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LostInParadise's avatar

When reading a non-fiction book, do you sometimes check the index to see if something is going to be mentioned?

Asked by LostInParadise (31498points) June 3rd, 2022

I have been doing that lately. I may want to know if a particular person will be discussed or if some idea will be coming up in the next few pages.

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15 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

I don’t, unless it happens to be on a subject in which I have extensive knowledge. And in that case, I probably wouldn’t be reading the book.

Jeruba's avatar

I do, yes. Not to anticipate what’s ahead, though; I do that by scanning the section in advance.

When I’m reading a passage that I think I may want to return to, I ask myself, “When this passage is the answer, what will be the question?” Then I look to see if that keyword or something similar is indexed to this page. If not, I add it in pencil.

That’s similar to what I do when I’m actually creating a book index: what will the search term be when this is the reader’s target? It’s not always as obvious as a name or a named event.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Not often. Indexes are shaky and often incomplete.

I have done free-lance book indexing (and gotten paid for it) – that’s how a lot of indexes are created, by free-lancers with spare time.

Indexes are almost always an afterthought, and usually need to fit a couple of pages at the end of a signature. Which means that the completeness of the index may be based NOT on subject matter, but rather on SPACE!!

Furthermore, some publishers want exhaustive indexes (for scholarly books) but others just want basic pointers without serious subject analysis.

Bottom line: you can’t really trust indexes because you don’t know how they were compiled.

Zaku's avatar

I do, sometimes, with books on computer programming, physics texts, history books, and complex game rulebooks.

janbb's avatar

Yes, I might check an index for topics I am interested in.

LostInParadise's avatar

@Jeruba , I also check the index to see if I can return to a particularly interesting section.

Jeruba's avatar

@LostInParadise, and do you annotate the index if the topic you wanted isn’t listed?

I rarely have a book index that isn’t annotated.

The index is also high on my checklist when I’m considering buying a nonfiction book. A serious book without an index isn’t really serious. As far as I’m concerned, the deeper the index, the better.

LostInParadise's avatar

I have lately been reading books from the local library, so annotating is not an option. It does seem like a good idea.

Nomore_Tantrums's avatar

I do occasionally yes. Usually when reading a new historical tome.

Jeruba's avatar

What are you reading, @Nomore_Tantrums?

Nomore_Tantrums's avatar

@Jeruba Been reading a biography of Winston Churchill and was cheating and looking up info on his activities regarding the Korean Conflict and Communism in general. All post WW II.

Jeruba's avatar

@Nomore_Tantrums, I have yet to do that, but it’s on my list, that or his own memoir.

I’m reading Masha Gessen’s The Future Is History. By no means an easy read, but it explains so much of what is going on now with Russia and Ukraine and also certain things in the U.S.. It has a very comprehensive index, but it still requires a little annotation.

Nomore_Tantrums's avatar

Sounds interesting. But don’t cheat like I was doing, read it thru. : ) @Jeruba

Demosthenes's avatar

Rarely. I check the table of contents to see if a more general topic is going to be covered, but something so specific it would only appear in the index is probably not a concern of mine when approaching a non-fiction book. I will read reviews to get a sense of how the material is covered, though. I mainly use the index after I’ve read the book to go back and find something specific I remember reading.

flutherother's avatar

I often check the index when reading non-fiction books to see what wiil be covered. The thought of adding my own entries never occurred to me.

@Jeruba Masha Gessen’s biography of Putin is also well worth reading and her talks on YouTube are first rate.

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