I read and highlight a lot of ebooks. Yesterday, I was looking at some highlights from a few years ago and I realized something. I used to highlight the key points, like I was preparing for the test. Nowadays, I only highlight the insights that strike me.
I blame school. For the first 22 years of my life, my exposure to books was in preparing for tests. So I highlighted the stuff that I thought would pop up on the quiz: the key arguments and the major plot points. It took another 10+ years and hundreds of books to break that habit.
And even now, it’s not totally broken. A chapter summary or a bulleted list still jumps out of the page as “this will be on the exam” material. I have to fight the urge to highlight those things. I still feel a hint of guilt when I highlight some minor side tangent that stood out.
But I’m not trying get an A on something. I’m reading to find insights. School’s over. The key points of a book don’t matter if they don’t resonate. And the throwaway footnote that gets my gears turning turning matters a lot, even though it would never show up on any test.
Interesting how much school creeps into adulthood, long after you’ve graduated.