594 of 605 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Foundational to all non-fictional reading
"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...
Published on December 9, 2000 by Rob Taylor
168 of 193 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars How to read more deeply
How To Read A Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren is a very useful book for anyone wishing to give their books a more thoughtful, in-depth reading.
The book does have an agenda to push. That agenda is to see more people go beyond high school reading levels. The authors begin by reviewing how America got to the point where almost everyone could read, but...
Published on October 30, 2000 by NotATameLion
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594 of 605 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Foundational to all non-fictional reading,
This review is from: How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading (A Touchstone book) (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 synoptical 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. This will deaden our ability to read and think for ourselves as well as confuse the message of the author.
Part three tells us how to read different types of literature including practical books, imaginative literature, stories, plays, poems, history, philosophy, science, mathematics and social science. Each type of literature has it's own vocabulary, propositions, arguments, and questions that must be asked of it. This section is particularly helpful in applying the basic rules of reading to the type of literature that is to be read.
The final part of the book is dedicated to the ultimate goals of reading. The first goal is the fourth and final level of reading: synoptical reading. Synoptical reading is the reading of different works on the same subject with a view to constituting a general view on the subject. The idea is to read a number of books on a given subject, as objectively as possible, and withhold judgment and criticism of all the books until you understand the different perspectives. This is the bread and butter of research and is the best way to understand any given subject matter, which is why this book is vital to the college student as well as anyone with academic pursuits. This is also the way to become educated as opposed to being indoctrinated. The last of the two ultimate goals of reading is to expand your mind for further understanding. Your mind is like a rubber band in that when it is stretched, it never fully returns to its original shape.
I found this book to be highly organized and thoroughly outlined. The back even contains two appendices with a list of recommended books and exercises at the four levels of reading. It is essentially a "how to" book therefore it's contents are very practical and immediately helpful.
877 of 912 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What Reading is Really All About,
This review is from: How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading (A Touchstone book) (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...They should have been encouraged to read the play at one sitting and discuss what they got out of that first quick reading. Only then would they have been ready to study the play carefully and closely because then they would have understood enough of it to learn more."
The book describes how to be an active reader. A clue for the average reader: Active readers don't go to sleep over books. The third level of reading is analytical reading, which is what book reviewers do. The reader classifies the book, reads it carefully, determines the author's message and evaluates how well it's presented and compares it to comparable works.
Adler and Van Doren cover subjects like classifying books, x-raying them, determining the author's message, how to criticize a book fairly, and the role of relevant experience in reading. They then go on to describe the different approaches to various kinds of reading -- practical books, imaginative literature, plays, stories, poems, history, science, mathematics, social sciences, and philosophy.
The highest level of reading, synoptical reading, is the reading of several books on a particular subject. They describe how to select a bibliography (which I found truly useful), how to narrow the subject, how to inspect the material. The five steps of synoptical reading are included in this chapter.
Reading is a search for truth, and truth can be found only through thoughtful comparison and discussion. "The truth then, insofar as it can be found -- the solution to the problem, insofar as that is available to us -- consists rather in the ordered discussion itself than in any set of propositions or assertions about it...thus, in order to present this truth to our minds -- and to the minds of others -- we have to do more than merely ask and answer the questions. We have to ask them in a certain order, and be able to defend that order."
Sunnye Tiedemann (aka Ruth F. Tiedemann)
139 of 147 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best reference book you can have!!!!,
By A Customer
This review is from: How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading (A Touchstone book) (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!!
43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A promise kept,
He covers reading very thoroughly. Ideally, when we read a book, we first grasp what the author is saying (the who's and what's), then what he means, then how that relates to our life. These three steps fit into the first three levels of reading. The first asks 'What is the book saying?,' the second 'What type of book is it?,' and the third 'What does the book mean?.' There is another level which basically is a topical study- reading books to find what various authors say about a given topic.
Adler recognizes that we often don't get much from a book because we don't know how to read well. (He covers the relationship between reader and writer and their responsibilities toward each other)So for each level he gives rules and suggestions for how to read on that level. Often these are in the form of questions to ask that book.
Another thing Adler recognizes is that not all books are equal. Many books only need to be read on the first level, some on the second, and a few on the third. This also affects how fast one reads. The speed should match the difficulty, importance, and quality of the reading- even within the same book.
In addition to covering the four reading levels, Adler takes different types of books and gives specific applications of his suggestions to these books. You would not ask the same questions of a history book that you would of a play.
Oh and Adler provides exercises and a very good reading list to get you started on the road to good reading.
So Adler is very thorough and logical in his presentation and the reading is very enjoyable. His style is easy to understand and interesting at the same time. He covers some other topics here and there like reading education and the great books. This is an excellent book for both students (life long learners included) and those who just want to learn and enjoy books more.
37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful guide to reading well,
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".
40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars better than school?,
By A Customer
50 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Reading!,
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How many intellectually oriented books remain in print for sixty years? Not many. "How to Read a Book" insured I would not be restricted to the shallow fare our University's spoon out and I learned not give up on reading the Western Canon, which most university students today do. They flee from the classics, after one course. I did not. I knew something my teachers did not tell me. I knew from "How to Read a Book": 1) do not get side tracked looking up strange words or reading the commentary on the bottom of the pages. Do that and know nothing from the first reading, except frustration. Just read the story, treatise of book through. You will be surprised how much you comprehend; 2) No one masters a classic from one reading. For a decent grasp, figure on three readings; 3) The only books truly worth reading are books that are over your head.
"How to Read..." is not what many people conclude from the title. It is not a 'how to read manual.' It is a how to approach and comprehend different kinds of books. Adler's primary aim is to introduce people to learning by reading the Western Canon (The Great Books), which academics have all but expelled from school. "How to Read" could have been titled 'What Your Teachers Forgot to Teach You' or 'What Your Teachers Could Not Teach You. Adler points out (he wrote his book in the 1940s, concerned at how gullible people were to war propaganda) that few professors know how to read a book. Several years later, an Adler collegue published a journal article titled: "How to Read an Essay"
"How To Read..." gave me confidence to believe what I thought I discovered when I read academic reviews. It seemed that half the reviewers did not bother to read the book they "reviewed" and others seemed to criticize the book that was not written (Adler warns readers about this). I also found true Adler's advice that many students are turned off forever to writers such as Shakespeare because their teacher did not tell them to not worry about mastering a play or Great Book on first reading. Many students walk away mistakenenly conviced some have what it takes to read great books, others do not. (Today, many higher mathematics teachers convey to students that one either does or does not have what it takes to master mathematics. Like any other subject, the average person can master it. Mathematics is a language, a language smaller & more consistent than English. Genius just learns fast and can go further.) Just read. Do not get side tracked reading annotations, lengthy introductions, expert notes, or looking up words. Just read the story or essay. You will be surprised by what you do understand by the time you finish the work.
Adler teaches you that the book that is most worth reading is the book that is over your head. You must understand that a great book must be read at least three times. Just read the story the first time. If you wish, look up words and read commentary and notes the second or third time. Each time you read a Great Book you get more out of it. Annotations, commentaries, teachers rob you of the greatist gift of a great book, self-discovery.
Before you decide not to buy "How to Read a Book" pick up a copy and look it over. All libraries have a copy. It is a classic. If you are interesting in learning, you will want your own copy!
38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A prequel to all books,
The authors begin by distinguishing between 4 levels of reading and provide techniques and examples for each level. What I found to be especially interesting are the chapters on how to read the different subjects: The authors introduce a single methodolgy for effective reading and then proceed to customize it for reading books on the sciences, philosophy, literature, fiction, etc.
Even if you consider yourself an effective reader, you'll be surprised at some of the insights that you will receive from this book. This is an excellent book, well written and well researched and it should be on every reader's shelf.
55 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Changed My Life,
168 of 193 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars How to read more deeply,
The book does have an agenda to push. That agenda is to see more people go beyond high school reading levels. The authors begin by reviewing how America got to the point where almost everyone could read, but very few people could read well. They offer the techniques in this book as a path from this superficial knowledge of reading to a deeper understanding of how to read more effectively and more deeply.
The book breaks down the levels of reading. They present four levels of reading: Elementary, Inspectional, Analytical, and Syntopical.
The most time and attention is given to Analytical writing. The authors present ways to read more analytically. They also lay out rules for giving a book a fair analytical reading. I found this part very helpful personally.
The other three levels of reading are treated in much less detail. Each is more presented than taught. The authors demonstrate how each level is dependent on the one preceding it.
This book is very well put together and nicely laid out. One can tell that this was a labor of love by the authors. A feature that I found particularly interesting was the suggested reading list in the back of the book.
How To Read A Book will be helpful to any reader who desires to learn how to read more deeply. I recommend it.
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How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading (A Touchstone book) by Mortimer Jerome Adler (Paperback - August 15, 1972)