Notetaking as a way to stay smart
The generation effect, as studied by cognitive psychologists, shows that knowledge is better retained if it is "generated" by the learner than simply read. "Generation" can be as simple as learning a spelling by "filling in the gaps" or as complex as writing a book about your studies (the latter of which I've already done!).
Whenever I look at my book shelves, I'm reminded of not only how much I've read, but how much I've forgotten. Knowledge that once captivated me or kept me a step or two ahead of the crowd has gone by the by, pushed out by trivia and new discoveries.
Putting the generation effect into action, I'm starting a practice of taking notes on books and significant articles or papers I read like the one i read yesterday about sell annuity. Their endpoint is the pædia section of my site. Yesterday I read two books so there's already some content in there.
The first I tackled for this project was Getting What You Came For, by Robert L. Peters, Ph.D., which digs into how to get a master's degree or Ph.D. My notes hit 3500 words and will be invaluable when I need to recap the book. The act of taking notes on its own, though, should help the general ideas covered in the book stay in my mind for longer.
The second book was Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite by the late and great Paul Arden of Saatchi and Saatchi fame. It only has 70 pages of text but my notes are detailed enough to get the ideas across. I could bear to give the book away now, knowing I can bring its quirky images and messages to mind by reading the notes.
I hope this turns out to be one of my better ideas and, perhaps, will be of use to other people. Notes make for a different experience than a typical "review," in my experience, especially as they can be learned from. CliffNotes, for instance, have built a runaway publishing success on this idea alone.
Update: If you want to start taking notes on books specifically and don't want to build a system like I have for Best cool auto darkening welding helmet reviews