Start reading How to Read a Book (A Touchstone book) on the free Kindle Reading App or on your Kindle in under a minute. Don't have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here.

Deliver to your Kindle or other device

Enter a promotion code
or gift card

Try it free

Sample the beginning of this book for free

Deliver to your Kindle or other device

Anybody can read Kindle books—even without a Kindle device—with the FREE Kindle app for smartphones, tablets and computers.
Sorry, this item is not available in
Image not available for
Image not available

To view this video download Flash Player


How to Read a Book (A Touchstone book) [Kindle Edition]

Charles Van Doren , Mortimer J. Adler
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (283 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.99
Kindle Price: $10.20
You Save: $6.79 (40%)
Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc

Whispersync for Voice

Switch back and forth between reading the Kindle book and listening to the Audible narration. Add narration for a reduced price of $3.99 after you buy the Kindle book. Learn More


Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle Edition $10.20  
Hardcover $21.78  
Paperback $10.90  
MP3 CD, Audiobook, Unabridged $22.32  
Audible Audio Edition, Unabridged $21.95 or Free with Audible 30-day free trial
Kindle Daily Deals
Kindle Delivers: Daily Deals
Subscribe to find out about each day's Kindle Daily Deals for adults and young readers. Learn more (U.S. customers only)

Book Description

With half a million copies in print, How to Read a Book is the best and most successful guide to reading comprehension for the general reader, completely rewritten and updated with new material.

Originally published in 1940, this book is a rare phenomenon, a living classic that introduces and elucidates the various levels of reading and how to achieve them—from elementary reading, through systematic skimming and inspectional reading, to speed reading. Readers will learn when and how to “judge a book by its cover,” and also how to X-ray it, read critically, and extract the author’s message from the text.

Also included is instruction in the different techniques that work best for reading particular genres, such as practical books, imaginative literature, plays, poetry, history, science and mathematics, philosophy and social science works.

Finally, the authors offer a recommended reading list and supply reading tests you can use measure your own progress in reading skills, comprehension, and speed.

Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought

Editorial Reviews


The New Yorker

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.

About the Author

MORTIMER J. ADLER (1902-2001) served as the chairman of Britannica's Board of Editors, director of the Institute for Philosophical Research, and senior associate and founder of the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies. He authored the well-known How to Read a Book and the intellectual autobiography Philosopher at Large, and was co-editor, with Charles Van Doren, of Great Treasury of Western Thought, declared the reference book of 1977 by the American Library Association.

CHARLES VAN DOREN is an American intellectual and former TV quiz show contestant. Van Doren earned a bachelor's degree from St. John's College and went on to earn a masters in astrophysics and a doctorate in English from Columbia University, where he later taught English.

Product Details

  • File Size: 3956 KB
  • Print Length: 450 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0671212095
  • Publisher: Touchstone; Revised edition (May 10, 2011)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,226 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
  •  Would you like to give feedback on images?

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
642 of 653 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Foundational to all non-fictional reading December 9, 2000
"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.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
906 of 944 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What Reading is Really All About June 28, 2002
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...
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
150 of 164 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best reference book you can have!!!! October 29, 1999
By A Customer
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!!
Was this review helpful to you?
38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful guide to reading well December 15, 2001
By cmweld
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".
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars not bad
not a bad read at all... you can for sure learn some from it
Published 2 hours ago by W. ZHANG
2.0 out of 5 stars I was disappointed with the purchase
The book is in okay shape but it is very old with yellowed pages. I was disappointed with the purchase. Tom Harris
Published 3 days ago by Tom harris
5.0 out of 5 stars Most complete book about How to Read that I ever ...
Most complete book about How to Read that I ever read. For who that wish improve speed, this book is not suitable, instead other about rapid reading.
Published 4 days ago by Leonardo Gobbi
5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading
Classic book; Publisher fresh condition.
Published 6 days ago by Richard A. Dean
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Before you get to some serious reading, you have to learn how to get the most out of it.
Published 8 days ago by Pablo Aranzazu
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book.
I think in order to be a better reader of different books this can be the one you're searching for..
Published 13 days ago by omar younis
4.0 out of 5 stars as advertised
as advertised
Published 15 days ago by L.W. Brittian
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Not done well at all; not at all what we were expecting
Published 16 days ago by Randy Hartkopp
5.0 out of 5 stars For some goods tips on intelligent reading!
Perfect for university students, and alike. Above all, intelligent reading is an art that must be acquired.

Orlando Nogueira
Published 20 days ago by Jose O. N. Souza
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is basically a bible for anyone who values ...
This book is basically a bible for anyone who values knowledge. It used to take me months to painstakingly get through one expository work. Read more
Published 21 days ago by Julian Young
Search Customer Reviews
Search these reviews only

More About the Authors

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?


There are no discussions about this product yet.
Be the first to discuss this product with the community.
Start a new discussion
First post:
Prompts for sign-in

Look for Similar Items by Category