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How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading (A Touchstone book) Paperback – August 15, 1972

ISBN-13: 004-2516291251 ISBN-10: 0671212095 Edition: Revised

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Product Details

  • Series: A Touchstone book
  • Paperback: 426 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; Revised edition (August 15, 1972)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671212095
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671212094
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 6.7 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (282 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,364 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"These four hundred pages are packed full of high matters which no one solicitous of the future of American culture can afford to overlook." (Jacques Barzun)

"It shows concretely how the serious work of proper reading may be accomplished and how much it may yield in the way of instruction and delight." (The New Yorker)

About the Author

Dr. Mortimer J. Adler was Chairman of the Board of the Encyclopedia Britannica, Director of the Institute for Philosophical Research, Honorary Trustee of the Aspen Institute, and authored more than fifty books. He died in 2001.

Dr. Charles Van Doren earned advanced degrees in both literature and mathematics from Columbia University, where he later taught English and was the Assistant Director of the Institute for Philosophical Research. He also worked for Encyclopedia Britannica in Chicago.

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Customer Reviews

How to Read a Book provides a good overview of, well, how to read a book!
J. Clemence
Dealt up in four major parts, the authors cover the four levels of reading: Elementary Reading, Inspectional Reading, Analytical Reading, and Syntopical Reading.
p_abc85
In fact, this book will help you better enjoy and understand what you read.
AdamSmythe

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

642 of 653 people found the following review helpful By Rob Taylor on December 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested" (Francis Bacon). This is one of those books.

How to Read a Book is a classic guide to intelligent reading and my opinion is that it should be standard reading, particularly for the college-bound student. Don't let the title fool you. This book is not a simplistic review of what you learned in the second grade. The book is divided into four parts.

Part one includes what Adler calls the first two levels of reading: elementary and inspectional reading. In total he sets forth four levels of reading: elementary reading, inspectional reading, analytical reading and syntopical reading. He proceeds to tell us that reading is an active process since the teacher is not available to deliberate. In keeping with this activity we are told how to read faster while comprehending more, how to find answers to our questions from within the book and how to make the right kind of notes in the book.

Part two contains the third level of reading: analytical reading. "Reading a book analytically is chewing and digesting it" (p.19). We now learn how to determine the type of literature we are reading, what type of structure it has and we learn that we must come to grasp with the author's vocabulary. The point of all this is to understand the message of the author. If we are unable to state the author's message concisely in our own terms, we have learned nothing. Only after we first understand what the author is saying, can we begin criticize him fairly. Once we have read analytically, we can agree with the author, disagree with him or we can postpone judgment until we have learned more if we wish. Adler suggests that we do not consult other study helps until we first have read the book analytically.
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906 of 944 people found the following review helpful By R. Tiedemann on June 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
As a book reviewer for the past 20 years, with hundreds of reviews in print and electronic media, I think I know a little about reading books. I was fascinated to find that Adler and Van Doren have, in HOW TO READ A BOOK, clearly articulated what I had discovered on my own.
Most people read at an elementary level. Common print media -- newspapers, magazines -- are geared to this first level, that of eighth or ninth grade. Reading at this level is simple and unsophisticated. It is a fairly simple procedure. As someone once said, "You just pick up a book and look at every word until you've seen them all."
The second level of reading is inspectional. Two steps are performed simultaneously. The reader skims, or pre-reads, by studying the title page, preface, table of contents, index, dust jacket and a chapter or two. He thumbs through the book, reading a bit here and there. Then he reads the entire book superficially without bothering whether he understands it or not. I might argue that if you don't understand what you're reading, you're not reading at all. However, this is the kind of reading I do when I'm selecting a book to review. It is just the beginning.
Adler and Van Doren argue that this kind of superficial reading can prepare a reader for enjoying more difficult works. "The tremendous pleasure that can come from reading Shakespeare, for example, was spoiled for generations of high school students who were forced to go through 'Julius Caesar,''As You Like It,' or 'Hamlet' scene by scene, looking up all the strange words in a glossary and studying all the footnotes," write the authors. "As a result, the never read a Shakespeare play. By the time they reached the end, they had forgotten the beginning and lost sight of the whole...
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150 of 164 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 29, 1999
Format: Paperback
Now in my last year of law school, I found myself extremely angry upon completing this book. How invaluable this book would have been if I had read it before reading the hundreds of books that were assigned to me in high school, college, and law school. Why didn't anybody tell me about this marvelous gem?!! But the good news is that I have my entire life ahead of me, and I will begin putting this book to use right away.
Anybody who hasn't bought this book yet, stop reading and buy it NOW!
Anybody who knows somebody about to enter high school, college, or graduate school, or who is serious about education and the pursuit of knowledge in general, buy this book for them NOW and they will be forever grateful!!
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By cmweld on December 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
It's a common misconception that a person who has read a large number of books is therefore "well read". To be in fact well read according to this book's author, would be indicated not by the amount of books read, but by how well the books were read. Reading well is what "How To Read A Book" is all about.

This book is a course on the anatomy of a book, the peeling of its contents in exposing the central theme or message of its author. This is accomplished by the structured, methodical autopsy performed by the reader, who, in extracting the central contents, is rewarded with a much deeper and increased understanding.
Reading is looked upon by the author as an art. The reading of a good book, one that stretches you mentally, takes a high degree of skill and is a major exertion. It is very active. The reader, armed with pen in hand, is taking notes, underlining principle ideas, noting structure, asking questions of the author, thinking, concentrating. It is by no means passive.
This book comes highly recommended and is a real treasure. It will be with you for life (I am currently on my second copy, the first having been retired and permanently shelved following much use). One final word of note- It is the authors' goal to present the "Ideal" form of reading, however it is also the authors' understanding that not many readers have the time nor the desire to read every book in this manner (given the unlimited amount of time in both analytical and syntopical readings described in the book, it could take years of study if a person elected to do so). It is the authors' assertion that "you are a good reader to the degree in which you approximate it".
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