How I read history books

I divide history reading into two categories: micro and macro.

The best example of macro history books is Homo Sapiens which is full of mental models applicable to different historical contexts and therefore our times.

Microhistory include books that focus on individual experiences (like fictions), and they are used as wisdom-training tools. When reading these books, I pause and reflect: given the existing data, what would my next action be if I were the protagonist. This helps to test my models’ performance and avoid overfitting so that they can be applied in more contexts that we may put ourselves into. Work that fall into this category includes biographies and even historical scientific papers.

When there were not many non-fictions available, history books were the most prominent sources that people use to develop their mental models and wisdom.

Historical facts (year, location etc.) are often irrelevant outside the contexts above. I used to be fixated on the historical facts. Although knowing these facts helped me understand the mental models better (by applying them to different contexts) when I came across macro history books, I could have done much better had I read the facts with models in mind.

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Tim

Personalizing medicine

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