What is the best way to turn dry facts from books into living knowledge?

Perils of autodidacticism: I am trying to learn about history and geography, but none of the facts seem real or connectable to the present day. When I read that a certain region of France, for example, was invade by vikings I just remember a few things about vikings- helmets, boats, and then forget the information alltogether. It's as if historical figures never lived at all.

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  • 1 decade ago
    Best Answer

    Wow, this is a great question - maybe the best I've seen on YA.

    In general, the answer to your question is that, the more you study and think about what you're learning, then consistently connect that with other things that you read and see and hear (in current news stories, for instance, and in your own experiences), the more you will start seeing the interconnections among and between things. It takes some time, but it will definitely happen. And when it does you'll get that moment of A-ha! This will happen over and over, it's a real pleasure to experience.

    Keep pursuing the ideas and facts you're interested in to be sure to enjoy the process of where your exploration takes you. Use some kind of metaphor in your mind, like the Lewis and Clark expedition. They had particular goals - to find the way to the western sea and to catalog and describe (and collect, if possible) everything they came across - but their journey blossomed into experiences and knowledge far greater than their basic goals.

    There are also some great history books that have a kind of holistic methodology and viewpoint that I think can help speed this process for you.

    "Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies"

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0393061310/qid=11...

    Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0465031765/qid=11...

    And there are some books that show a particular type of thinking that can help an autodidact. The author of "Freakonomics" says it well: "many apparent mysteries of everyday life don't need to be so mysterious: they could be illuminated and made even more fascinating by asking the right questions and drawing connections..." Reading some books that do this will encourage you in thinking the same way.

    "Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything"

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/006089637X/qid=11...

    And Malcolm Gladwell explains that we can make better instant judgments by training our mind and senses to focus on the most relevant facts. And gives examples of how less input (for a trained mind and as long as it's the right input) is better than more.

    "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking"

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0316010669/qid=11...

    And finally, Gore Vidal is an absolute master of connecting the dots of historical facts and present-day politics, economics, sociology, et al. He's a joy to read. A good place to start with him is his book, "United States"

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0767908066/qid=11...

  • 1 decade ago

    While it may not be important exactly which regions were conquered by Vikings (historians probably don't know exactly) the important point is that they did, at a certain time. Think of it as a crime - they had motive (warming climate, growing population), means (ships, technology), and opportunity (a certain time in the timeline of history). They don't call the historian's work detective work for nothing!!! Put your Sherlock Holmes hat on and start thinking with great curiousity about answering the basic questions of motive, means, and opportunity. You'll find then that the facts fall into their proper places.

  • 1 decade ago

    Try the internet, especially sites devoted to the subject you are studying (be careful of false information, though). History is too often boiled down into dry facts when it is really very interesting.

  • 1 decade ago

    Try to go explore it. For example, in 4th grade when we were learning about Mexican CA during the Rancho Days, we went to what was an actual rancho.

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  • 1 decade ago

    Put it in the form of a fairy tale or story

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