• Jay Liu
  1. Introducing the BlitzRead
  2. The BlitzRead Exercise
  3. References
  4. Changelog


September 15, 2015

An exercise for rapidly engaging and absorbing books

I thought I liked to read—about design, psychology, sociology, business, economics, etc.

But in practice, it turns out I only collect books.

And I don’t even actually collect books. Rather, I accumulate them in the only most virtual and abstract form possible: a list of titles on Goodreads . At the time of writing, I have 760 1297 books on that list.

The number of books I add per year suggest that I have a problem.

YearBooks Added

I want to be digesting and growing from the books in my list, not just unproductively searching for titles. To help with that, I created a quick exercise to help with absorbing the gist of books.

Introducing The BlitzRead

Goals for this exercise

  • Be short so that it’s not too much of a commitment. It could fit into a routine or during a trip to the library. It can help me dip a toe in many different books.
  • Be approachable by breaking it down into manageable exercises with clear prompts.
  • Capture my focus in a time-efficient manner.
  • Be repeatable, so it could scale according to your interest in a book or topic. If you do the exercise on a book, and it still seems interesting, you can repeat the exercise to get even more out of a book. In other words, I want the exercise to help the reader decide quickly whether to do a deep dive into the book or move on.
  • Have sharable output. I wanted to help facilitate the capturing and crystalizing of takeaways to be shared or filed away easily. The output itself should be highly digestible.

And I hope that my doing this exercise will ultimately make me stronger as a designer, thinker, professional, and problem solver.

The BlitzRead Exercise

Total Time of Exercise:

1:20h for new books
1:00h for revisited books

While the total time for reading this can be an hour or more, the parts below can be broken up to accommodate even narrower time slots.

Part 0: Warm-Up - 20 min

Perform this step for your first time reading the book

Look through the introduction, table of contents, chapter summaries, the index.

Then perform a skim through the book.

Ask: what can the book offer? Note page numbers and chapters where you find answers.

Part 1: Inquiry - 10 min

Compile a list of questions based on what you read in the previous part (or for revisited books from your last time’s read).

Part 2: Excavation - 30 min

Deep dive into the book. Answer as many questions from Part 1 as possible.

Part 3: Reflection - 20 min

Capture your answers to the following questions:

  • In 140 characters or less, how would you describe the book?
  • How would you sketch what you read on a napkin?
  • What part of your reading surprised you?
  • Where in the book would you read next?
  • What additional questions do you have?


Heavily inspired by Mortimer J. Adler’s How to Read a Book [My Goodreads Review]  [Amazon affiliate link] 


Jan 23, 2021—v 0.12: Dust off, clarify goals and instructions, and actually publish this article.

Sept 18, 2015 — v 0.11: Add the bits about sketching and tweeting. Reconstructed the BlitzRead to be “chained” so that multiple sessions can be done on a single book.

Apr 24, 2015 — v 0.1: Conceptualization

Jay Liu
Written by Jay Liu, experience designer.
© 2023, Jay Liu