It doesn't sound a good thing to do: start at the beginning and work forward. You don't want to work backwards?I came across this quote from from the Folk anthologist Harry Smith many years ago (in Stephan Grossman's Contemporary Ragtime Guitar Oak Publications 1972) and it has made a lasting impression on me.
When you were in school you were taught to be a study slave. Read this. Do that chapter. Write an essay on blah blah. And when you were given a list of things to do, as a good student you followed the list and ticked off each thing as you did it.
Sometimes college professors behave as if you were still in school. But you are no longer a study slave. It is your choice to be here and you can drop out at any time. The key to self-motivation is getting rid of your slave mentality.
Here's what I wrote, back in 2004:
Only book worms start at the beginning and work all the way through. Thumb your way backwards and forwards until the pages drop out; fill the margins with pencilled commentary; start at the last chapter and work backwards — anything to break the spell that the writer is attempting to cast on you. Refuse to play along.I was writing about philosophy but this works for any subject where you have to read.
With maths and science it is a bit different but here too you have the choice to begin at page 1, or dip in and look for the interesting stuff first.
Who needs books anyway now that we have the internet? Problem is, it's not so easy to find stuff you can rely on because there's so much rubbish out there. Which explains why the first place every student goes to is Wikipedia. But consider: if everyone else in your class is looking at the same article, what chance is there that you will do work that is better than average or mediocre?
Besides, what fun is there in doing what everyone else does? You are not a slave, remember?
So here we are. You are sitting at your desk staring at a big pile of books. Pick the one in the middle and open it somewhere in the middle. And then start reading. Form a hypothesis of what the book is about and test it by opening the book randomly in other places. Look at the index, the chapter headings. If you see something familiar, look that up on the internet.
By the time you start seriously reading that book you will probably have worked out two thirds of what the writer has to say.
And don't be afraid to read stuff that isn't on your reading list. Spend a couple of hours browsing in a second-hand bookshop. More than once, I have found that special volume that has changed the course of my life.