Jon Aquino's Mental Garden

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Saturday, July 10, 2004

Random Reading

There are wonderful qualities to random reading (reading random pages from a book, preferably with the aid of a random-number generator). You'll never need a bookmark, as the next page to read is random. And no matter how long you are given to read the document (an hour, say), random reading gives you a better sense of the overall direction of the document than sequential reading (in which you may only be at page 10 when the hour has elapsed).

You can random-read as long as you like -- your general comprehension of the work will only increase. Compare to sequential reading, in which by the time you have finished the book you may well have forgotten the points made at the start.

Note that random reading does not apply to stories, which are inherently sequential. It's great for textbooks though.

Yet another advantage of random reading is variety. If you're like me and do not like to read 10 pages straight on the circulatory system, random read through the text. You'll be discovering interesting facts about the circulatory system one minute, then DNA replication the next, then how we breathe, and so on.

Random reading also allows us to combine books together. For example, I am reading three similar books by Edward Tufte on data visualization. I must return them to the library in a couple of weeks, and I do not want to spend all the time on one without leaving time for the others. So I read all three together -- a random page from 1, then a random page from 2, then a random page from 3, then 1, then 2, then 3, 1, 2, 3, and so forth.

I have yet to try it, but I wonder what grotesque marriages of ideas we could make by combining books from different authors in this way. What insights, what strange connections our brains would make.


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