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Paperback How to Read a Book

ISBN: 0671212095

ISBN13: 9780671212094

How to Read a Book

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Book Overview

How to Read a Book, originally published in 1940, has become a rare phenomenon, a living classic. It is the best and most successful guide to reading comprehension for the general reader. And now it has been completely rewritten and updated. You are told about the various levels of reading and how to achieve them -- from elementary reading, through systematic skimming and inspectional reading, to speed reading, you learn how to pigeonhole a book,...

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

What Reading is Really All About

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, h

A prequel to all books

This book is a must read for anyone who is serious about his/her reading. The authors offer some perceptive tips, suggestions and ideas that are aimed at helping the average person imporve his/her reading skill. This is a book for graduate students who need the best 'how to' techniques to help them get the most out of their reading. This is also a book for the serious reader who is not content with turning page after page - going through the mechanical motions of reading. This is a book for anyone who believes that reading a book is a small life-changing exercise.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.

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 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 pursui

better than school?

If you want to learn how to read well, this is a good start. You might think it's absurd for a literate person not to be able to read well, but this book is filled with insights that, although they are all common sense, they are the type of common sense we tend to overlook. If you think many books are too difficult for you, this book will explain that that is exactly why you must read it. If you want to learn how to form your own opinions on important works of literature in any field, this book teaches you the art of critique. However, I applaud this book not only because it is good instruction for those who want to become better readers. It also explains *why* we must become better readers. The person who wants to read for "understanding," and not just "knowledge" or "enjoyment," will appreciate this book.
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