea on reading and taking notes that has changed how I approach reading technical books as well as other books. I don’t retain information the best and have always wanted a quick way to pull out the main points of a book. I usually end up taking too many notes, in a notebook. Overtime, that notebook gets lost and the book ends up in a different place. So the historical value of the note taking is lost.

The novel idea

Pastor Olson’s idea (he told me that John Piper taught this to him) is to use the first few pages that usually have extra white-space for notes. Add the page number and sometimes how far down in the page (ex: 42.75) with a brief note. The constraint on space helps to focus what I write down. I use this in conjunction with underlying and a few stars in the margins. I also sometimes add an extra thought in the margins.

Book Discussions

This helps a ton in book discussions we have had at work or in our monthly training group. I’m able to chime in much easier, rather than thumbing through pages after the leader asks a question to try and get the discussion going.

A small downside

This requires a paper/physical book. Maybe this is possible on a Kindle or tablet. I’m on the computer all day for work and my eyes are tired by the end of the day. I’d rather read a hard copy anyways.

An example

We are reading The DevOps Handbook by Gene Kim, Jez Humber, Patrick Debois & John Willis. I higly recommend reading The Pheonix Project first ( see the link on my resources page ), and then this book as well.

Here are a few of my note pages so far and I’m only on Chapter 8. I’m going to run out of space :-).

DevOps Handbook page 1

DevOps Handbook page 2


Thank you to Pastor Olson for sharing his wisdom and this note taking approach to reading. It has served me already and I will continue using it for the many books I plan to read in the future.

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