How I read a book

This title seems quite silly, as reading a book seems pretty straightforward. One might imagine I would simply say: I look at the words, understand them, and that’s it. However, there are two different types of books in my mind, and the way I approach them is completely different. In this post, I will describe the two types of books I think there are, how I approach them, and why I do it that way.

Reading for feeling vs. reading for information

Reading for feeling is when you read a fiction story or non-fiction autobiography and are in it for the journey the book takes you on. Perhaps you are looking for entertainment or to be momentarily whisked away into another life. Here, the lessons you learn along the way from a new perspective are what you get out of it in the end. 

Reading for information, on the other hand, is where you are trying to gain some knowledge that can be applied in your life, whether that’s facts, statistics, methods, or otherwise. Here, you may even want to reference certain sections, as they may be relevant later. I find these books are more for practical use, whereas reading for feeling are more for personal enjoyment.

How the two are different

I treat these two books as exact opposites. Feeling books, if they’re good, take the reader on a journey. For me, I enjoy starting the journey from the beginning each time, in order to get the full experience. Rereading my favorite part over and over may be enjoyable at the time, but it takes away from the larger experience. I want to forget everything I read, so I can go back and feel it all again.

Books for information, although they may be enjoyable, are not things I want to read repeatedly, especially if I don’t have to. These books are the type I prefer to read only once, cover to cover. If I take thorough enough notes, then I know what section to go back to, or what specific information I’m looking for. There is often no point for me to read the entire book again, as I am likely only interested in a certain part that is independent from the rest anyway. 

Writing book summaries

A great example of a book I read for feeling is the Alchemist. I don’t think I can praise this book enough. It takes the reader on a journey, and the lessons and experiences gained along the way give the reader a great feeling. To summarize a book like this, I keep it as vague as possible, to avoid taking away from someone else’s experience. I’ll give my opinion on if it’s worth reading or not, perhaps even the difficulty or overall subject of the book, but the story I feel is best kept for the reader to discover. 

Alternately, there are so many great books for information that I have read, perhaps because that is what I read the most of. Among these are Mere Christianity, Freakonomics, and Speed Limits, to name a few. These books often contain chapters or sections that are more relevant than others, and are typically somewhat independent from one another. For these, I take extensive notes, mostly for my own reference. This way, I don’t have to read the entire book again to get the piece I was looking for. To summarize them, I like to go much more in depth than books for feeling. My goal is to provide enough information that someone who hasn’t read the book can get the main ideas, but not so much that I’m re-writing the entire publication. 

These methods only are applied if I find a book useful or interesting. If a book is not for me (which I have come across many), I simply write my review and move on. Although meant to provide information, some books are simply too shallow or ill-contrived to be worth anything.


Overall, I think both types of books are important. Both feeling and information can teach you something, and both embody something that the other one doesn’t. I’m either taking meticulous notes so I don’t have to reread the whole thing, or actively trying to forget what I read so I can go back and reread the whole thing. Either way, both books have their place, and contribute to a happy, healthy, and well-rounded reading life.

How do you read books? Do you have different categories that make you approach books differently? Let me know in the comments!

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