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How to Read a Book: The Art of Getting a Liberal Education

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One of the greatest American minds of the last century shares his vast knowledge of the Great Books to help the reader understand how to read a book so as to get its full meaning.


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One of the greatest American minds of the last century shares his vast knowledge of the Great Books to help the reader understand how to read a book so as to get its full meaning.

30 review for How to Read a Book: The Art of Getting a Liberal Education

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nandakishore Varma

    How do you read a book? Look at the cover, probably glance at the blurb; run your eye down the table of contents, perhaps; possibly rifle through the book... then plunge right in into Chapter One. Right? Wrong! According to Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren, the authors of How to Read a Book. According to them, this is only the first level of reading, called “Elementary” reading: and this is the only level the majority of readers in this world have reached. They posit three more levels: “ How do you read a book? Look at the cover, probably glance at the blurb; run your eye down the table of contents, perhaps; possibly rifle through the book... then plunge right in into Chapter One. Right? Wrong! According to Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren, the authors of How to Read a Book. According to them, this is only the first level of reading, called “Elementary” reading: and this is the only level the majority of readers in this world have reached. They posit three more levels: “Inspectional”, “Analytical” and “Syntopic”, each one more advanced than the previous. The major portion of the book is devoted to analytic reading, followed by brief exposition on the syntopic. It is the aim of the authors to make each reader of this tome into an analytic reader at least, if not a syntopic one: it is my opinion that they only succeed partially, but let’s go into that after analysing each of the levels as defined by the authors. Elementary reading we have already seen. In inspectional reading, you first skim the book as a whole; give it a “once-over”, as it is. The authors, ever practical, suggest six steps to do this – most of them self-evident and what any serious reader usually does with an expository book (this book is mostly about reading expository material and of limited value in reading literature and poetry, but more about that later). The steps are: 1. Read the title and the preface 2. Study the table of contents 3. Check the index 4. Read the blurb 5. Look at the main chapters 6. Skim the book, reading it here and there Next, read the book through fast, without getting stuck at the difficult places. If the book deserves our serious attention, we can come back to those difficult places in our next reading. The advantage of this “rapid-fire” approach is that we do not waste time on a book which deserves only a superficial reading. In the authors’ own words: “Every book should be read no more slowly than it deserves, and no more quickly than you can read it with satisfaction and comprehension.” Analytical Reading The next level, analytical reading, requires the reader to be demanding: the more you demand, the more you can extract out of a book. To do this, one has to ask four questions: 1. What is the book about, as a whole? 2. What is being said in detail, and how? 3. Is the book true, in whole or part? 4. What of it? How ask these four questions is explained in detail, in the remaining part of the book. Analytical reading has three stages. The first one is mainly concerned with classifying the book, and understanding its aim and structure. To do this, the authors suggest four rules. 1. You must know what kind of book you are reading, and you should know as early in the process as possible, preferably before you begin to read. 2. State the unity of the whole book in a single sentence, or at most a few sentences (a short paragraph). 3. Set forth the major parts of the book, and show how these are organised into a whole, by being ordered to one another and to the unity of the whole. 4. Find out what the author’s problems were. The first rule classifies (“pigeonholes”) the book, by affixing it to a category, genre, etc.: the second is used to create a précis: the third expands the précis into an outline, thus revealing the underlying structure (“X-Raying” the book, as the authors name it) and the fourth defines the purpose of the book. The author presumably wrote it for a reason: he had some questions at the beginning, which he has presumably tried to answer through the book. The reader has to find out what these questions are. If the first stage of analytical reading is related to the what , the second is related to the how ; how has the author attempted to solve the problem with which he started out. For this stage also, Adler and Van Doren proposes four rules. 1. Come to terms with the author by interpreting his key words. 2. Grasp the author’s leading propositions by dealing with his most important sentences. 3. Know the author’s arguments by finding them in, or constructing them out of, sequences of sentences. 4. Determine which of his problems the author has solved, and which he has not: and as to the latter, decide which the author knew he had failed to solve. The argument here that any author, putting forth an argument, will use certain key words and terms (for example “natural selection” and “evolution” by Darwin in The Origin of Species). It is the reader’s duty to come to terms with the author, so that he does not misinterpret the author’s intentions by misreading the terms. Then on, it is an exercise in logic by understanding the propositions and arguments. This is not as difficult as it looks: in fact, we do it all the time, even though the exact logical terms may be unfamiliar to us. A proposition is nothing but the meaning contained within a declarative sentence: and arguments what the author uses to prove the truth of the proposition. The fourth step is a little more difficult for the lay reader, and it will only come through practice. One needs to find out which of the problems presented the author had been able to solve: and if he had been unable to solve some, whether he knew he had failed or not. At this point of time, it is not important whether the reader agrees with the author. That comes later. Here, we are talking about the author’s own internal logic, and how far he has been able to present his arguments consistently in light of it, and how far he has been in successfully concluding his arguments. In the third stage of analytical reading, the reader, for the first time, starts to apply his critical senses and begins to agree or disagree with the author. Here according to the authors of the current book, the reader has to follow certain etiquette, captured in the following three rules: 1. Do not begin criticism until one has completed the outline (first stage) and interpretation (second stage). Then one can agree, disagree or suspend judgement. 2. Do not disagree disputatiously or contentiously. Or in plain words, unless one can present factual evidence acceptable at least to oneself, disagreement with an author based on emotional prejudice should be avoided (easier said than done!). 3. Demonstrate that one knows the difference between knowledge and mere personal opinion by presenting good reasons for any critical judgement one makes. The authors also provide special criteria for criticism: (1) show where the author is uninformed, (2) show where he is misinformed, (3) show where his illogical and (4) show where his analysis is incomplete. Syntopic Reading This is the fourth (and most advanced) level of reading, according to Adler and Van Doren – though I’d perhaps disagree. Here, the reader is engaged in researching books about one basic idea. For example, if you want to read up on, say evolution, you must first understand what the significant books are on the subject: then you must proceed to read them, and summarise the arguments, both pro and con, preferably remaining objective throughout. Phew! Not a very easy task. Don’t worry, the authors give step-by-step instructions for this level also. First, create a bibliography of the subject and inspect all of the books to ascertain which are the relevant ones: then, do the following: 1. Do inspectional reading of the selected book to choose the passages which are most relevant to the subject at hand; 2. Establish a neutral terminology which is applicable to all the authors, so that all of them can be brought to the same terms; 3. Establish a set of neutral propositions, by framing a set of questions which all the authors can be seen as answering; 4. Range the answers on both sides of the issue. The issue may not always explicitly exist, and may have to be constructed by interpretation of the authors’ views (for example, in the case of evolutionary theory, “Intelligent Design” is a form of creationism even though the trappings of evolutionary theory are used); 5. Analyse the discussion by ordering the issues to throw maximum light on the subject. The authors stress the need for dialectical objectivity throughout; that is, the reader is only expected to arrange and present the arguments so as to present an ordered discussion without taking sides. So the aim of syntopical reading is to “clear away the deadwood and prepare the way for an original thinker to make a breakthrough”. *** Whoever has read through this review so far would be asking (him/her)self: “But that’s applicable to expository books, where the main aim is the dissemination of information? What about fiction? What about poetry? What about drama?” Well, the authors extend their methodology to all kinds of books, but according to me, it falls flat. All said and done, the methodology works only for expository works. And that is its main problem. This book is not about literary theory or criticism: nor is it about literature appreciation. It is a self-help book on the lines of those on time management, attending interviews, etc. It outlines a methodology, the diligent following of which will guarantee results, according to its authors. It well may, for the major part of the book devoted to analytical reading gave me some insights on how to tackle books on difficult subjects like philosophy and political theory (the two stars are for that). But the book is extremely boring, and the authors’ insistence on applying their favourite methodology to all sorts of books was stretching things a bit (moreover, it takes all the fun out of reading!). And syntopic reading may make sense to an undergraduate preparing a dissertation, but is of little use to anybody else. If anyone wants to read this book, I would recommend an inspectional reading concentrating mainly on the methodology of analytical reading only. The other parts are not worth the time spent on it. I purchased a copy, but the book seems to be available free on the net (no idea about copyright issues!), so go ahead and try it if you want. Statutory warning: boredom ahead.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Probably one of the most important books you can read. I outlined the first three levels of reading a while back and I saved it. I'll post that for my "review." How To Read A Book: (This is an outline of part of Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren’s excellent book, "How To Read A Book." The outline takes one up to the third level of reading - analytical reading. There is a fourth level, syntopical reading, but most of the intended readers of this outline, and your every day reader, does not Probably one of the most important books you can read. I outlined the first three levels of reading a while back and I saved it. I'll post that for my "review." How To Read A Book: (This is an outline of part of Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren’s excellent book, "How To Read A Book." The outline takes one up to the third level of reading - analytical reading. There is a fourth level, syntopical reading, but most of the intended readers of this outline, and your every day reader, does not read syntopically. Furthermore, mastering levels 1-3 will improve what you get out of your reading 10 fold. It is sufficient to make you a very proficient reader. Also, syntopical reading is for many books, analytical reading is for one book. So, technically, the title of this post implies an an analytic outline. A syntopical outline would be titled, “How To Read Books.” For these reasons I have only focused on levels 1-3. I hope the below outline will provide you with some practical knowledge of how to read well, not necessarily be well read. I also would obviously recommend purchasing Adler and Van Doren's book, "How To Read A Book," for your own library.) I. Be a demanding reader. Reading, if you’re going to learn anything or gain enlightenment, must be active. The more active the reader is, the better. A. You can be active by paying attention and focusing. B. By taking notes, highlighting key points and arguments, asking questions of the author, etc. C. Following rules for reading and making the following of these rules habitual. D. The demanding reader should be asking these 4 questions of the book: 1. What is the book about as a whole? This should be stated succinctly. 2. What is being said in detail and how? You should know the main assertions and arguments which constitute the author’s message 3. Is the book true in whole or in part? Once you have understood the book you are obligated to make a judgment regarding it. Make up your own mind. 4. What of it? (4) is asking things like: (a) How should I then live in light of what I’ve learned? (b) What should I do with this knowledge? II. The first level of reading is the reading at the basic, or elementary school, level. III. The second level of reading is called “inspectional reading.” This comes in two parts: A. Systematic skimming or pre-reading. 1. This is achieved by: reading the title, table of contents, preface, editors note, introduction, back flap, etc. 2. Reading the index to see the major themes, topics, ideas, and terms the author will be discussing. 3. Reading through the book by reading the first couple of pages or so, the last couple of pages or so, and then flipping through the book, dipping in here and there. B. Superficial reading is the second part of inspectional reading. To achieve this you must read through the entire book at a fast pace and without stopping to think about terms you’re unfamiliar with, ideas you don’t immediately grasp, and points which are footnoted for further inspection. Doing both (A) and (B) will prepare you to read the book through for the second time; the analytical stage. IV. The third stage of reading is called “analytical reading.” There are three stages, made up of various rules, of analytical reading. A. Stage one: Rules for finding out what the book is about. 1. Classify the book according to kind and subject matter. This is also referred to as pigeonholing a book. (a) Is it a poem, play, epic, work of philosophy or theology, history, science, etc. (b) Is it theoretical or practical. (i) A theoretical book reports facts, offers detached arguments, or offers insight or understanding of a position. These books teach you that something is the case. (ii) A practical book tells you how to live, or how to do something. These books teach you how to do something. (iii) As an aside, these two cannot be sharply separated. As John Frame points out in The Doctrine of God, facts and application of the facts go hand in hand. When I learn the 6th commandment I know how to apply it. But as I apply it to more diverse areas of life, I learn more about the 6th commandment. 2. Succinctly state what the book is about. That is, find the main theme or point of the book. You should be able to state this in a sentence, paragraph at most. This is different than (IV.A.1) in that here we are asking what the book is about, not what kind of book it is. 3. Outline the book. See this outline for an instantiation of this rule. Basically, you want to get at the bones of the book. The basic structure. The construction of the major themes and arguments. How the book proceeds. The skeleton. 4. Define the problem(s) the author has tried to solve. To see the unity of a book you need to know why it has the unity it has (supposing it’s a good book and it has a unity!). To know why it has the unity it has you should know the authors main problem(s) he’s trying to answer; as well as subordinate questions and answers. B. Stage two: Rules for interpreting the book’s content. 5. Coming to terms with the author. (a) A term is not a word. A term is the meaning of a word. Water and agua are two different words, they mean the same thing though. (b) To know the authors terms, then, is to understand the meaning of his argument or explanation, etc. (c) Find the important words and through them come to terms with the author. (d) The words he uses in an important way, or the ones you have trouble understanding, are probably the important terms you need to know. (e) Read all the words in context to find the meaning of the terms; how the author means them, that is. 6. Grasp the leading propositions by finding the key sentences. (a) Propositions are the meanings of sentences. (b) You find the leading propositions by finding the key sentences. (c) You find the key sentences myriad ways: (i) The author marks them out for you in some way. (ii) These are the sentences that give you the most trouble. (iii) The sentences express judgments, I.e., they are not questions or exclamations! (iv) These are his reasons for affirming or denying the main problem(s) he has set out to answer. 7. Find the author’s argument by finding them in the key sequences of sentences. (a) Sting together the important propositions into an ordered structure. (b) An argument must involve more than one statement. (c) An argument might be an inductive or deductive one. (d) Observe what the author says he must prove and what he must assume. 8. Find which problem(s) the author solved and which one’s he did not. If he did not, find out if he knows that he did not. (a) Did the author solve the problem(s) he set out to solve? (b) Did he raise new ones in the process? (c) Did the author admit or know that he failed to solve some of the problem(s)? (d) If you know the solutions to the problem/s you can be confident that you understand the book. C. Stage three: Rules for criticizing a book as a communication of knowledge. You are required to criticize the book you read. You owe the author that. Criticize, or offering a judgment, does not necessarily mean that you disagree with the author. You can offer the judgment that you agree with him, you have learned something, and he has answered what he set out to. If you disagree, which is your right, be sure you have completed the above steps. You cannot critique that which you do not understand. 9. General maxims for intellectual etiquette. (a) Do not begin criticism until you have completed your outline and interpretation of the book. (b) Do not agree disputatiously or contentiously. (c) Demonstrate you understand the difference between knowledge and mere opinion by giving reasons for your judgments (criticisms). 10. Special criteria for points of criticism. (a) Show where the author is uninformed. This is where he lacks some piece of knowledge that is relevant to the problem(s) he was trying to solve. (b) Show where the author is misinformed. This is when the author asserts what is not the case. (c) Show where the author is illogical. Here the author’s reasoning is faulty. He has either made a non sequitur or was inconsistent. (d) Show where the author’s analysis, argument, or solution to problem(s) is incomplete. This is to say the author did not solve all the problems he started out to solve or did not make good use of the material at his disposal, that he failed to take into account all the ramifications, or made distinctions relevant to his undertaking. The above outline provides the rules and strategies required for reading well. Many folks are well read, not many read well. Thomas Hobbes once said, “If I read as many books as most men do, I would be as dull-witted as they are.”

  3. 5 out of 5

    Cecily

    Who This Book is (not) For It focuses mainly on reading expositional, rather than imaginative material. It was written in 1940, and revised in 1972, though it looks and feels more like a 40s book. I read it in the hope of becoming a more analytical reader who could go on to write more coherent, concise, and original reviews. It didn’t help. This may once have been a good book. Had I read it as an undergraduate, I may even have found bits of it slightly useful. As a middle-aged fiction reader in Who This Book is (not) For It focuses mainly on reading expositional, rather than imaginative material. It was written in 1940, and revised in 1972, though it looks and feels more like a 40s book. I read it in the hope of becoming a more analytical reader who could go on to write more coherent, concise, and original reviews. It didn’t help. This may once have been a good book. Had I read it as an undergraduate, I may even have found bits of it slightly useful. As a middle-aged fiction reader in the 21st century, I found it infuriating, boring, and mostly irrelevant. Types of Reading There are four levels of reading: 1. Elementary (learning to decode the symbols). 2. Inspectional (time-limited skimming). 3. Analytical. 4. Syntopical (comparing and drawing conclusions). I used Inspectional for most of the book - because my patience and interest were severely, and increasingly, limited. It focuses mainly on analytical reading of non-fiction: knowing what sort of book it is, having an idea of the content and structure etc. Its own structure is very poor. For example, four rules of analytical reading are spread across two chapters, and only listed together at the end of the second. Then, in the next chapter, you discover rule five, and six… It turns out there are 15 (yes, 15!) rules of analytical reading. Enough to put me off reading altogether. There are a couple of chapters devoted to fiction, but I didn’t find them helpful or insightful. Example of Annoyances “Most plays are not worth reading… because they are incomplete.” Sweeping generalisation followed by a non-sequitur. I rarely read plays precisely because they were written for performance, and I can’t do that effectively in my head. It does not mean that most plays are not worth reading, though. “An author uses most words as men ordinarily do in conversation.” I nearly threw the book across the room, though that was probably an overreaction, born of my mounting dislike. Yes, I know it was written when it was more common to use male pronouns as generic ones, and to use “man” to mean “mankind/humankind”. But it was revised in 1972, and “men” grates far more than “man”: surely “people” would be more natural, even back then? The Literary Canon (only one?!) I don’t think the authors really know who their audience is - a fatal flaw in any writer/reader relationship. There are constant assumptions that the reader is familiar with the classical Western canon, from ancient civilisations, through to the start of the twentieth century: Homer’s Ulysses, though to Joyce’s Ulysses. If you’d read them in school (as the authors expect), you’d either have understood them and so have little need of this book, or not understood them, and have no intention of reading this book. This is reflected in the impressive and somewhat daunting reading list. It explicitly includes only Western works because: 1. The authors admit they know very little about Indian, Chinese, Japanese and other literary traditions. (They could have consulted someone else.) 2. Apparently, there is not a single tradition in Eastern literature, as there is in Western. (I’m not sure I understand the truth or untruth of that.) 3. It’s better to really know your own culture’s canon before branching out to others. (I don’t agree, but it is a valid and somewhat interesting opinion.) Exercises An appendix has a lot of comprehension exercises (I’m not sure what term is used outside the UK). I didn’t do any of them. I’d rather read a good book. If you want to read a book, I suggest you read a book. But probably not this one. If you want exercises, make it a large, heavy one!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sasha Martinez

    It’s such a dinosaur. Cranky, snooty, stuffy, pedantic, often condescending. It’s a manual. For intelligent reading. Very textbook-y, very fundamental. Very practical. Like some invisible ruler cracked against my keyboard-clobbering knuckles, like a pesky voice in your head. It’s like having tea with your cane-thumping retiree-professor of a great-grandfather. Him demanding why you aren’t wearing hose, and will you please stand up straight? You bide your time, you promised you’d keep him company. It’s such a dinosaur. Cranky, snooty, stuffy, pedantic, often condescending. It’s a manual. For intelligent reading. Very textbook-y, very fundamental. Very practical. Like some invisible ruler cracked against my keyboard-clobbering knuckles, like a pesky voice in your head. It’s like having tea with your cane-thumping retiree-professor of a great-grandfather. Him demanding why you aren’t wearing hose, and will you please stand up straight? You bide your time, you promised you’d keep him company. And then, hours later, you realize you’re growing fond of the old coot, you can’t help but enjoy the starchiness. And there are rewards, there are gems your heart could ping with, the occasional moments of, egad, tenderness. Just imagine Gramps lecturing you on all the misreading you’ve committed, giving you precise directions on how to analyze a given book’s title, teaching you how to skim the right way. And then him suddenly going quiet, when you’ve mustered the courage to ask about fiction—him quiet and then, and then: “We do not know, we cannot be sure, that the real world is good. But the world of a great story is somehow good. We want to live there as often and as long as we can.” And you both reach for your cups of tea.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dante

    I'm reading this awesome book again. I'll be writing my notes for each chapter below (It will be like a "running account" of my summary of and thoughts about every chapter). So, be warned, this is going to be a very, very, very long review. I hope I'll be able to write a shorter version after I'm done with the book. Overview Basically, How to Read a Book is a practical book. It aims to help people become intelligent readers. To read intelligently means to read actively. To read actively means to I'm reading this awesome book again. I'll be writing my notes for each chapter below (It will be like a "running account" of my summary of and thoughts about every chapter). So, be warned, this is going to be a very, very, very long review. I hope I'll be able to write a shorter version after I'm done with the book. Overview Basically, How to Read a Book is a practical book. It aims to help people become intelligent readers. To read intelligently means to read actively. To read actively means to read skillfully. This means that reading is actually a skill (in the same way that writing is a skill). It is an activity. Therefore, it is never passive. And, to read skillfully means to read not for information and amusement but for understanding. The authors propose that, in order to achieve this aim (intelligent, active, skillful reading), readers must observe certain rules. These rules are discussed in detail throughout the book. The book has 4 parts and 21 chapters. Part 1 (The Dimensions of Reading) talks about the nature and levels of reading. Part 2 (The Third Level of Reading: Analytical Reading) talks about what analytical reading is, how to go about reading a book analytically, and the general questions you must ask or the general rules you must observe when reading a book analytically. Part 3 (Approaches to Different Kinds of Reading Matter) talks about, well, the different approaches to different kinds of literature: expository books, imaginative literature, etc. Part 4 (The Ultimate Goals of Reading) talks about the fourth and highest level of reading -- syntopical reading. Part One: The Dimensions of Reading Chapter One: The Activity and Art of Reading Adler and Van Doren says that reading is an activity. Therefore, reading is active, not passive. He gives an analogy -- baseball. Reading is like "catching" the ball in baseball. It is an active thing. And because it is active, it requires skill. This book aims to help readers develop that very skill. Adler says that there are different goals of reading -- information, amusement/ entertainment, and understanding. This book is mainly concerned with the latter goal. So, the goal of this book is to help readers learn how to read for increased understanding. That means to read in order to move from understanding less to understanding more. That also means reading in order to become wise or enlightened. The authors also differentiate between reading for information and amusement, and reading for increased understanding and enlightenment. On the one hand, you are reading for information when, after reading the book, you are only able to state the facts in the book. On the other hand, you are reading for increased understanding and enlightenment when, after finishing the book, you can state the things in the book and at the same time explain what they mean. Adler and Van Doren says that books are like absent teachers. Books can teach us something (they can help us increase our understanding about the world) although their authors may no longer be physically present. That's great news, because that means that we have access to the greatest minds in the history of civilization! Adler and Van Doren says that the goal of this book is to help readers learn the skills they need in order to become well-read, as opposed to being merely widely-read. Thoughts: I love Adler's baseball analogy of reading: Pitcher/ hitter = Writer/ author Catcher = Reader Ball = The ideas or information contained in the book I also like to be reminded that reading (at least, reading for increased understanding, which is the main goal of this book) is never passive. Reading is active -- it is an activity. That is, it involves the performance of certain mental acts. And you shouldn't take it for granted. When you read a book, you must allow it to influence or affect you. However, I'm not sure if I agree with the authors when they say that our goal, if we wish to become intelligent and skillful readers, is to read difficult books so that our understanding about things will increase. I mean, can we not read books that are entertaining (and therefore easy to read) but can also increase our understanding about life and the world? I love the idea about books being "absent teachers"! That's an awesome thought, isn't it? That means that, as readers, we still have access to the greatest minds in human history! We can still "approach" them and allow them to teach us, even if they are no longer with us physically. We can "go to" Plato, Aristotle or Aquinas and "sit at their feet" while they "lecture" us about their philosophy. Lastly, I love Adler's distinction between being well-read and being widely-read. I agree with him that our goal should be to become well read and not merely widely-read. Chapter two: The Levels of Reading Adler and Van Doren talks about the different levels of reading: 1. Elementary reading 2. Inspectional reading 3. Analytical reading 4. Syntopical reading Elementary reading asks the question, "What is the sentence saying, and what do the words mean?" Inspectional reading asks, "What is the book about as a whole? What is its structure? What are its parts?" Analytical reading asks, "What is the author saying? What does he mean? What are his arguments? Are they true? So what?" And syntopical reading asks, "Given all these books/ literature about this particular topic or issue, what analysis or conclusion can I make?" These levels are cumulative, so a reader cannot master the highest level of reading (syntopical reading) without first mastering elementary, inspectional, and analytical reading. Thoughts: I like how the authors break down the skill of reading into levels. It's very helpful. Our ultimate goal should be syntopical reading. Chapter three: The First Level of Reading: Elementary Reading Basically, Adler and Van Doren says that elementary reading has four stages: reading readiness, word mastery or the ability to understand basic words, rapid growth of vocabulary, and the further refinement of these skills. A child has to go through each of the above stages in order to master this reading level. This does not happen quickly. In fact, it takes years of practice. It starts during nursery or thereabouts, when the child becomes ready physically and intellectually to read. Then the child goes through his elementary years and learns to read basic books. During these years, the child's vocabulary grows and he begins to develop his understanding of context. Then, during his high school years, he further develops and refines his reading skills. Ideally, by the time the child reaches high school, he should be able to read books analytically. Thoughts: I can honestly say that I haven't yet really mastered this basic reading level. My vocabulary is really not that wide or deep, and sometimes I find it hard to understand the context of a given sentence, especially if the book I'm reading is advanced or tertiary-level. Chapter four: The Second Level of Reading: Inspectional Reading Adler and Van Doren talks about the second level of reading -- inspectional reading. Inspectional reading involves two steps: systematic skimming or pre-reading and superficial reading. Systematic skimming involves several steps: -- Look at the book's title and subtitle (if any); -- Read the preface; -- Look at the table of contents; -- Look at the index; take note of the topics and authors discussed in the book; -- Read the summary at the end of the book or at the end of each chapter; -- Read the first few lines of each opening paragraph of every chapter; -- Read the publisher's blurb. Superficial reading involves browsing the pages of the book slowly but superficially -- scanning every page casually. Adler and Van Doren says that inspectional reading achieves two things: It helps you know whether the book is, for you personally, worthy of being read analytically or not; and, it gives you a general idea of the book which is useful for your future reference. The authors say that there is really no such thing as a standard reading speed. Ideally, you should simply adjust your speed according to the book's difficulty. They also talk about reading fixations and regressions -- people's tendency to not read the book straight through without interruptions. They say these two things harm our reading because they prevent us from understanding the gist of the book. They suggest that we should use "markers" or "pointers" when we read -- this can be a pen or our finger. This increases our reading speed and comprehension significantly. Also, they say that we don't have to understand everything about the book right away. What's important is that we continue reading (without fixations and regressions) and make an effort to understand the essence of the book even if we don't understand what the author is saying 100%. Thoughts: I love this reading level! Basically, the idea here is that not all books that are available out there deserve to be read analytically. Majority of them are worth an inspectional reading only. And inspectional reading is very, very useful. If you follow its steps, you will have a general idea of what the book is about -- you'll know what kind of a book it is (whether it's a work of fiction or non-fiction, etc.), what its subject matter is, what its structure/outline is, and what its main arguments are. Also, when you read a book inspectionally, you will be in a better position to decide whether the book is really that interesting or relevant for you and whether it is really worthy of your time and effort to read analytically, or whether you should just set it aside for future reference. Adler and Van Doren's suggestion to use the finger as a "pointer" while reading is also very helpful. Chapter five: How to Be a Demanding Reader I think this chapter is a preparation for analytical reading, which is discussed in part 2. Adler and Van Doren says that in order to become an intelligent or skilled reader, you must be demanding in your reading. That is to say, you should make the effort to read and understand what you're reading. You must be motivated by the desire to enlighten yourself, to increase your understanding about matters. Furthermore, to become a demanding or active reader, you must ask questions while you read. What sorts of questions? These four, generally: 1. What is the book about as a whole? 2. What is being said in detail and how? 3. Is it true? 4. What of it? These are also the four questions you ask when you are reading a book analytically. They are applicable to any type of book (fiction or non-fiction), but when it comes to works of imaginative literature, like novels, poems, or plays, these four questions are altered a bit. Of course, you shouldn't simply ask these questions, you must also do your best to answer them. The first question helps you know the book's type and subject matter. The second question helps you know the book's structure, outline, and its main parts and arguments. The third question helps you know whether the author is right or not, or whether his arguments are true or not. And the fourth question helps you know what the book's significance and implication is to your life. Adler and Van Doren also says that we must make the book "our own". When we buy a book, it doesn't automatically become ours. That is just the first step. The second step is to read the book and "interact" with the author's ideas by writing on the book or making marks on its significant sentences or paragraphs. The authors also say that, basically, in order to develop the skill of intelligent reading, you must ask questions and obey those four general rules. Rules are necessarily because they give us structure and help us discipline our reading. At first, remembering and observing these rules may be very challenging, but that is just normal. Any skill is difficult to learn at first, but with habit it becomes easier. Thoughts: I loved this chapter! Basically, the above four questions lie at the very heart of analytical reading. That is, when we read a book analytically, we always ask those four questions and do our best to answer them. I love the idea of "making a book our own". That's very true. We shouldn't fear marking our book. We must "converse" with the author's ideas. The more we do this, the more the knowledge and insights will stick to us, so that, after answering all those questions at the end of the book, a part of us is already in the book, and a great part of the book is now in us (or, in our minds, at least). I just find the four questions very helpful. They guide me and provide structure to my reading. Also, they remind me that books are very, very important. Essential, even. So we shouldn't take them for granted. We shouldn't read them casually, especially if we're reading for understanding. We should allow them to influence and affect us. For example, after reading an apologetic book like Reasonable Faith by the Christian philosopher William Lane Craig, we shouldn't just set it aside and act as if nothing happened and nothing changed. We should instead ask ourselves, "Is what William Lane Craig saying true? Are his arguments really good? Does God really exist? If so, what are its implications to my life? What is its significance? What part of my mindset, mentality, philosophy, or worldview should I change, as a result of agreeing or disagreeing with Dr. Craig?"

  6. 5 out of 5

    Supratim

    I heard about this book in a casual conversation and my interest was piqued. When I heard that the book instructs on analytical reading I knew I had to read it. I have decided that I am not going to summarize the rules enunciated in this book. Instead I would keep my review short. In the first chapter the authors have mentioned that “…… this book is about the art of reading for the sake of increased understanding.” The authors have clearly stated that the book intends to help people understand I heard about this book in a casual conversation and my interest was piqued. When I heard that the book instructs on analytical reading I knew I had to read it. I have decided that I am not going to summarize the rules enunciated in this book. Instead I would keep my review short. In the first chapter the authors have mentioned that “…… this book is about the art of reading for the sake of increased understanding.” The authors have clearly stated that the book intends to help people understand expository works. In simple terms the book is meant for people who read serious non-fiction. However, the authors have included sections on how to read fiction, plays and poetry as well. The book discusses the following four levels of reading with major stress on the third type- • Elementary • Inspectional • Analytical • Syntopical The last and most advanced level – syntopical reading was an added bonus. In syntopical reading the reader goes through various books on the same subject and is able to "construct an analysis of the subject which may not be in any of the books." The book is good and no doubt helpful if you want to improve your reading skills. There are many tips and rules which guide you to better reading. There are separate sections on how to read practical books, imaginative literature, stories & plays & poetry, history, sciences & mathematics, philosophy and social science. Instead of memorizing them as rule 1, rule 2 – I felt it was better to understand the gist of their advice. One problem with the book is that the authors were too verbose. Parts of the book were repetitive and some portions could have been pruned without affecting the quality of the book. I do appreciate the efforts of the authors and understand that composing such a book is not an easy task. They have done a praiseworthy job but I feel some editing would have made the book much more compact. The authors have included a reading list and said that these books would facilitate the growth of the mind. The list includes books on the sciences, literature, politics and statecraft, poetry, theology etc. Authors included range from ancient Greek masters to great minds of the modern world. The authors have admitted that they include books from the Asian tradition because they themselves were not “particularly knowledgeable outside of the Western literary tradition” You might want to check out the reading comprehension exercises given at the end of the book. It is fun.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    The person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it usually does not know what he thinks. I had a lot of fun holding this book upside-down on the subway with a puzzled look on my face. For much of his remarkably long life, Mortimer Adler was the leading proponent of the ‘Great Books’ paradigm of education. Under his leadership, the Encyclopedia Britannica published the 54-volume Great Books of the Western World (1952) as well as the Gateway to the Great Books (1963)—which, The person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it usually does not know what he thinks. I had a lot of fun holding this book upside-down on the subway with a puzzled look on my face. For much of his remarkably long life, Mortimer Adler was the leading proponent of the ‘Great Books’ paradigm of education. Under his leadership, the Encyclopedia Britannica published the 54-volume Great Books of the Western World (1952) as well as the Gateway to the Great Books (1963)—which, considering their bulk, price, and difficulty, were surprisingly successful projects. In addition to his editing and publishing work, Adler wrote many popular books on philosophy and education. Nowadays, however, he is primarily remembered for this how-to book on reading. Although I have been, and continue to be, somewhat critical of the ‘Great Book’s paradigm, I have submitted myself wholeheartedly to it. Ever since I encountered the list of the Great Books of the Western World, I have been gradually making my way through them. It was this list that prompted me to take my self-education more seriously; and through it, I’ve had some of my most rewarding reading experiences. Adler has thus already, albeit indirectly, exerted a huge influence on my reading life, so it seemed appropriate that I pick up his book on reading and encounter his thoughts for myself. Adler promises to aid the reader of any type of reading material; but as he later admits, the strategies he suggests are most directly applicable to non-fiction. To this end, he divides reading into four levels—elementary, inspectional, analytical, and syntopical. The vast majority of Adler's exposition is focused on the third level, analytical reading. These are the strategies that allow you to get the most out of any given book. Adler’s favorite philosopher was Aristotle, and it shows. Just as Aristotle’s treatises on can often seem like organized common sense, so Adler’s advice often sounds platitudinous. How do you get the most out of a book? Outline the text, be active, ask questions, pay attention to the author’s terminology, scrutinize their arguments, be aware of the difference between opinion and fact. All of this is reasonable and good advice; but it can be deflating to see that Adler’s strategies are already commonly known and widely used. At the very least, I cannot say there is anything strikingly original in here. There is much to irritate in this book. For one, although it was substantially revised in 1972, Adler retains the masculine pronoun for general statements. He even says “men” when he means “people,” which can’t help but bother the contemporary ear. More importantly, Adler’s writing style is dry and wordy. He gives lengthy, verbose descriptions of simple concepts, and tends to repeat himself. One would think that this is due to his attempt to appeal to novice readers; but his formal tone, dense paragraphs, and schoolmasterly attitude will, I suspect, put off any but the bravest neophyte. The most important shortcoming, I think, is the absence of the why? of reading at the expense of the how? This is curious, considering that in his section on reading practical books, Adler has this to say: You can see why the practical author must always be something or an orator or propagandist. Since your ultimate judgment of his work is going to turn on your acceptance of the goal for which he is proposing means, it is up to him to win you to his ends. To do this, he has to argue in a way that appeals to your heart as well as your mind. He may have to play on your emotions and gain direction of your will. Yet Adler includes almost no appeals to the heart. There are so many injunctions, requirements, and rules in this book that you can’t help concluding that reading is a bothersome chore. This book would have been far more effective, I think, if he had dwelt more on the joys and rewards of reading. This could have been done with a simple anecdote. He could have drawn on his own experience as a reader, or included a story from his classes. A few short examples not only would have helped to encouraged any beginners, but would probably have served to enliven the dry prose. The particular is always more memorable than the general. Adler’s literary personality is also irksome. His general attitude is condescending. It’s easy to imagine him standing over you, ruler in hand, staring down his nose as you struggle with Aristotle. There are some good books and a few great ones, he thinks, and the rest is basically trash. If you really want to improve your reading, you’re going to have to read really great books—which are, of course, the books in The Great Books of the Western World. Coupled with this condescension is a kind of willfully old-fashioned pretence. This is signaled by his persistent use of the masculine pronoun, his creaky and dry prose, and also in his dismissal of much modern intellectual work as too specialized, too technical, or just wrong-headed. All these reservations aside, I must admit that Adler basically succeeds in his goal, which is to develop a methodology for getting as much as you can from non-fiction books. In my experience, his advice is sound and solid. What is more, I also must admit that every time I've read a book on Adler’s list, I found it surpassingly excellent—even great. But I have trouble imagining myself recommending this book to an inexperienced reader, and still more trouble imagining an inexperienced reader getting through it. It is therefore most valuable as a reminder to more experienced readers to take reading seriously, to be methodical, and to treat books with the respect they deserve.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jeremiah

    In junior high & high school I made it my job to avoid reading altogether, just like politicians who avoid hard questions. When I was twenty I hadn't read a book since I was in fourth grade, was only partially literate, & was a high school drop out with no intentions of ever cracking another book or attending another school....then I became a Christian. Jesus not only transformed my desires, habits, and life's direction; he radically transformed two things: my desire to learn and my In junior high & high school I made it my job to avoid reading altogether, just like politicians who avoid hard questions. When I was twenty I hadn't read a book since I was in fourth grade, was only partially literate, & was a high school drop out with no intentions of ever cracking another book or attending another school....then I became a Christian. Jesus not only transformed my desires, habits, and life's direction; he radically transformed two things: my desire to learn and my pursuit of truth. When I came across this book I was seeking to simply become a stronger reader, but this book-outside of the Bible-has changed me more than any other. The book isn't good because itself is a wonderul read, although it is instructional; rather, it is a great book because of where it points a reader: to what the authors call the Great Conversation. I had found the Truth but had chosen to remove myself from the world of ideas & people who had left a legacy of seeking the very thing that I had recently found.

  9. 4 out of 5

    booklady

    Read this with my two daughters when they were in seventh and eighth grades respectively. It not only teaches how to read different materials, but also gives a list of must-read books. Every serious reader needs to read this book! Both of my daughters say they still use things they learned from this book in their reading. (But they weren't terribly crazy about the book when we read it! Ha!) Most important thing about the book--while there are many useful books you will read over the course of Read this with my two daughters when they were in seventh and eighth grades respectively. It not only teaches how to read different materials, but also gives a list of must-read books. Every serious reader needs to read this book! Both of my daughters say they still use things they learned from this book in their reading. (But they weren't terribly crazy about the book when we read it! Ha!) Most important thing about the book--while there are many useful books you will read over the course of your life, you do not necessarily read them all the same way. There are techniques to be learned for learning how to get the most of your reading/study efforts, i.e., we can learn how to learn better.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Natasha

    I read this book because I live by the mantra, "Life is Short---Read Fast" and I hoped it would teach me how to read faster. Instead it teaches you to read slower, analytically. It also teaches you how to "date" a book---to decide if you really want to spend the time to read the whole thing before commiting yourself to it. This book has a rather pedantic tone, which makes it a little dry to plow through. But I kept at it because there were philosophical gems interspersed throughout the pages. I read this book because I live by the mantra, "Life is Short---Read Fast" and I hoped it would teach me how to read faster. Instead it teaches you to read slower, analytically. It also teaches you how to "date" a book---to decide if you really want to spend the time to read the whole thing before commiting yourself to it. This book has a rather pedantic tone, which makes it a little dry to plow through. But I kept at it because there were philosophical gems interspersed throughout the pages. One of my favorite of which follows: “But if the book belongs to the highest class—the very small number of inexhaustible books—you discover on returning that the book seems to have grown with you. You see new things in it—whole sets of new things—that you did not see before. Your previous understanding of the book in not invalidated; it is just as true as it ever was, and in the same ways that it was true before. But now it is true in still other ways, too. . . . Since it is a really good book—a great book, as we might say— it is accessible at different levels. Your impression of increased understanding on your previous reading was not false. The book truly lifted you then. But now, even though you have become wiser and more knowledgeable, it can lift you again. And it will go on doing this until you die.” (p. 343)

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ted

    This is a book for readers and for those who wish to become readers. so writes Mortimer Adler in his first sentence. 3 I stopped reading this book over MD (that's 1500) days ago. Hope no one was waiting for the review. Not likely, I know. Mortimer Adler (1902-2001) published this book in the early days of 1940. Before the U.S. had entered WW II. I guess at that point Americans were still concerned about how they should be reading books. (Adler, working at the University of Chicago, was one of the This is a book for readers and for those who wish to become readers. so writes Mortimer Adler in his first sentence. 3 ½ I stopped reading this book over MD (that's 1500) days ago. Hope no one was waiting for the review. Not likely, I know. Mortimer Adler (1902-2001) published this book in the early days of 1940. Before the U.S. had entered WW II. I guess at that point Americans were still concerned about how they should be reading books. (Adler, working at the University of Chicago, was one of the co-founders and editors of the Great Books of the Western World project, published by Britannica in the 1950s.) The currently available edition, shown as the cover to the book reviewed here, is based on a 1972 "heavily revised" edition, for which Charles Van Doren (born 1926) is listed as a co-author. I have no idea what exactly Van Doren contributed to the revised edition, but Adler notes that he had been working with him for many years at the Institute for Philosophical Research. So I simply use "Adler" as the author in what follows. the book Adler's idea behind the book was that certain books - "great" books, perhaps even near great books – deserved, demanded, to be read in a way that would allow the reader to discover and understand what the author was saying, and why it was significant. In a way, that is, that would allow the reader to enter into an internal dialogue with the author, in which the reader could see the rationale behind the author's assertions, and make an intelligent decision about whether he agreed or disagreed with the author. There are many lists in the book. The four levels of reading (Elementary, Inspectional, Analytical, and Syntopical); lengthy, detailed descriptions of the levels; three different stages of analytical reading (the first, four Rules for Finding What a Book is About; the second, four rules for Finding What a Book Says; the third, seven for Criticizing a Book as a Communication of Knowledge (arranged in two categories of such rules – General Maxims of Intellectual Etiquette & Special Criteria for Points of Criticism); the two types of books (practical books, imaginative literature); the two kinds of practical books (one type containing rules, the other type concerned with principles that generate rules) [this is more confusing in the telling, than this my summary indicates]; separate chapters on how to read several genres of books (stories/plays/poems, history, science/mathematics, philosophy, social science); five steps in syntopical reading. All of these things need to be read closely to know Adler's meaning, since he insists on using terms which he thinks necessary, and which he must define in detail, rather than more common distinctions which, for him, are not precise enough. I found much that was interesting in the book; but having read through over half the chapters, and seeing what remained, I decided that the remainder of the book could be used as a reference, and abandoned the rest of it. I did enjoy Adler's proscription to underline and write in the margins, since it was a thumbs-up to what I'd been doing for a long time. I didn't enjoy, indeed grew weary of, his nearly constant use of masculine pronouns. I suspect that the extremely few feminine pronouns crept in with the revised edition I have, and were missing in the early 1940s. Near the end of the book, Adler writes of a Pyramid of Books. Those lower in the pyramid, more than 99 per cent of the total will not make sufficient demands on you for you to improve your skill in reading… These are books that can be read only for amusement or information. The amusement may be of many kinds [thankfully, he doesn't enlarge on the kinds], and the information may be enlightening in all sorts of ways [ditto]. But you should not expect to learn anything of importance from them. In fact, you do not have to read them – analytically – at all. Skimming will do.He goes on to talk about the tippy-top of the pyramid. "Good" books, the penultimate layer, do need to be read analytically to extract what is truly worthwhile in them; however, if they are read correctly, they never need to be read again – you've got what's worthwhile, and (assuming you have a good memory) you're finished with them. But then there's the very top layer of books, perhaps less than a hundred, that contain riches that can never be fully extracted no matter how diligently you read them, and how often you re-read them. These are inexhaustible books. This may sound kind of over-the-top, but I found this section sort of moving. Adler explains things well here, acknowledging that for any given person, of the hundred or so books in this top layer, there are only a few of that total that truly speak to the interests and the inner "soul" (my word) of that person. [And I would add, that for any given person, there are books outside this top layer that could be read over and over, finding new insights and new inspirations each time.] In Appendix A, Adler presents a list of 137 authors, with one or more books for each, which he deems to be definitely "worth reading".Although not all of the books listed are "great" ... all of them will reward you for the effort you make to read them. All of these books are over most people's heads – sufficiently so, at any rate, to force most readers to stretch their minds to understand and appreciate them. And that, of course, is the kind of book you should seek out.True to form, Adler needs another three pages to qualify, and explain in detail, everything that could possibly be misconstrued, or cause a feeling of being overwhelmed, by the books in the list. The list is arranged in chronological order, beginning with the Iliad and the Odyssey of Homer, and the New Testament. I'll give the last ten (most recent) authors here. 129. Bertrand Russell: The Problems of Philosophy; The Analysis of Mind; An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth; Human Knowledge - Its Scope and Limits 130. Thomas Mann: The Magic Mountain; Joseph and His Brothers 131. Albert Einstein: The Meaning of Reality; On the Method of Theoretical Physics; The Evolution of Physics. 132. James Joyce: "The Dead" in Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses 133. Jacques Maritain: Art and Scholasticism; The Degrees of Knowledge; The Rights of Man and Natural Law; True Humanism 134. Franz Kafka: The Trial; The Castle 135. Arnold Toynbee: A Study of History; Civilization on Trial 136. Jean Paul Sarte: Nausea; No Exit; Being and Nothingness 137. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: The First Circle; Cancer Ward The entire list is on Wiki, as part of the article on How to Read a Book. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_to_.... Note that the authors mentioned are, with almost no exceptions, white males. rating I've rounded up to 4 stars. Depending a lot on the reader – how they react to Adler's very teacherly prose, how they get along with his pedantry, what exactly they hope to get from the book, how much they are used to reading in the "analytical" manner that Adler espouses – it could really be anything from a 2 to a 5. That's the range that friends on Goodreads have given it, though the average friend rates it only 3 to 3 1/2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Previous review: North of Boston Random review: The Life and Writings of Abraham Lincoln Next review: Main Street Previous library review: Christ and Apollo Next library review: Classics for Pleasure

  12. 5 out of 5

    Margitte

    I have been reading this book very slowly, on and off, the past two months, trying to have enough time to concentrate, focus, be analytical, critical and syntopical. This pedagogical work is so comprehensive, it will take forever to summarize the content. In short, this book is a must-read for any serious reader of the GREAT BOOKS of all times. It can be regarded as a manual for lecturers/teachers/reviewers, or anybody who needs to discuss a serious book. Book clubs comes to mind here for those I have been reading this book very slowly, on and off, the past two months, trying to have enough time to concentrate, focus, be analytical, critical and syntopical. This pedagogical work is so comprehensive, it will take forever to summarize the content. In short, this book is a must-read for any serious reader of the GREAT BOOKS of all times. It can be regarded as a manual for lecturers/teachers/reviewers, or anybody who needs to discuss a serious book. Book clubs comes to mind here for those of us who do not need to face a classroom and would want to apply the knowledge somewhere. You can find an interesting synopsis of the author's ideas here: GOOGLE DOCS You will immediately recognize many familiar aspect in this reading sheet compiled from Adler's book. After finishing the book you will understand why it is imperative to become an active, skillful reader. The important aspect of reading is not to read as many books as you possibly can, but rather read each book really well and enjoy it more. Of course, while reading it, I was making notes as usual - some were comments, others were highlights of the content. So instead of repeating the entire book here, I will briefly share my interpretation there of. The original book was written in 1940, with recent updates made to suit modern audiences. Someone should read both versions and report the differences. That's to say, someone who has the time to do that! The author proposes that books should be read three times for different reasons: analytically, interpretively, and critically .I. The first reading can be called structural or analytic. Here the reader proceeds from the whole to its parts. II. The second reading can be called interpretative or synthetic. Here the reader proceeds from the parts to the whole. III. The third reading can be called critical or evaluative. Here the reader judges the author, and decides whether he agrees or disagrees.I was thinking about the information-overload, the dumping of reading material onto carricula and how students struggle to keep ahead. We all know that it leads to superficial reading, not because the student does not have the mental ability to understand or analyze, but simply because modern students do not have the time to do so. No wonder students leave books behind the day they leave the torture chambers of education! What could have been an introduction to intellectual freedom, becomes a dreaded memory of concentration camps! (pun intended). So in effect our education authorities are killing off the desire for learning. It's in the book as well, and not only my opinion! “Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.” - Plato In the reading milieu, such as Goodreads, where readers gather to discuss books, time has become a lesser evil, since passion for reading replaces more or less the urgent need for gathering information - or writing dissertations, and enjoyment has become a major factor. Yes, then it will be possible to read a book three times, provided you don't have a TBR-Bucket list that is slowly driving you bonkers! There are different types of books, according to the author: I. Digests and repetitions of other books; II. Original communications The authors propose that the original communications by, for instance, Plato and Dante, be read to enable the reader to form a personal opinion of the original author's books. Digests and Repetitions of other books, according to him, leaves too much room for subjective interpretation in which much of the original charm may get lost. However, in my opinion, most readers today are dependent on the translations to enjoy the books. In fact, if it wasn't for the translations, most of these books would never have enjoyed such a wide audience today. As discussed in the book, Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages, by Guy Deutscher, the translation in itself can alter the meaning of some words by simply interpreting the original word subjectively in a different culture. The Bible translations is a prime example of it. Then the interpretation of the content of a book in itself can differ vastly, as can be observed in the different reviews of one book on Goodreads alone. Classroom interpretations by teachers are not much different. But let's be honest, if it wasn't for excellent teachers introducing us to Shakespeare through manuals such as Shakespeare for Dummies, or something similar, we, as modern readers, especially the non-English speaking contingent, all might still be in therapy after colliding with this particular author head-on without any rescue workers on the way! Honestly, I am still reeling and it has already been decades later! However, the authors' arguments in the book, about reading the original communications, make sense. Perhaps different translations of the same work should be considered. It is with the original communications (Great books in particular) that the rules of reading can assist greatly. What a great thought to know that by reading the original communications from the old masters, we actually experience a direct communication with him or her! I never really thought about it this way. How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler, Charles Van Doren, is old news in a new jacket, as we say in Africa. Most of the principles in the original book have been implemented at universities and classrooms since 1940 and certainly made a huge difference. Although we did not always have time to follow the rules exactly, we were taught the rules, which enabled us to implement it more, later in our lives, when we had time to do so. DIY-manuals versus classroom participation is an important concept discussed in the book - an important one. What with reading printed books being stamped with an expiry date all over it, according to the doomsayers, we could at least attempt to teach family members the joy and secrets of reading again, after a book like this. For interest's sake: I recently had a conversation with a documentary-producer from China. He told me how futile our modern information technology have become. It doesn't matter how small or big the storage devices are, and will become, they still have a limited life span. Thus, everything stored digitally or electronically, and not being restored constantly on new devices, will be lost in time and ultimately proven useless. It's a sobering and upsetting thought. In that sense, there's still room for printed books. They might not last as long as the Egyptian papyrus scrolls, clay tablets of Mesopotamia,the Pre-Columbian codices of the Americas, and the old books preserving master texts such as the Italian Divinia Commedia, by Dante Alighieri, begun c. 1308 and completed 1320, but we have a chance of keeping future generations informed by keeping the art of reading printed works alive. Perhaps there's also still a need to memorize important information as was done a few thousand years ago when oral history was the only way forward! :-) This book enables rookies to get introduced to the real joy of real reading again. The point is, we need to read books like these again to remind us of this dying art form. In the first place, you must be able to grasp what is being offered as knowledge. In the second place, you must judge whether what is being offered is really acceptable to you as knowledge. In the other words, there is first the task of understanding the book, and second the job of criticizing it. These two are quite separate, as you will see more and more. The text is divided into 4 sections (over 21 chapters): Part 1 - THE ACTIVITY OF READING - The Dimensions of Reading; read to understand, not for relaxation, gaining knowledge, amusement, or anything else.; Part 2 - THE RULES -The Third Level of Reading: the rules for analytical reading; Part 3 - THE REST OF THE READER'S LIFE - Approaches to Different Kinds of Reading Matter; Part 4 - The Ultimate Goals of Reading - syntopical reading. There are excellent reviews and discussions of this book in other Goodread reviews. You might want to read a few. If you really have time to apply all the rules to a book, resulting in taking up to one month to read one book, you might want to choose a book that is really worth the effort. The GREAT books of all times will do nicely :-)) Nonfiction will work even better. Some hick-ups: There were copious numbers of spelling or typing errors in the book, which drove me slightly insane. A pity, really. Hopefully it was only this particular edition I have found. Quite some jumping-around on the concepts; repetitive, elaborate, tedious illustrations of the ideas; and perhaps a too formal classroom approach to the information that might scare some readers off. However, it is still a highly informative read. For a book being written in 1940 it is not too bad. I would have thought that the approach to the information should have been 'modernized' though, while it was republished. The readers of today are a totally different kettle of fish. Editing is the magic word! I am not sure if this is the best book to read for improving reading skills, but it is certainly the father of them all and I learnt a lot from it. I will refer back to it as well - it was worth it. It took two months, remember? :-)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Taka

    Tedious,turgid, and torturous-- Thank God I've gained a few insights from this: the usefulness of inspectional reading and how to read poetry (which consists of reading it as fast as you can and rereading it aloud). Some thoughts on syntopical reading are somewhat interesting for anyone writing dissertations and theses, but not really for the average reader without a Ph.D. to pursue. I thank God for the insights because otherwise I would've wasted all my time. I found 90% of the information simply Tedious,turgid, and torturous-- Thank God I've gained a few insights from this: the usefulness of inspectional reading and how to read poetry (which consists of reading it as fast as you can and rereading it aloud). Some thoughts on syntopical reading are somewhat interesting for anyone writing dissertations and theses, but not really for the average reader without a Ph.D. to pursue. I thank God for the insights because otherwise I would've wasted all my time. I found 90% of the information simply useless and terribly presented. The authors tend to painstakingly explain problems with unnecessarily long illustrations that take into account minuscule and trifling technicalities and terminological issues that make for an extremely tedious read. In fact, the tedium of it is simply incredible. The authors used terminology of their own and elaborated on every little detail. The book could have been dubbed, Dialectical Philosophy of Analytical and Syntopical Reading or some such insufferable, yawn-inducing title. Frankly, after page 100, I HAD to skim most of the material to stay awake and not waste any more minute of my life. Just know that superficial reading - reading without stopping to think or look up words - is important because it enables us to grasp the whole. This makes sense from a scientific POV since we like to start from general statements (Brain Rules) and when reading poetry which is usually emotional, we want our right brain to absorb the mood and emotions pervading the work (Writing the Natural Way). Don't waste your time - if you're still interested, inspectional-read it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dan Porter

    I read this in 2003. Most of it was concerned with the various levels of reading - from skimming to syntopical - and the various methods and processes involved in reading at each of those levels. There was also a lengthy section on ways to approach the reading of different genres. While I found all of this interesting, I felt it was ultimately impractical for me because focusing on the method by which I read would distract from the enjoyment reading has always afforded me. I'm sure I've I read this in 2003. Most of it was concerned with the various levels of reading - from skimming to syntopical - and the various methods and processes involved in reading at each of those levels. There was also a lengthy section on ways to approach the reading of different genres. While I found all of this interesting, I felt it was ultimately impractical for me because focusing on the method by which I read would distract from the enjoyment reading has always afforded me. I'm sure I've subconsciously incorporated some of the things I learned from Adler and Van Doren, but I can't make myself follow a set of steps or procedures to do something I enjoy doing the way I've always done it. The first thing from the book that has stuck with me was a statement to the effect that, to be considered well-read, one should have at some point read The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Aeneid, The Divine Comedy, and Paradise Lost. I'm not sure why that stuck with me or why it then became important for me to read them. Maybe it was just another "reading list" to be conquered but the almost total absence of poetry in all my years of reading made this one a little daunting. Since 2003 I've read and enjoyed all of them, and I’ve discovered that I enjoy getting into a good epic poem. One of the benefits of having read these is that my reading of books that reference or allude to them has been enhanced. The second thing I took from Adler and Van Doren was their actual reading list, included as an appendix. Very heavy on the ancient classics, philosophy, and science, so working my way through it has been a lengthy and winding trail. The last two things are somewhat related and are those that have most impacted my reading; not how I read, but how my reading affects me. These are the concepts of the pyramid of books and the conversation of great books – what I call the literary conversation. The authors contend that the books we read form a pyramid with the base consisting of the majority of our reading material; that which doesn't stretch our reading skills. As we move up the pyramid, we encounter books that are increasingly difficult for us because, at the time we read them, our reading skills – how we understand a book and make it our own – are not at the level necessary to grasp all that is available from the book. If we return to those books at a later date they will not seem as difficult because our reading skills will have improved in the interim. At the peak of each of our individual pyramids is the handful of books that will improve our abilities each time we read them because there is much more there than can be grasped at a single skill level. This is not to say that any given book will be at the peak of everyone's pyramid. There are too many ways for books and people to relate to each other for that to ever be the case, and that's where the literary conversation comes into play. Complex systems have been defined as “system(s) composed of interconnected parts that as a whole exhibit one or more properties not obvious from the properties of the individual parts.” When it comes to reading, that complex system is the literary conversation. Adler and Van Doren believe that great books - those that stand the test of time and consistently stretch the reading abilities of large numbers of people - engage in a conversation with us and, through us, with each other. In my experience, the most common form of this conversation is when an author quotes or alludes to another book in his own book. The book quoted or alluded to is generally one that is considered a classic. Some instances can be fairly extensive as in Andrew Davidson's The Gargoyle wherein the protagonist experiences a chapter-long nightmare based on Dante's The Inferno. A more subtle - and to me more satisfying - form of the conversation occurs when I recognize in different authors a common theme or concept expressed from differing perspectives. I read Thomas Pynchon's V. and Umberto Eco's Baudolino about a month apart. Despite the dissimilarity of the authors and the stories, at a climactic scene in each of the books the point that, in life, the journey is often more important than the destination was expressed from almost opposite perspectives. The scene from V. gave me the perspective that sometimes, when what we've sought is almost within our grasp, we make our faith a lie so that we don't have to give up our quest by achieving its goal, while Baudolino looked at the same point from the perspective that the achievement of a goal sometimes precipitates the loss of the spirit, drive, and fellowship that were the quest. I don't know if I happen to periodically recognize such similarities because of where I am in life at the time or if Serendipity flutters her wings at just the right moment, but they always elicit from me a softly uttered, "Wow!"

  15. 5 out of 5

    Diem

    This is a tremendous personal victory for me for two reasons, the first of which has to do with the book itself and the second of which has to do with a concerted reallocation of time. Ever since I first learned of the book's existence I understood that it was a book that I really SHOULD read. And I had an intention to read it. A desire to read it. And yet, I never read it. I did lots of other things that could have gone without doing. So, it really wasn't a matter of time. Celebrities got fat This is a tremendous personal victory for me for two reasons, the first of which has to do with the book itself and the second of which has to do with a concerted reallocation of time. Ever since I first learned of the book's existence I understood that it was a book that I really SHOULD read. And I had an intention to read it. A desire to read it. And yet, I never read it. I did lots of other things that could have gone without doing. So, it really wasn't a matter of time. Celebrities got fat and thin and pregnant and married and arrested and fired and would have done all of those things even if I had not been so fastidious about tracking it. Inspired by a listening to a Susan Wise Bauer lecture on self education, I set aside time before my morning workout to read a book. I didn't have to get up any earlier than was my habit. I just had to swap online time for book time. I set a goal of reading 4 mornings a week for a minimum of 30 minutes. I decided to start with this book because my ultimate goal was to tackle some selections from the Great Books compendium in preparation for guiding my homeschooled eldest daughter through a Great Books education. After the first morning, I was so invigorated by the reading that I decided not to take the next day off but to continue the reading. And I never did take a morning off after that. It has become one of the highlights of my day. I would feel deprived if I could not start my day this way. The book. What a revelation. I am the reader being spoken of in the places where he refers to readers that have read wide but not deep. Prolific readers who couldn't tell you what they had just read if their lives depended upon it. For shame! I took all of Adler's advice on how to REALLY read a book to heart. The trend today is for authors to begin each book that deals with how to embark upon a new venture or how to approach an old venture in a new way by saying, "This seems hard but it is really QUITE EASY!" Not Adler. Adler tells you upfront: Reading a book well is hard. It requires a great deal of effort. It will become frustrating sometimes. It will still be worth it. I outlined the book as I read which meant it took even longer to read but for perhaps the first time I closed a book with a sense that I truly understood it. I had not skimmed over vast sections of it with an arrogant sense of already knowing the gist of it. And now that I think about it, I've spent most of my life "gist" reading most books. I felt an enormous sense of relief when Adler explained that the reason why we give up on books that seem over our heads is because they ARE over our heads and it is incumbent upon us to raise ourselves to that level. I had always assumed that I should understand it and the fact that I did not meant I was too stupid to ever understand it. I would give up and read something "light" and excuse it as a "palate cleanser" (looking at you, Bridget Jones right next to the dusty and never-read Tom Jones on my shelf). I won't get into the mechanics of the book but to say that it is impeccably organized. The vocabulary might be challenging but don't worry. You can do this. You should do this. And there should be a class in every school that teaches this book and the approach to reading that it prescribes. Adler would not approve of my classification of his book but here it is: Game Changer. Cannot over-recommend.

  16. 4 out of 5

    travelgirlut

    May 26, 2013: My kids laughed at me when they saw I was getting a book about how to read a book. I'm an avid reader so I honestly didn't think I would get much from reading this, but I have to be honest, I usually don't remember much about what I read once I'm finished. This book teaches you how to get the most from books that are actually worth reading. Some important points I gleaned: - Not all books are worth reading well. Some are only worthy of a cursory read-through. - A good book should May 26, 2013: My kids laughed at me when they saw I was getting a book about how to read a book. I'm an avid reader so I honestly didn't think I would get much from reading this, but I have to be honest, I usually don't remember much about what I read once I'm finished. This book teaches you how to get the most from books that are actually worth reading. Some important points I gleaned: - Not all books are worth reading well. Some are only worthy of a cursory read-through. - A good book should move us from understanding less to understanding more, not just give us new facts or knowledge. - Reading is like having a conversation with the author, which is really kind of cool if you think about it. You can talk to Plato or Aristotle or even Hitler if you want, just by reading the words they put down on a page. And we should be talking back to the authors, finding the truth or fallacies in what they say, analyzing their words and coming up with our own to counter theirs. While this book was very strong in explaining the whys of reading better, I felt it fell a little flat in the how department, especially in the sections at the end explaining how to read specific types of books. I would wrap my brain around how reading fiction is different than non-fiction and just need a concrete example to cement it all, and it would move on to something else. If you wanted to pair this book with another that gives more hand-holding in the how-to department, I would read this one first, then follow it up with The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had. The-Well Educated Mind gives very specific step-by-step instructions on the actual reading of books, but is much weaker in the why department. So between the two, you can get a complete picture of how and why this process works to get our brains moving and learning. Besides the actual content of the book, I found How to Read a Book to be written in such a way that I found it a pleasure to read. Something about how the authors put words together made me feel smarter just reading it. They used intelligent words and phrasing that pushed me just enough without feeling pompous. Even in the drier sections of the book, I found myself slowing down just to enjoy the words. I realize this marks me out as a bit of a word nerd, but oh well! UPDATE June 29, 2016: I've now read this book for a second time and still feel the same way as I did above. This time through I took notes while reading and I think I was able to get a better picture of how it all fits together, but I still think the second section that describes the differences in reading varying types of books to be weaker than the initial how and why section. The chapters actually taper off in usefulness the farther into the book you go. My biggest take-away from this reading: Alder tells us that if you've read a good book well, you should never have to read it again because you've garnered everything from it that you can and learned all that it has to teach you. However, there are some great books that will always have something new to teach you because they grow with you. Those second type of books are the ones we should be looking for and reading. I feel like I've now gotten everything from this book that it has to teach me. My task now is to take what I've learned and go use it on the great books out there in the world. (I again plan to follow this up with The Well-Educated Mind since there is a new edition out and I want to see what's new!)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jay

    It changed the way I read books (I read primarily non-fiction). Reading is no longer just "look at every word until they are all seen," nor is it like a tape that plays from the beginning to the end. This book taught me the value of skimming books as a way of time management. From this, I also became better aware of how to connect with the author of a book, through using the 'tools' the author provides to help understand the content: everything from the table of contents, to the introduction, to It changed the way I read books (I read primarily non-fiction). Reading is no longer just "look at every word until they are all seen," nor is it like a tape that plays from the beginning to the end. This book taught me the value of skimming books as a way of time management. From this, I also became better aware of how to connect with the author of a book, through using the 'tools' the author provides to help understand the content: everything from the table of contents, to the introduction, to each paragraph, to the index. In general, this book has taught me how to approach reading such that I can benefit more from (and therefore better appreciate) a book and all the thought and effort put therein by its author. For more eloquent and comprehensive praise, see amazon.com's reviews. Note: I get weird looks from people when they see its title. :P

  18. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    150715: this is a later addition: in answer to the title question 'how to...' I must offer my considered reply, that might be buried, might be forgotten, might be so obvious no one ever states it. how? with joy, with pleasure, with desire, in whatever language, in translations, in genres, in history. to add to this, in personal claim: from a comfortable, shaded, breezy lanai of the condo facing the beach, listening to the surf, the wild chickens, the laughter of children in the pool... first 150715: this is a later addition: in answer to the title question 'how to...' I must offer my considered reply, that might be buried, might be forgotten, might be so obvious no one ever states it. how? with joy, with pleasure, with desire, in whatever language, in translations, in genres, in history. to add to this, in personal claim: from a comfortable, shaded, breezy lanai of the condo facing the beach, listening to the surf, the wild chickens, the laughter of children in the pool... first review: i read a lot of books. many are not the sort many people read, but nonetheless i believe i read in a widely- if not 'well'- read way. this is of its time 1940, updated 1972. so the five rating is perhaps deceptive. i do not always agree with some of the suggestions, the judgements, even the final implied value of 'how to read'- where this is 'what to read'. i believe it is more important that you read than what you read. i would not presume to tell readers it is best to read 'above their heads', that reading should be done well, even done at all, but this book works with such assertions given to those of us who, well, like to read, value reading, are open to anything that helps this project... the five stars is sincere, on the other, as so many intro philosophy texts i have read, in that it encourages me to read on, read more, read other books. by way of describing this book, as it suggests, it is useful to simply refer to the organized and complete contents pages: part one: dimensions of reading. 1) activity and art of reading 2) levels of reading 3) elementary reading 4) inspectional reading 5) how to be a demanding reader. part two: third level, analytic reading 6) pigeonholing a book 7) x-raying a book 8) coming to terms with an author 9) determining author's message 10) criticizing a book fairly 11) agreeing or disagreeing with an author 12) aids to reading. part three: approaches to different kinds of reading 13) how to read practical books 14) imaginative literature 15) suggestions for stories, plays, poems 16) history 17) science and math 18) philosophy 19) social science. part four: ultimate goals of reading 20) syntopical reading 21) reading and growth of your mind. for me, i recognize that as the levels progress they blend together and no longer follow each other, that i have part one primarily as unconscious, usually very good, skills. it is good to have them enumerated, examined, so that i might learn consciously. of part two, this is clearest that reading is an active, serious, pragmatic operation, and is familiar awareness, here unstated that it is fruitful to 'stretch your mind'. by part three, it is by order assumed we the readers should learn first the skills of reading nonfiction, that only then can we approach fiction. i have only just read this work, here i am trying to set it in my mind. it is a friendly, helpful, book that offers the reader an awareness if not simply practical advice on how to read. this practical advice is not ignored, but will show up later... i must admit then i am an inconsistent, perhaps mistaken reader. i do not x-ray books, or read blurbs, commentaries, introductions, i hate coming across readers' notations, underlining, highlighting... so never do this myself, i often have the habit of reading nonfiction such as philosophy as if fiction, i do not like to know too much of the author, i often ignore even pointed declarations of commentators and simply go with what is written, i enjoy poetical tendencies in non-poetic work, such as jargon in nonfiction... on the other: yes i often ''syntopically' read many works by the same author, yes i often think too much power is granted to the writer in fiction and we readers should take it back, yes i read several authors on the same arts, read multiple works by this or that philosopher (henri bergson, husserl, heidegger, sartre, merleau-ponty, ) or writer (ross macdonald, robbe-grillet, saramago), i read only ever for fun- but my idea of 'fun' is four hundred pages on 'how to read'... this is not the first book i have read on this subject, simply one of the best to start, then you can go on to, say: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1..., or: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5..., or: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3... or: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... or: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8... or you can go afield: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3... or more technically: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5... i enjoyed all of these books, though they are more on poetics, more 'this is what you are reading'...

  19. 5 out of 5

    Romanas

    Having thousands of books behind me, I thought that a book with the title How to Read a Book would fall into the same category as the books about how to walk or how to ride a bicycle. But then there's a question -- how many of those books I really understood and how many of them just gave me information, which would anyway be gone almost completely after a while? This regards primarily to expository books, since reading of literature has a different purpose. Sometimes, the most obvious is not Having thousands of books behind me, I thought that a book with the title How to Read a Book would fall into the same category as the books about how to walk or how to ride a bicycle. But then there's a question -- how many of those books I really understood and how many of them just gave me information, which would anyway be gone almost completely after a while? This regards primarily to expository books, since reading of literature has a different purpose. Sometimes, the most obvious is not that obvious, and like in any kind of endeavor there are levels of nerdiness. This one appears to be quite useful. On a global scale, 95 percent of adults are literate and they know how to read. However, the percentage of those who can read well is another story. How many of you, equipped with the normal memorization abilities, can properly recollect what you have read some years ago? For the most part, 99% of the content is gone after a while. I believe though that insights from the books we forget still remain in some corners of our consciousness and they contribute to the wholeness of our thinking. However, in order to boost the capability of thinking and understanding, reading structured and well is of great importance. Mortimer Adler in this old book provides the methodology for doing it. The author suggests four levels of reading: 1) Elementary 2) Inspectional 3) Analytical, and 4) Syntopical reading (also known as comparative reading). Many of us read for information, and, usually, that is enough for literature, but when it comes to expository books the aim should be understanding. And there is a big difference between reading for information and reading for understanding. Traditional education seems to be unaware of the levels of reading and seldom provides some structure for reading for proper understanding. Therefore many of us probably have a nagging feeling that we don't know how to read well. The author fills that gap by showing which skills are needed to become good at reading. I believe, If we put hard work and apply the steps proposed the time spent on books will increase in value dramatically. The ideas the authors suggests are worth five stars, but, the writing, unfortunately, is somewhere between two and three. It is a bit tedious and repetitive. I need to admit, I am a very competitive person, and the amount of the books read is one of my personal KPI's - a measure which is quite useless for the reading of non-fiction books. I am going test the suggested style of reading and see if it can make a difference.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alok Mishra

    Well, this is a book that tells the readers about the 'right methods' to read a book. However, this book is for the readers who are classic in their thoughts and can bear a book without any trouble. The content might be richer only for those who believe in rich content but not in the delivery of the content. Too much analysis might not be suitable for readers who read works for pleasure. Ideal for students of literature (mainly non-fiction readers).

  21. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    It's not how much you read, but how well--and this book gives you specific, step-by-step techniques to get you to read as well as possible. First of all, who would be so presumptuous as to advise fellow adults on how to read--a skill notionally possessed by everyone who's made it through public school? Well, Mortimer J. Adler, philosopher, longtime editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and moving force behind the Britannica Great Books of the Western World series; and Charles Van Doren, Adler's It's not how much you read, but how well--and this book gives you specific, step-by-step techniques to get you to read as well as possible. First of all, who would be so presumptuous as to advise fellow adults on how to read--a skill notionally possessed by everyone who's made it through public school? Well, Mortimer J. Adler, philosopher, longtime editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and moving force behind the Britannica Great Books of the Western World series; and Charles Van Doren, Adler's colleague at the Institute for Philosophical Research and author of, among other works, The Idea of Progress. Observing that most of us don't get very much out of a book when we read it, they set about to help those of us who want to, to get more. Their method applies mostly to reading nonfiction. While they devote 2 chapters out of 21 to reading "imaginative literature", and have useful things to say about such reading, I found these chapters to be the weakest, since imaginative literature lies outside the zone that is most conducive to their analytical approach. But for nonfiction reading they set out a powerful, systematic method for getting the most out of a book. Not all works deserve equally deep reading. Indeed, most books are simply bad according to the authors, and not worth reading at all. Many others might contain information or ideas that are useful, without being especially significant overall. A few--a very few--are the considered, mature works by the best minds in the history of recorded thought. These, the authors assert, merit our close attention and careful reading and rereading. So the authors introduce us to the "levels of reading", of which they set out four: 1. Elementary reading: This is the basic skill of being able to read with comprehension. Do we have it? If not, we need to work on this. 2. Inspectional reading: This is how to assess a book's promise quickly by examining its table of contents, index, and flap blurbs, and by skimming key parts of the text. 3. Analytical reading: This section of 6 chapters forms the core of the book. Here you learn how to look for the key arguments of a book, summarize these, and discover any special meanings the book's author is giving certain terms, as well as how to criticize the book fairly and determine where you stand in relation to the author's main thesis. 4. Syntopical reading: This is the term the authors give to the highest, most demanding level of reading--the level required for serious research that requires the comparison of different texts. Syntopical reading is possible only for those who already have a decent grasp of analytical reading. The authors admit that to follow their method completely is hard, time-consuming work, and appropriate only for the most worthy texts. That's why it's important to master the skills of inspectional reading, which allow us to gain a quick idea of which books deserve this deluxe treatment. I myself have applied Adler and Van Doren's methods to only a few books so far, and have not completed the method for any one book (it is indeed a lot of work). The one I've gone furthest with so far is an analytical reading of A Free Nation Deep in Debt: The Financial Roots of Democracy by James Macdonald, a book that, in my view, amply deserves such a reading. Even though I have not got to the end of my analytical reading, by following Adler and Van Doren's methods I have very much deepened and clarified my understanding of Macdonald's book, and I know that if I finish my analysis I will be able to say I have truly read it. I'm currently reading the Organon of Aristotle, and I intend to apply the Adler-Van Doren method to these books when I'm done. I've already made a start with the Categories, and it's already bearing fruit in the form of increased comprehension. If you're serious about reading, you owe it to yourself to read this book; and the more serious you are, the more important it is that you make an appointment with this book. Read it well.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mikol

    I read this book in the mid-seventies. I was in my early twenties I think. I had a voracious appetite for books. This volume really helped me organize the way that I read and helped me be discerning regarding what books to read. One idea from the book that I still recall 30 years later is his discussion about teachers, dead and alive. Books were the dead teachers, but teachers nonetheless. And as a result of the published work, one could get to know the teacher if the work was of good quality and I read this book in the mid-seventies. I was in my early twenties I think. I had a voracious appetite for books. This volume really helped me organize the way that I read and helped me be discerning regarding what books to read. One idea from the book that I still recall 30 years later is his discussion about teachers, dead and alive. Books were the dead teachers, but teachers nonetheless. And as a result of the published work, one could get to know the teacher if the work was of good quality and you, the student, asked quality questions of the teacher. I highly recommend this volume as it is timeless in many of its parts. My criticism today would be the recommended reading list. It seemed to be eurocentric at the time and it was incomplete then and would be horribly out of date now. #

  23. 4 out of 5

    John

    I love this book. This is not to say that I bear it the kind of feeling that puts it on a shelf of 'All Time Classics', but I do have a certain affinity for it; it is the love of admiration. As a life-long reader, I admit that I scoffed at the title. My children did too, along with complete strangers (I had more people approach me about this book than any other I have ever read). The reaction was always the same: a mixed incredulity that a person should read a book about how to read a book. I love this book. This is not to say that I bear it the kind of feeling that puts it on a shelf of 'All Time Classics', but I do have a certain affinity for it; it is the love of admiration. As a life-long reader, I admit that I scoffed at the title. My children did too, along with complete strangers (I had more people approach me about this book than any other I have ever read). The reaction was always the same: a mixed incredulity that a person should read a book about how to read a book. Doesn't this seem counter-intuitive? Shouldn't you already know how to read a book before tackling this 400 page tome? Why was the book so thick? And, really--what was it about? Yet this is precisely why I love this book. Adler and Van Doren have tackled the unenviable task of analyzing how to most effectively read a book. I believe that people of average intelligence who have also been reading for most of their lives will find that these prescriptions are really just descriptions of what they have been doing intuitively for the better part of their lives. The steps that the authors present are commonsense depictions of what (as they put it) an ideal reader should be doing in the first place. Again, reasonably intelligent people who have been reading actively throughout their lives should feel that these are obvious steps. Which brings me back to why I love this book: As an instructor, I find that the majority of readers in the world DO NOT follow these steps. If I could--if the curriculum were up to me--I would force every student who entered college to first read this book before being allowed to sign up for classes. The book not only provides steps to properly reading a book, but it also provides two other important features that every student needs: 1) A basic primer in critical thinking skills; 2) A passionate defense of the lost love of knowledge. Those two principles are lost in our modern culture of fast-times and easy sensations; Adler and Van Doren's work provides a throwback to an earlier age wherein erudition and the improvement of the self were the chief concerns of educated people (I also would like to note that I recognize that these aims have been lost somewhat in the post-modern intellectual age). Though I have no illusions that this book would solve the conditioning that students bring to a learning environment, I do think that it would be a great first step towards (perhaps) igniting some passion buried deep in them. I also think that it would help them to analyze their world, especially since this book discounts the notion that 'Because I feel like it' is a valid reason for maintaining a position. As this book points out, this is not a tenable opinion. I hope that the previous paragraph makes it clear that this work is invaluable to the early college student. I also believe it is beneficial to post-college professionals: by becoming familiar with this work, a graduate has access to succinct phrases which can help to clarify their thoughts AND which may prove beneficial in educating others or in showing sound logical principles to those who have not spent much time in regards to critical thinking. In essence, I think that any serious thinker may find him or herself cheering on the logic inherent in this great work. Let me close by saying that I think my review may sound a bit snobby ('Oh, knowledge is so great! Oh, society is stupid, etc.'). I want to defend that approach by saying that I think that we need more books like this, ones that give an alternative modeling to social identities and that provide a real, tangible intellectual approach to science and the humanities. There are too many meme-bites on the internet that celebrate an intellectual lifestyle without actually contributing much substance to what is being celebrated. This book exhibits a serious attempt at intellectual models that can help anyone to become (gasp!) a better person.

  24. 5 out of 5

    John Harder

    Mortimer Adler is a pompous snob. This is why I like him. Old Mort (actually he is now dead Mort) takes us through various techniques of reading, with a focus on how to gather the most from a book in the most efficient manner. Depending in the circumstances and type of book a light skim might be best, others a lifetime of study. Much of what Adler discusses is obvious but like with all things we sometimes get lazy and ignore the fundamentals. I love how Mort says that in the history of man only Mortimer Adler is a pompous snob. This is why I like him. Old Mort (actually he is now dead Mort) takes us through various techniques of reading, with a focus on how to gather the most from a book in the most efficient manner. Depending in the circumstances and type of book a light skim might be best, others a lifetime of study. Much of what Adler discusses is obvious but like with all things we sometimes get lazy and ignore the fundamentals. I love how Mort says that in the history of man only about 1,000 books are worth reading and only about 100 are worth re-reading. Though he does not go into this in his book I have heard interviews with the author. He essentially says there is nothing new under the sun, therefore why not stick to authors who most perfectly express the human condition or the state of the universe. If you are not a serious reader skip this book….if you are, give it a shot.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jasmine

    "Reading well, which means reading actively, is thus not only a good in itself, nor is it merely a means to advancement in our work or career. It also serves to keep our minds alive and growing." (p. 336). This practical guide is about the Art of Reading. Highly recommended for readers who prefer quality over quantity.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Smiley

    I used to read its first edition by Professor Mortimer J. Adler in my college years some 50 years ago. The title looks simple, basic or primary to some people who have not yet read this fantastic, practical and authoritative manual for good readers. In short, this book should provide scholarly ways of reading toward true readers in universities and beyond. Highly recommended to all scholars who love reading, it will change your reading life for ever.

  27. 5 out of 5

    K.M. Weiland

    Ironically, I found this book nearly unreadable. Basic tenets are presented as high concepts in a pompous, bloated style.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Abugosh

    Ironically, this book was really hard to read, but it did provide a lot of interesting information, especially around how to become a better non-fiction reader. The main idea behind the book is that there are different levels of reading and that if you want to become a master reader you have to either read a book multiple times (understanding the author better with each reading), or learn to fully comprehend a book from its first reading, by reading carefully, taking notes, and understanding the Ironically, this book was really hard to read, but it did provide a lot of interesting information, especially around how to become a better non-fiction reader. The main idea behind the book is that there are different levels of reading and that if you want to become a master reader you have to either read a book multiple times (understanding the author better with each reading), or learn to fully comprehend a book from its first reading, by reading carefully, taking notes, and understanding the author's full context. My honest thoughts are, who has time for that nowadays? I barely have time to read a book one time as it is. However, this book is a good reminder that for certain books, we need to show them more respect and fully appreciate the knowledge they contain. Also, I don't think most modern books are that sophisticated. It's not like I'm reading Homer or Dante's Divine Comedy, but that's the point, maybe I should. That's one thing that this book has made me want to do: read more of the classics that are worthy of a deep reading or even multiple reads! (the best thing about this book is in the appendix, the author provides a list of his top evergreen books from the last thousand years)

  29. 4 out of 5

    Gandi Munkhjargal

    Makes so much fuss over common sense. Overly redundant. Not to mention the snobby aura the author gives. Plus, the book should be called How To Read a Non-Fiction. I would have teared this book down if it wasn't for very few worthy ideas I scavenged from here after so much labour. Those ideas include: 1. 3 Stages of Analytical Reading: 1. What's the book about? State it briefly. What are the problems the author wants to solve? 2. What are the key words, propositions, arguments in the book? What Makes so much fuss over common sense. Overly redundant. Not to mention the snobby aura the author gives. Plus, the book should be called How To Read a Non-Fiction. I would have teared this book down if it wasn't for very few worthy ideas I scavenged from here after so much labour. Those ideas include: 1. 3 Stages of Analytical Reading: 1. What's the book about? State it briefly. What are the problems the author wants to solve? 2. What are the key words, propositions, arguments in the book? What problems did the author solve and doesn't solve? Why? 3. Don't judge a book unless you fully understand it, and if you understood the book but disagree, do so on following basis only: -when the author is either uninformed or misinformed, -when his/her arguments are logically unsound (i. e. when the conclusion doesn't derive from the premises (non sequitur) and inconsistency) -when his/her analysis is incomplete If you can't prove any of those above, you cannot disagree. You simply don't like the conclusions. You're not disagreeing but expressing your emotions and prejudices. 2. If you don't understand something, it is very likely to be the author's proposition, so slow down. Peruse. 3. To check whether you really understood the proposition or not, try saying it in your own words; more better, in another language. Lucky for us, ESLs.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Paul Willis

    This was awesome! Since reading it I haven't had a chance to really employ the methods, so I'll have to look back at it next time I'm going to read a heavy book.

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