Personal Growth

The #1 Key to Getting the Most Out of a Book

October 22, 2012

Claudia and I read a lot of books and listen to a lot of audio programs and podcasts. On a recent trip to the library, we checked out fifteen books. I’ll admit, we went a little overboard. We didn’t quite get through all of them before they became due.

Our fifteen books

But, we do read a lot of books! The other night we were talking about how we get the most out of the books we read. We came up with things such as taking notes, underlining and highlighting, and rereading an interesting or complicated section.

However, it dawned on us there was one thing beyond the shadow of a doubt that made the biggest difference in getting the most out of a book. That one thing was:

Reading and discussing the book with another person 

For us, this has been so effective as a married couple, but it’d hold true with a trusted friend or small group as well.

We discussed this key at length and boiled it down to three reasons why reading a book with another person and discussing it is the number one key to getting the most out of a book.

Three reasons why this is key

1. It helps us remember the content.

The act of putting what we read or listen to into our own words when we discuss it with another person helps us remember the material better. Not only that, hearing someone else’s perspective or thoughts and takeaways reinforces the principles as well.

2. We can brainstorm actionable items.

This is where the other person can keep us accountable with the things we’re learning and the changes we want to make. With a close friend or spouse we can talk about how to apply specific actions to our life today.

3. The teamwork helps us make exponential progress.

When we’re on the same page and learning something with another person, we are both moving in the same direction. Just think of how disconnected we’d feel with another person if we were reading a book on the importance of activity and they were reading a book on the importance of being still and relaxing.

There are many ways we can get more out of a book. But, the one thing that has helped take our reading and our relationship to the next level is reading a book together and discussing it.

Question: Have you ever read a book with another person or small group and discussed it? How much did you get out of the book?


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  • Reply Ann Musico October 22, 2012 at 7:36 am

    My son, Chris, and I often read the same book or I read it and share it with him or vice versa and then we always talk about it and you are right – it is a really effective way to get the content to become part of your habits and life.  Just last week my daughter was going on campus to study for a midterm with her girlfriend.  I asked who the “study session” was for – her or her friend (I know her friend is struggling to keep her GPA up).  Liz said her friend needed help understanding everything and she finds she “gets it” more when she can teach it to someone else.  Makes perfect sense to me – and just confirms she’s a born teacher!

    • Reply Michael Good October 22, 2012 at 8:25 am

      Awesome, Ann! Sounds like you have a great relationship with your kids. Is Liz studying to be a teacher?

      • Reply Ann Musico October 22, 2012 at 10:06 am

         She is!  She wants to teach young elementary children.  She is doing observations this semester in her old 1st grade class with her teacher and she adores the kids and the feeling seems to be mutual (one little girl told her she is fun and could she go home with her?!)  Next semester she will be student teaching in this class with her amazing first grade teacher.

        • Reply Michael Good October 23, 2012 at 2:46 pm

          Wow, that’s great! Things are coming full circle.

  • Reply James Dibben October 22, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    Every time I try to do a group read I never make it across the finish line.

    I just don’t read fast enough for the rest of the readers. I’m pretty sure I have ADD, lol.

    What did you guys think of the Behaviorism book, or did you have time to finish it?

    • Reply Michael Good October 23, 2012 at 2:45 pm


      Are you reading out loud in a group? That would take quite a bit longer. 

      I didn’t crack the behaviorism book, not sure that Claudia did either. Like I said, we did get get though many of them but bits and pieces of some. 

      • Reply James Dibben October 23, 2012 at 2:50 pm

        Not that kind of a group read.

        I joined a group read at a friends blog but they read through the book in two weeks. I rarely get though non-fiction books in less than a month. I just don’t have…..okay make the time for it.

        • Reply Michael Good October 23, 2012 at 2:52 pm

          Haha, two weeks would be tough for me too. Unless, it’s audio.

  • Reply Ryan Ash October 22, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    TOTALLY agree on this! I can listen to a speech, presentation or sermon, read a book, etc. and I remember bits and pieces, but if I discuss something it’s stuck. That’s really my learning style, and how I process and make sense out of things…to discuss them with another person.

    • Reply Michael Good October 23, 2012 at 2:41 pm

      Same here, Ryan. Looking forward to chatting later this week!

  • Reply Michael Wright October 27, 2012 at 10:05 am

    Yes, I’ve been part of men’s groups where we are reading the same book and that helps a lot.  It would be nice to have a group to discuss a “growth” type book with though.  The Queen is not a fan of audiobooks (talking CDs) period and when we’ve tried to read a book together, it has a different effect. We actually end up relating and talking together about varying subjects (apart from the book), so that is a good side-effect.   I’ve often though our company’s management would do a good service by giving out certain books and then having weekly calls to discuss.   However, I think most people (sadly) aren’t interested in reading and growing!!!

    • Reply Michael Good October 29, 2012 at 10:03 pm

      You know, Michael. I think that is often the sad reality. I know some companies do have their employees read books. I know Zappos does (go figure!) and Dave Ramsey. I think it definitely behoove any company to do this to “develop” their employees. 

      What type of book are you reading with your men’s group?

      • Reply Michael Wright October 29, 2012 at 10:54 pm

         Right now, a guy and I just started a new group and are simply going through several chapters in Romans.  Go straight to the source, we figured!  In the past, groups I’ve been in have read various “mens” books, like Point Man, Wild at Heart, Man in the Mirror, as well as Discovering God, etc.

        • Reply Michael Good October 30, 2012 at 1:45 pm

          Go right to the source. I like it! I think I mentioned this to you before, but I’m going though “Authentic Manhood” by Robert Lewis with a group of men and it’s been really good. Probably more along the lines of “Wild at Heart.”

  • Reply Jaan Jared April 11, 2013 at 2:50 pm


    This is the St. John’s College approach.

    • Reply Michael Good April 13, 2013 at 7:12 am

      Jaan, nice. So, we’re not the only ones who realized this value. It really does make a difference.

      • Reply Jaan Jared April 14, 2013 at 1:03 am


        It’s really interesting because this is how all their classes are. Your fellow classmates and the “tutor,” the professor, all read the Plato’s The Republic…then they meet two days later on an evening, and discuss it, dissect it, and come out ever so smarter. :p lol

        Their math, science, and language classes are a bit different because they require practice in that craft, not only just reading and hardcore intellectual discussion, haha.

        • Reply Michael Good April 15, 2013 at 7:14 am

          That sounds really great. Is that where you went to school?

  • Reply Scott December 29, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    Great article! Thanks

    • Reply Claudia Good March 9, 2015 at 11:34 am

      Sorry I missed your comment Scott! I’m glad you enjoyed the post! Thanks for your comment!

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