Making the most of books

Rev Sean is passionate about reading
Rev Sean is passionate about reading

Portsmouth children learn about seafront defences

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WHETHER you’re on holiday abroad or holidaying at home, reading is an ideal way to pass the time, relax, and soak up the sun.

But for some people it’s not that easy.

According the UK Reading Agency, one in six adults struggle to read.

On my holiday reading list is Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari.

It is a bestseller and has been recommended to me from a wide variety of people. But I am struggling to read it.

Reading a book takes time and energy and the more motivation we have the more likely we will be to finish the book we have started.

Probably one of the best ways to get the most out of a book is through previewing it.

A helpful way to preview a book is through the acronym T.H.I.E.V.E.S. I am going to apply it to Sapiens. Here’s how it works.

T is for title. Although you cannot always tell a book by its cover, you can get a lot out of the book by simply looking at the cover.

The long title is Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.

H is for headings. They open doors to the important themes and topics. My book is divided into five parts.

Each part has the word ‘revolution’ in it so I know, for example, that part two The Agricultural Revolution – is going to be about significant changes in farming.

Each chapter has been given a title and there are subtitles, like road signs marking the progression in thought.

I is for introduction. This typically provides a context in which the content of a chapter can be placed.

In the first page of the first chapter of Sapiens, I am told the book will be about how the first three revolutions (cognitive, agricultural and scientific) have affected human and their fellow organisms.

E is for every first. The first sentence of each paragraph provides the theme or main topic. Each of the five parts have a number of chapters.

The chapter titles give me a big clue on theme.

If I want to know more all I need do is look at the first sentences of the paragraphs.

V is for visuals. It is true a picture is worth a thousand words, but words can paint a thousand pictures.

The author does this excellently when he uses such sensory chapter titles as the Smell of Money and The Marriage of Science and Empire.

E is for end of. The end of chapters are a good way of determining what the whole chapter is about, particularly the last few paragraphs.

The last paragraphs in the last chapter of the first part of the book are peppered with the word ‘extinction’. I suspect there will be an ecological dimension to this part.

Whether I am right or wrong is not important. What is important is that I now want to find out.

S is for summaries. They provide good reference points and they are worth giving some attention.

The first summaries can often be found on the front, back and on the inside cover of the book.

On this occasion, I have applied the principles of T.H.I.E.V.E.S to a non-fiction book, but I have also applied it to a book which is so often started and never completed, War and Peace – and I finished it!

My hope is that more of us will become T.H.I.E.V.E.S.