The modern commonplace book cover image (Roam Research graph view)

The Commonplace Book: How to Get Compound Interest on Your Ideas

Everything compounds. Momentum is an underappreciated force of nature: not only in finance, but waistlines, populations, popularity, curiosity, and information.

Ideas want to propagate themselves. When two ideas have sex, most of the offspring are hideous mutants: the shower thoughts, the drunken 3am kitchen ‘creations’. Ramen pizza is probably not going to catch on. But very occasionally, you get something beautiful.

The last post was about collecting and curating the best ideas. This post is about earning compound interest on your collection. The magic happens in the nooks where ideas collide and fuse, but we have to create the right conditions for recombination—the equivalent of turning down the lights and piping Barry Manilow through the speakers.

To earn compound interest on your money, you need somewhere to put it, like a bank account, and a practice for making it grow—an investing strategy. Same goes for information. I suggest the ‘somewhere to put it’ should be a Commonplace Book, and the ‘practice for making it grow’ should be the Zettelkasten Method.

If this is all German to you, no fear. Here’s what we’re going to cover…

Notes on Note Taking: How to Read a Book

Notes on Note Taking: How to Read a Book

Note taking is overrated. Underlining key passages, scribbling insightful observations in the margin of library books to amuse a future stranger—we get it, you read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince—the colour-coded set of highlighters, etc. This kind of thing is very cute, and at the risk of offending my favourite productivity pornographers, almost certainly misses the point…

The Best of the Best Books I Read in 2019

Last year I finally cracked my goal to read 100 books. After completing the challenge, I decided that I wasn’t going to get too hung up on the number this year.

Sure enough, I dialled it back: I only got through 56 books in 2019, which feels a little disappointing.

But having looked through my list, I realised that this was still a great year for quake reading. As always, it was agonising trying to choose between a worthy field, but I’ve winnowed it down to my top 10.

These are the books that blew my mind, made me howl, or filled my notebook to overflowing. In no particular order: