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The goal of skimming, or pre-reading, is to learn as much about the general concepts of a book as possible with a limited time โ€” far less time than would be required to read the book. It is the second phase of learning to read a book, referred to as inspectional reading in the book How To Read A Book.


  1. Read the title page and the preface quickly. The subtitle in particular, if the book has one, should give you an idea about the subject of the book.

  2. Study the table of contents. The structure of the book will be reflected in the table of contents, as will the key points the author will want to touch on (this has similar ties to Conwayโ€™s Law in that the bookโ€™s table of contents mirrors the key points of the book).

  3. Check the index, if the book has one. This gives you an idea on the range of topics that will be covered.

  4. Read the publisherโ€™s blurb, often on the dust jacket. This is often written in conjunction with the author, and will contain a brief summary of the book.

  5. Based on what youโ€™ve learned so far, read the summary statements in the opening and closing paragraphs of the chapters that you believe are the most crucial to the bookโ€™s arguments. The book Effortless had a point-form summary of each chapter and the book up until that point at the end of each chapter and section, respectively.

  6. Jump in and out of the book, reading a few paragraph or pages here and there. In addition to this, look for a summary chapter or epilogue where tho author will almost certainly summarize their bookโ€™s main talking points.

    This approach came from How To Read A Book, which first came out in the 1940s; for this random jumping around, is there a good way to do this with eReaders and digital reading? How about audio books?