On Re-reading A Book
A heavy influence on why I write down so many notes, and with so much detail in them, is this idea that if you have to re-read a source twice, then you didn't take down notes correctly. So in the past, I would feel like a failure if I had to re-read a book, because it meant that I didn't take down notes correctly.
This idea, if memory serves me right, came from the book “How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking – for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers” by Sönke Ahrens.
If you're not familiar with the PKM (Personal Knowledge Management) space, this book is recommended reading for anyone wanting to get into Zettelkasten or PKM in general. And so of course I read it and tried to incorporate what I've learned from the book into my note taking process.
This idea though, of not having to re-read source material because you took down notes correctly the first time, goes against another idea I ran into recently from James Clear (author of Atomic Habits) — that idea is to actively re-read books. James argues that great books are worth re-reading. And you know what, I agree with him.
It's true. Great books are worth re-reading. But it also goes beyond that. When you re-read a book, you are not the same person that you were the first time you read that book. Life moves on. We experience new things. And then we learn from those new experiences. By the time you read that book a second or third time, there's a great chance that you will learn something new, or find a new interpretation for something you've read before.
So all those times I felt like a failure because I had to re-read a book, because apparently I didn't take down enough notes, now I see those as folly. It's perfectly fine for me and everyone else to re-read a book.