[academic/reading-geek filter] how to take notes on books within books?
February 19, 2014 11:39 AM Subscribe
My apologies for this very convoluted question...tl;dr: I guess I'm asking how people deal with taking notes from books, not just on the book's content and structure etc, but mapping bodies of literatures mentioned in those books. I would love to hear if you have a system that works for you. More after the jump.
Specifically: I read a lot of non-fiction and scholarly books, and keep notes on books that I read. I take notes on the book's structure, its argument, etc. But as you know, if you read a lot of academic books, there is valuable "meta" information in what books the author has themselves read, and they will often summarize them in succinct and smart ways. Let's say Anderson writes book A, and in his introduction we have the following:
- "In his book, Smith makes the argument that X, whereas Jones makes the contrasting argument Y."
- "Using these sources, Daniels has shown P and Q."
- "For more on G, see Elliott".
Let's say I have read neither Smith, Jones, Daniels or Elliott. But I would like to note somewhere, in a way that I will find later when I do pick up any of their books, that Anderson has summarized their arguments in that way. I would like to recall that according to Anderson, Jones has made a contrasting argument to Smith. It doesn't seem useful to keep the notes on that aspect of it within my notes on Anderson, but on the other hand, it would be good to be able to somehow note that Smith, Jones and Daniels are mentioned in Anderson.
And let's say reading Anderson's observation of Elliott makes me want to read Elliott. Where do I keep that information, and how do I note that firstly it was Anderson who made me want to read Elliott, and secondly, that Anderson says I can find G in Elliott?
Right now I have a really half-assed system strung out between Bookends, DevonThink, Pinboard, Goodreads, and random emails like "notes to self re. Daniels", as well as random lists and text files containing crazy bibliographical rabbit holes of Elliotts and Gs all over the place. As in, I have random scribblings of observations, and I would really like to have something more systematic. But can't seem to come up with a good system to capture all this information in the right place, and to have that system become part of my daily reading habits. I would be really grateful for any insights into your reading and notetaking practices -- especially if you frequently read books that reference a whole constellation of other works that you want to follow up on. I am not asking about taking literature review notes for a specific project: in a way that's easier. I'm trying to find a system that can capture all my reading on any topic, throughout an entire life I plan to dedicate to reading and learning things.