How to Take Smart Notes (Sönke Ahrens book)


Published 2019-12-18

Parts of it read a bit like a dump of every pop-psych meme of the past ten years, but at its heart, it’s a thorough and well-argued deep dive into a note-taking system from the future. I wouldn’t be surprised if, twenty years from now, the slip-box method were taught to everyone in schools, especially at the university level.

I would have liked to see a few more examples of the slip-box in action. I don’t feel like I have a clear picture in my mind of what a literature note actually is: is it a paraphrase? Or is it just a pointer to a set of material, loosely defined? Similarly, what is a permanent note: is it a paragraph? A set of bullet points? A single sentence? I know these things can vary, but I would have liked to at least browse a set of notes from the author’s slip-box.

Overall, though, the book totally convinced me to start reading with a “pencil” in hand, and to find and use note-taking software that can link notes together. (I will likely learn to use Roam.) Despite my minor criticisms, I would absolutely recommend the book to anyone who is serious about learning and/or writing.

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