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Let's get superficial!

<Breaking Tsundoku - Part 3 - Pre-reading tools and tips>

Let's assume you know your goal for reading a certain book, have done some skimming, and you're keen to continue a dialogue with the author, it's time to do some superficial pre-reading.

What is it❓

In summary you're priming yourself to increase your comprehension, understanding and retention of content.

If you build the big picture before you start, you begin reading the text with a conceptual framework already in place. (Michael Austin 2007)

Here's how to do it


This is where you can start to dip into the content, reading sentences or even the odd paragraph, in the chronological order of the book. But you're thumbing through the book, scanning for signs and signals of the authors main points. If chapters have summary statements, read through those (in order). If the book has an epilogue or concluding chapter, read through that (at the end). Don't get sucked in though. Not yet. Still try to limit this activity to around 10 minutes.

It's also really important here not to focus on anything that isn't clear. Don't try to understand yet, just notice, and superficially work through the book at pace.


Now that you've got a sense of the key messages and big ideas the book is trying to convey, you can begin to identify the parts that will give you the most benefit.

Prior knowledge

You may have previously read books on the same topic. You may be an expert on the subject matter. You may simply be curious to find an alternative opinion to your own. This is why previewing and predicting are so important. They are the tools that tune your focus into how you choose to proceed next.


You should now have a good sense of the authors purpose for writing the book.

NB. These steps are borrowed from the education sector (Content-Area Reading Strategies for Language Arts - 2006).


Now it's time to start a dialogue with you, about how you start a dialogue with the author and the book. And no, I haven't gone mad!

The way we often approach books is as a 1 directional flow of information. The author telling us information, and us quietly listening. However to make this more interactive and interrogative will heighten the experience. To consider this as a conversation allows us some freedom to break those old habits and patterns. To be more creative in how we approach reading.

Bear in mind that if you could also now chose to part ways with the book.

You may have enough information and understanding that has given you what you need. Or you realise this book is not actually going to fulfil your needs. If that is the case, move on. Don't feel obliged to continue, or hold on to the maxim of "I've started so I'll finish". Your time is more valuable than that.

If you are still interested to spend more time with the author and the book it's time to pause, reflect on what you've picked up so far, and take a moment to write down 3 questions you have for the author. Then write down 3 questions you have for the book. These will form the basis for the next stage of reading - Analytical.


In Summary

  • Start reading small chunks of the book, in chronological order

  • Keep the pace up

  • Don't stop or slow down in order to understand

  • Read the epilogue (if there is one)

  • Decide if you want to invest more time and move towards building a dialogue

  • Write down 3 questions for the book, and 3 for the author

  • Come back next week 😉

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