Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Reading Good Books

How to Read a Book: 
The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading 

How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading

“....a good book can teach you about the world and about yourself. You learn more than how to read better; you also learn more about life. You become wiser. Not just more knowledgeable - books that provide nothing but information can produce that result. But wiser, in the sense that you are more deeply aware of the great and enduring truths of human life.”   ― Mortimer J. Adler, How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading

This book is a handbook for reading books, what the Greeks would call an Enchiridion. The handbook is divided into four parts that cover all aspects of reading from the dimensions of the subject to ultimate goals one may expiscate from reading books.

Part one begins with a discussion of reading as both an activity and an art. It is an activity in the sense that it is something that you do to, according to the authors, become an "active" reader. But it is also an art in the sense that the reader is as much an artist in his recognition of the beauty of the book as was the author who created it. I believe this applies to all works whether they are fiction or non-fiction.

The remainder of parts one and two provide detailed discussions of both the levels of reading with a concentration on analytical reading and determining a book's message. The authors provide a lot of detailed rules and "how to" suggestions, yielding an ideal structure for reading books. In creating this ideal approach to reading books I believe they leave sufficient room for each reader to develop their own personal methods appropriating the guidelines provided.

The book concludes with a discussion of different kinds or genres of reading matter followed by the introduction of the idea of syntopical reading or reading books with other relevant books in mind. This provides a way to focus on ideas presented in different ways and manners across different texts. Finally, the ultimate goal of serious reading is to improve your mind. This process is analogous to strength training for the muscles in your body. This reader was impressed with the text and the ideas presented and when applied along with a focus on the enjoyment of reading they provide a useful approach to reading great books.


Brian Joseph said...

I read this a long time ago. I tend to love books like this. I really enjoy reading about reading. I also like to learn techniques to become a better reader. If you have not read them I also recamend Harold Bloom’s How to Read and Why, as well as Thomas Foster’s How to Read Literature Like a Professor.

Kathy's Corner said...

Hi James, In recent years I have come to the realization that I may not be getting as much out of the reading experience as I thought, that I could be reading deeper particularly where the classics are concerned and How To Read A Book sounds like a good place to start. Thanks for another fine review!

James said...

Thanks for the recommendations.

James said...

Thanks for your comment. Adler's book is just that: a good place to start. He presents a detailed idealized system that offers tactics that may help reading any kind of book.