The problem I find with your method is that, despite being highly efficient (and I’ve used a similar method in the past using Anki), it requires almost twice the eye-strain, twice the sitting at a desk, twice the organization, twice the strain on the “reading” part of the brain, and guarantees very little order in memory.
When I say reading a book once I mean to read slowly and diligently so as to retain the information read; not to read once and forget about it. In a sense, it’s not really reading just once, because it requires re-reading paragraphs, sentences, and even chapters until it’s properly understood and encoded in memory. But it would generally be a one-at-a-time method with revisions only when necessary.
The idea behind it is as follows:
- You can organize what you read within a palace-like system as you are reading, meaning you can divide the book by chapter and subchapter (or point and subpoint), access material starting wherever you want, explain the book backward and forward or specific to broad. You can add a “note” within the palace as to what approximate page the information is located (1-5, 6-10, 11-15, etc)
- You can place the books you read into a greater palace (or “portal” room if you will) according to genre, or main idea, so that when running through an idea in your head you’d be able to quickly recall what you’ve read on the topic
- Every time you “chunk” a part of the book into memory you are closing your eyes and using a different part of your brain (visual/creative/spatial), habitually refreshing your mind so that you can read for longer and longer periods. If you were instead to chunk the book into flashcards, you would be using the same part of your brain as for reading while also straining your eyes and sitting at a desk, which really doesn’t motivate one to read.
- You can read anywhere and at anytime without the dread of knowing you have to go back and highlight/flashcards whole sections. This means a very pleasurable read on a train, in bed, or on a long walk(!), knowing full well that you are retaining information while reading (and practicing the ol’ ars memoriae)
- You can easily get into a feedback loop while reading that would be difficult to develop otherwise. If you are continually going back into your memory and “checking” on the palace at every new session, chapter, or page (depending on density and complexity), you know whether you’ve retained it in memory. This creates a nice loop that motivates you to read more because you can actually feel yourself remembering it. And every time you continually walk the palace, you are reinforcing the memory! And it’s all ordered, unlike with flashcards.
To give an example, I tried this for literally a minute on a book I was reading last week. I see a beggar with an axe standing a door, and he opens the door for me and I am confronted with a long table in lively grass. The first thing I see at the table is an empty vase with sunlight coming through. The next I see is a ghost in Ancient Roman garb handing me an appetizer in the shape of a cape. This memory tells me the following information: the 4th (axe) chapter of the book was entitled “true humility” (beggar). The first point made was that one should be an “empty vessel” of selflessness to accept God’s love (sunshine in vase). The second point made was that honor (cape appetizer) should be an enjoyment to receive when it is brought to you (Roman ghost) in the pursuit of God.
Clearly a trivial example, but now imagine if I had a whole series of interconnecting rooms (in a broad sense, with some being courtyards and gardens and all sorts of Narnia-like excesses). I’d have a room for each chapter, and within each chapter a room or part-of-room with a subchapter, and so on and so on, but all entirely ordered, so that I would be able to rattle off what the 4th point in the 3rd subchapter of the 5th chapter of a book is. What’s more, a “door” to this palace by any variety of signifiers would be placed in a great room called Philosophy, so that within my room Philosophy I had a wall of photographs called Religion wherein I can see everything I’ve ever read on the subject of religion (that I find true, important, or interesting).
I also did this with a quote I enjoyed from another book, again only for a brief moment. I see a man with lazer eyes piercing his heart. The heart has a lock on it and while he is piercing it issues of Life Magazine are jetting out. This singular figure encodes a quote from the Psalms: “search your own heart with all diligence for out of it flow the issues of life.”
Now the point of this would not to be some walking monstrosity of pointless information, but to use this trove of information to develop my own ideas, compare ideas, simplify ideas, trace any-and-all sources, know where to find a good author to make a point, and be able to access the information I know when enjoying a hike or a run or a shower.
I have a method in the works, and I’d love to hear what others think, or whether others have their own method.