E-book, 178 Pages
By: Sönke Ahrens
“An idea kept private is as good as one you never had. And a fact no one can reproduce is no fact at all.”
I usually criticize non-fiction authors for stating the obvious and then being proud of preaching us with “fresh, innovative” ideas. To be honest, this is one of the books that did not do that and it introduced me to a new idea but the writing felt a bit dry to me!
You see, the full title of this book is: How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking – for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers. I did feel that the book was directed towards academic writers more than the general population and even the writing style felt stiff to me.
The book talks about the Zettelkasten method or the slip box method in a more user friendly terminology. The author of this book did not come out with this method, it was founded hundred of years ago but the sociologist Niklas Luhmann used this method to publish tens of books and hundred of books which made it a more popular method. The method consists of note taking and then linking the different notes and archiving them in a way that makes them accessible with their references.
Do you remember Uni’s lectures when doctors would spend hours explaining a concept in an outdated way and then you go to YouTube or to one of your friends and they explain it in a very simple way and you’re like why the hell did they not just say that. This book reminded me of that and although I may be exaggerating a bit but the book suffers from lack of examples and focusing on the theoretical parts mainly. I went to YouTube and googled the method and the first video that came explained it in 5 mins in a very easy way, here is that video:
I am not a student any more but I will be going into residency soon and I bet I can implement some of the things I learned from this book when I do study again. I used to love flash cards when I was a student and the book does praise them but this method takes it a step further by linking the notes together and I think I kind of do that in my brain as a doctor as we study systems separately but we have to link them together in practice!
“Learning, thinking, and writing should not be about accumulating knowledge, but about becoming a different person with a different way of thinking. This is done by questioning one’s own thinking routines in light of new experiences and facts.”
Summary: I do think it is a useful book and it does introduce something new and shows how our traditional ways of note taking are not the best. However, it lacks examples and focuses on theory which makes it kind of stiff. Personally, I think I would recommend discovering the Zettelkasten method but maybe through videos which makes it more simple!