Taking Reading Notes from a Print Book

Atlas of a Lost World

Pod version, if you prefer to listen

So I'm taking my notes on Craig Childs' book, Atlas of a Lost World. Since this is not only a print book but an interlibrary loan that I got through the BSU Library, it's not something I could highlight and write notes in the margin of. So I had to read the old fashioned way, and place little post-its where I wanted to go back and record notes or comments.

That's not entirely true. I first listened to the audiobook version of Childs book while walking, which was extremely enjoyable and interesting. Childs narrated the audiobook himself, which I always like. And since the content jumps back and forth from the archaeology to Childs' own experiences trekking in the regions he describes or talking to other researchers, having him tell his story was especially effective. So I was very familiar with the text when I got my hands on the hard copy, and it was pretty quick to scan the pages and tag the things I wanted to make note of.

An aside here. I have NOT entirely settled on a foolproof method for getting notes I make on all audios while I'm walking into my workflow. But the situation has improved dramatically lately! Typically, I had been stopping the audio and shifting over to Voice Memos briefly to say something, then going back to the audio. Now Audible has a capability for me to "Clip and Bookmark" as I'm listening. This is a huge advantage, as I can easily go back to both the note I made (which it transcribes for me) and the part of the text I commented on. And, since I usually have the Kindle version of the book I'm listening to as well, I can ALSO see the list of the "Bookmarks" (also transcribed now from the audio) and my comments. This makes it extremely easy to review the passage of text and get my reactions into my note-taking workflow. Much easier than having to review a long list of Voice Memos that are only tagged with the location I was at when I made them. This can get a bit strange, especially if I let a lot of time pass between when I make the note and when I process it. OTOH, I'm being a big baby here -- it's STILL extremely cool that I can record my thoughts on the fly in any format, and I really don't want to be complaining about the fact that I have to think a bit about them on the other end. The POINT is to think about them, after all.

Actually, I find this process of having the audiobook and Kindle together to be so valuable, and I was so impressed with Childs' book and convinced I would probably return to it in the future, that I bought the ebook and the Audible companion. It had originally been available to me as part of my membership, but I was unsure how long that would last. So I spent the $7.49 to add the audio to the Kindle purchase. But since I had already been looking at the print book, I had I tagged a bunch of areas I wanted to record and/or comment on. There were a lot of them, because I'm going to use either Childs' own account or the sources he cites to add to my chapter in American Environmental History that deals with the first Americans. The coverage was more or less current when I originally wrote that part of the book, but in the five years since then a lot of new evidence has come to light, and several theories that were being considered very skeptically by the Archaeology profession have gained a lot more credence. And actually, a couple of people who have watched YouTube videos I've made from my class lectures have questioned me on this -- so a revision is due!

The way I'm "processing" these notes is to read through the book, picking the tabs off as I go. I reconsider the information there, and then either move on if I no longer want to use it, or write something about it in a page I've started for the “Reading Note” on the book. As I'm making these notes, I'm making additional blank pages for many of the people Childs cites. Sometimes I'm opening another window and getting quick links to info I can use when I study this further, when I'm done taking the notes. If an article or a book is mentioned, I may try to find it in JSTOR or elsewhere online, or order a book via ILL. As I do this, I'm trying also to create a research bibliography in Zotero, complete with pdfs if I can grab them quickly and easily. I'll go through these when I'm getting ready to write my own addendum to my chapter, to see if there are any other points the original authors make that I think are relevant. Typically, this will involve reading abstracts carefully and then scanning academic articles. I'm not necessarily super-interested in ALL the details an archaeological study is going to discuss -- although if it's a new article by someone like Tom Dillehay, I'll probably read that more closely, because you never know what cool stuff might be in there! But I am interested in verifying what Childs has said before endorsing it in my own textbook, and in providing a more complete bibliographical trail for my readers -- although I'll also recommend Atlas of a Lost World as a place to seek more information at the end of my chapter.