I would wager that every college and high-school student in America is vaguely familiar with CliffsNotes—even if they erroneously call the Cliff Notes. These little survey’s have helped confused students navigate through the confusing Old English language of books like The Canterbury Tales. Though some use them as a means to not read the original work they can be very helpful to grasp the overall structure and thought of a work of literature.
Tony Reinke, in his helpful book Lit!, encourages readers to write all over their books and make them their own. In his twelfth chapter he gives ten reasons to mark up a book. His fourth reason states I write in my books to trace the skeleton of the book. He continues
The publisher often leaves the reader with spacious white margins. I fill those margins with my own notes as I trace the author’s arguments. Often, after I have completed a chapter, I return to the first page of the chapter to jot down a simple summary. My goal is to make a skeletal structure of the chapter more clear and obvious as I progress, especially in nonfiction books. (Reinke, Lit!)
I have been doing things like this sporadically for years, but Reinke’s words here not only motivated me to be more intentional but they also gave me an idea to benefit not only myself but my readers.
For a little while now I have been more intentional in following Reinke’s advice. After every chapter I have attempted to summarize the chapter in the form of a tweet (140 characters or less) and compile these to organize the entire argument of the book.
The first TweetNotes will be posted tomorrow as I review and interact with Stephen Altrogge’s latest book Create: Stop Making Excuses and Start Making Stuff. I hope to also go through many of the books that I have already read and compile TweetNotes for your benefit and mine.
I encourage you to pick up a similar practice. It keeps you engaged in what you are reading and it forces you to really chew on a chapter to digest it into 140 characters or less.