It’s perfectly normal to read and not understand especially if you encounter heavy and obscure writing that requires careful attention in order to understand.
In this article I’ll break down some of the reasons why you could find it hard to understand text even though you can read it perfectly well.
I’ll also share some strategies you can employ to understand what you read better.
Why you may find it hard to understand a book
Heavy and obscure writing
One of the main obstacles to reading comprehension is heavy and obscure writing.
When you have to stop at every sentence either because you don’t understand the wording or meaning; means you’re reading some heavy writing.
It’s not always the authors fault; sometimes the topic is too dense to be distilled into simple writing.
Other times the book you’re reading is just old and suited to the times in which it was written.
With that said, as a reader, it is important to get a fair amount of information about the book you’re to read so that you don’t run into any surprises that get in the way of understanding.
Genre of material
For some book genres it is generally normal to read and not understand.
Some genres that explore uncharted realms of life can have very difficult material to read.
Good examples of such books are religious texts that express information about the unknown.
Religious texts are not the only books that may be difficult to read and understand.
Sometimes even technical books in fields or topics that you’re unfamiliar with can be challenging to read and understand.
Even poetry can be obscure with open ended meanings.
Therefore researching the kind of book you’re reading is always a vital step in aiding understanding.
The great books
Some books that are perfectly normal to read and not understand are the great books.
The great books are the foundational books in any field, that is, books that were written in the early stages of a field.
They are particularly old, historical and written in a very distinct manner.
Such books can be very hard to read because they were written in older times where society and life was very different.
This however doesn’t take away from the knowledge they hold.
In most fields such books are the go-to for wisdom and not just knowledge.
Sometimes it can be hard to read and understand a book and feel its impact because you simply do not relate to it.
Experience is a very vital tool in life because it makes us understand things better. As we grow and gain more experience in a variety of things we are better able to understand things.
Therefore if you lack the experience or personal “skin in the game” you may find it hard to understand some things.
For example unless you’ve traded the stock markets, reading a highly technical book about investing can seem prove to be very difficult.
How to read and understand better
Below are a few tips you can integrate into your reading to make understanding easier.
Adopt reading slowly
One way you can become a better reader, that is, a reader that can properly take in information, process it and develop understanding is by reading slower.
I know, reading slowly is something frowned upon by many but it has many benefits; one of which is better understanding since you’re putting in more effort and intention into your reading.
This is essential if you want to move from being a novice reader to a seasoned reader who can read, understand and point out the flaws in any work.
Do your due diligence
I’ve continuously emphasized the point of taking your time to understand and research what a book is about.
Not all books are written the same, some books are meant to explore, some to solve problems, some to explain abstract concepts etc.
It is your job to find out as much information about a book as possible before you read it.
Of course in some situations you won’t have the time to do that but it’s essential that you still try.
You can do so by reading the book introduction, preface, reviews etc. this can help you start to gather some intel as to what the book you’re about to read is about.
Knowing the intention of the author will not only prepare you for the topic but will also arm your brain to easily draw on any information that could help you understand the book better.
Read like a lawyer
Lawyers are best known for their ability to thoroughly read documents.
One thing you can do to make understanding a lot easier when reading is to learn how to read like a lawyer.
To read like a lawyer you need to learn the art of reading complex books.
You do this by going over every little detail and treating the book as a conversation between you and the author.
This conversation is supposed to be taken seriously.
You must know the important words that the author uses, you must also know the important sentences that the author provides, you must understand the structure of the book and should be able to see it as a whole made of individual parts etc.
Reading complex books is an involving act and should be treated as such. This is why you should, among other tactics; consider reading a book over and over again to understand it better.
Avoid older books when you can
If you have to read about a specific topic, you might want to avoid the foundation books in the topic that may have been written ages ago; unless you’re prepared to put in effort.
If you’re not prepared to spend so much time reading such books then its best to avoid them and look for newer books, preferably ones that reference older/foundational books on the topic.
Use the internet as an assistant
The internet can be a helpful tool whenever you hit a snug in understanding of a book.
You can always search for book interpretations on either YouTube or Google.
You can also join reading forums on platforms like Quora or Medium or Reddit and post your questions about the particular book.
All in all, the internet can be a great assistant whenever you need some help with complex information.