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On Rereading this Classic 50 Years Later
on June 29, 2016
I first read this book 50 years ago and then took from it one basic idea that has guided my reading ever since...That one idea was that every good non-fiction book deserves 3 readings. The purpose of the first rapid read is to get an overview of the general thrust or central thesis of the book. The second reading involves digging in, an attempt to understand and analyze the author's central argument or thesis, and the third reading is for the purpose of argument, i.e., of reflecting on where we agree with the book and where we disagree, and why...
50 years after that first reading, i still try to follow the advice (above), and find it as helpful and true today as it was back then.
So, what in particular did I gain in from my current reading of this fine book, this gem? Three or four things, all of which are, at least to me, important.
First, re the value of reading the intro or the preface in which the author often says specifically and explicitly what his central thesis is.
Second, re the value of reading the last chapter or even the very last 8 to 10 paragraphs in which the author may, once again, summarize the whole central purpose and argument of the book, which gives you a key to understanding the work in its entirety.
And, third, don't begin arguing with a book until you are certain that you have understood it as well as you possibly can.
Bottom-line, I'm happy that I went back to reread this fine book.