I am a relative new-comer to LW, and I have read ~half the articles in the core sequences, but I think I have not been optimizing for comprehension/retention while reading them.  Could some more experienced members of the community give some recommendations on how best to read them \(both in terms of in which posts in which order and in terms of the actual reading process\)?

I will periodically edit this post to include some of the suggestions in order to provide the most benefit to future newcomers.

EDIT: Here are the most popular suggestions:


  • Chronological order (5 or 6 comments)
  • Whatever method you will actually do or already doing (1.5 comments)

How to read them:

  • e-reader or smartphone (3 comments)
  • Text-to-speech (1 comment)
  • Read How to Read a Book and implement its suggestions (1 comment) (note: the link is a 9-page PDF, so it shouldn't be too hard to read and see what's useful)
  • Mind-mapping (1 comment)
  • Try to guess what the links go to (1 comment)
25 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 9:16 AM
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The best is the one you'll actually do.

IOW: Don't commit to a rigid method of reading the sequences if it decreases the likelihood that you'll actually get through reading them.

For retention, I try to guess what the hyperlinks point to (title and general gist). If I can't recall both, I go back and read the link before continuing. It takes a lot more time if you have bad memory.

I second this. I started with the QM section, that I found more appealing at the time, and then just followed the links. Warning: browser tabstorm very likely to happen.

They are also available in EPub and Kindle.

This is, unsurprisingly, also my strong recommendation: chronological order, on a Kindle or similar. At the start, they're just a bunch of interesting random blog posts; my feeling is that they really "get going" around the post "Feeling Rational".

If you don't already have an ebook reader, I strongly recommend one; I hardly buy books for mine at all, but do things like send it PDFs, or use "SendToKindle" to send it longer web pages to read as I travel to work. OTOH I spend around 8 hrs a week on public transport.

Thirding the recommendation for chronological order. I'm in the middle of re-reading them using FBReader on my Android phone. The 6M full sequences with images epub does take a very noticeable time to get loaded into memory whenever the FBReader app has swapped out. Also it doesn't show some semantically meaningful formatting like text with strikethrough. Bullet lists which used autonumbering bullets in the original are converted into plain bullets, but the subsequent text sometimes refers to the missing numbers.

Try reading the ePub with Aldiko? I don't think it has these issues.

Tried Aldiko 2.1.0 on HTC Desire, it prints a generic error message every time when trying to open or import the file. FBReader was also failing to open the file to begin with until a recent upgrade.

What is the best way to read the sequences?

Textaloud. Listen to it while at the gym.

Do you have a Voice to recommend for this? Neospeech Bridget and Paul seem like the best to me. I usually find that I can't understand the text if I speed it up even a little bit with Voices worse than these.

Do you have a Voice to recommend for this? Neospeech Bridget and Paul seem like the best to me. I usually find that I can't understand the text if I speed it up even a little bit with Voices worse than these.

'Graham' is great for technical stuff. Brian is good for fiction. I put them on 5*speed.

I can't understand any words at that speed even when I am careful about how I speed it up. Any tips about how to listen at that speed?

I can't understand any words at that speed even when I am careful about how I speed it up. Any tips about how to listen at that speed?

Listen at * 2 speed first. If I recall, that was initially difficult but possible if you listen actively (ie. pay attention). Once that is easy enough to follow and if you start getting bored move to a higher setting. Essentially I taught myself to speed-read but audibly. The noise isn't particularly recognizable as English but with practice it is comprehensible. It may not be worth your while to get up to that speed. I do recommend at least some degree of speedup though, just because listening is (usually) much slower than reading.

I have another question. When I have tried to convert ebooks to audiobooks with programs similar to textaloud I had a problem with extra text that was in the book or the article (like foot notes, dedications and other such things). Do you just go through the text and delete these things or have you found a better way?

I currently listen at *2 speed. Trying to train myself to x2.5 now. It seems like the best thing I could do with my time given how much time I spend listening.

Some suggestions:

  • Read How to Read a Book and implementing as many of the suggestions as possible. It's working well for me, particularly the act of writing out summaries in my own words.
  • Chronological order. This stopped me from being overwhelmed by the number of tabs opened in my browser. Whenever I click on a link I think, "Oh yeah, I remember reading this," and can continue with the original reading.
  • Mind mapping for comprehension and retention.

Do you think I should read all the posts I can find in the sequences, or only the ones in the core sequences, to begin with?

You're welcome to post in old threads since threads don't get bumped up to the top when replied to. However, you're likely to get more answers to a question like this one if you post in the current Open Thread.

Thanks all for the suggestions. Given the nearly unanimous opinion that chronological order is optimal, I have started re-reading from the beginning. I am still thinking over which of the other suggestions are likely to work well for me.

One aspect of reading the sequences that no one has addressed so far is what role should reading the comments play in understanding/retaining the content of the sequences?

I read most of the comments as I read them, and don't regret having done so, but then I find community social dynamics interesting for their own sake and LW/OB was a novel sort of community. I'm not sure I would recommend it for someone who didn't care about that part; I doubt it's cost-effective. I would recommend thinking carefully about what parts of each post you agree with, disagree with, and are unsure about.

Chronological order appears to be actually much easier now that you can just click the sequence_reruns tag, although there may be more effective ways. The benefit of the rerun method is you can see all the more recent discussion that took place when the rerun post was posted.

I second the suggestions for chronological order. At first, I just clicked on the "sequences" link at the top right and read through the linked posts in the order that they were linked. There were many posts that are not linked there which it would have been useful for me to have read earlier.

In general, what you need to know in order to understand a post is covered in earlier sequence posts. If you use an order other than chronological, that's going to be a problem.

If you want to read it all anyway, then start from scratch in chronological order. If you don't want to read it all, continue whatever you were doing (using the sequence wiki page I guess).

For retention: Many sequences have a summary and two have an anki deck.