How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading (A Touchstone book)

Author: Mortimer J. Adler, Charles Van Doren
All Hacker News 14
This Month Reddit 5


by cfiggers   2022-09-05
In Mortimer Adler's _How to Read a Book_ (1972) [0], he tackles this idea by distinguishing between "words" and "terms." Chapter 8 is called "Coming to Terms With an Author" and it is essentially all about this idea of "improper nouns" but under a different name.


by davidwparker   2020-06-25
Honestly, reading a book and knowing How to Read a Book is a skill.

I highly recommend this book for that reason:

by YakovitchTchamovski   2019-11-17

If it's a secular(ish) book? I would highly recommend this.


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


Very often I see evidence of people who do not know how to read the Bible because they do not know how to properly read a book. The book outlines four different levels of reading which is incredibly valuable when reading Scripture.


Hermeneutics: An Introduction to Interpretive Theory.



This book, while it has theist elements, is (as the title says) focused on interpretive theory. A common mistake today is that many believers think that their interpretation of the Bible is the only one. It's impossible to have that stance after reading a book like this. It is useful to understand how other minds that are greater than ours approach interpretation of any text. Also, if you do chose to read these, I would suggest reading them in the order as I have listed. The first will help with understanding the second, and see where some of these thinkers disagree with some of the points listed in the first book.


Caution: be careful of exegetical (interpretive) efforts from the secular world (and there are Christian biblical scholars who do this as well). Their interpretation can sometimes seek to divide Scripture in ways that are not helpful when trying to understand the overall story of God.

by CheesyStravinsky   2019-11-17

At the same time, you shouldn't really be reading all books 100% through.


by Sm0kescreeen   2019-11-17

>"Again, back then, yes."

"Back then, people held ownership over land if they controlled it. It was not moral, that's just how it worked. Europeans and Muslims were no different in this regard," -Me.

"Hey look at this guy excusing Christian Europeans even though he literally said what they did wasn't moral!" -/u/nslinkns24

>More poor understanding of history. Did you know that the an insufficient number of states consented to alter the Articles of Confederation?


>On September 17, 1787, after three months of debate moderated by convention president George Washington, the new U.S. constitution, which created a strong federal government with an intricate system of checks and balances, was signed by 38 of the 41 delegates present at the conclusion of the convention.

>No, pumpkin. They occupied the land for a thousand years. That's different than 50-100 years.

Mhm. So you're telling me that they did not occupy the land until one thousand years ago, which means they were not the original inhabitants, which means they were foreigners who ended up living there very long. Thanks for agreeing with me, again.

> See- one number is bigger than the other.

See- irrelevant.

>What a dumb way to think about this. Jews likely weren't first occupants either if you go back far enough. This is why right of first occupancy arguments are bad.

Exactly! Which is why I have repeatedly said that ownership was not determined by occupancy, it was determined by power. Muslims owned it because of their power, and then they lost ownership because someone else had greater power. This is the third time you've agreed with me :)

>You seem to think that either the first occupant has an absolute right or any taking of land is justified.

"Occupancy is irrelevant to who had ownership, as was length of occupancy. Ownership was determined by power, which is exactly how Muslims came to own the region in the first place. It was not justified, but that's how it worked." -Me

"Hey this guy thinks the first occupant has an absolute right to land or that land seizures were justified!" -/u/nslinkns24

>Ok guy who believed the British interference didn't begin until the 1900s.

ROFL. You actually have the reading comprehension of a fifth grader.

"European colonizers had nothing to do with Muslim violence and racism; they weren't even involved with the region until after the 18th century." -Me

"Exactly, meaning the British had no influence on the abundance of Muslim racism and violence between the 1500s and early 1800s." -Also me.

"Ha! You actually think British interference didn't begin until the 1900s. What a loser." --/u/nslinkns24

Not only do you have zero understanding of history, but you can't even read properly. It all makes sense now! Your inability to read explains why you know nothing about the history in the Levant.

You said you were leaving in your previous comment, but I guess you couldn't resist being proven wrong again. But since you clearly know nothing about the history of the region, and since you lack reading comprehension, I'm going to end this conversation for you. Don't want to embarrass you any further. Though before I go, allow me to leave you with these. (this one must be read first before you're ready to move on to the second one.)

Hopefully you'll actually become informed one day. Toodles!

by guidoism   2019-09-03
Great question! In my fourth decade of life I’m finally figuring out the optimal way to do this myself. I’ve forgotten so so many books over the years that I supposedly read.

Read How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer Adler. ( I’ve given this book to a bunch of people on my teams as it also helps with communicating ideas which is vital as a programmer.

The wikipedia page for it is a good place to get an overview of what it’s about.

Since reading it I’ve been keeping a notebook, some people might call it a Commonplace Book, with interesting stuff from the book. I find that I get a lot more from books from the act of writing it down and then reading those notes later when I glance at them while looking something else up in the notebook.

One big big big thing I learned from the book is to not read a non-fiction book like it was a novel. There’s nothing wrong with skipping ahead and finding out what happens later, in fact you should absolutely skim the book first. I end up finishing a lot more books by doing this since so many books aren’t actually worth careful reading. I am able to systematically skim a book including the TOC and index and determine if it’s worth reading carefully. A lot of books are so sparse with ideas that you can get most of them through this method. Only the good books are worth going on to the second and third stages and only the great ones the fourth stage.

by afpx   2019-08-29
by temo4ka   2019-08-27
Consider pre-reading it first. If a book is hard, if it’s over you head, try going through the whole book w/o stopping on things you don’t understand (don’t fixate). In this way you’ll grasp the major points, ideas and themes. Only then read it carefully — you’ll understand better and get more out of the book.

It’s similar to progressive JPEG rendering. Your first pass is pre-processing resulting in fuzzy understanding of the whole that you then refine in the subsequent pass(es). Progressive way is more natural and effective.

I highly recommend reading Adler’s “How to Read a Book” [1]. This exactly the guide you want to read if you want to know how to learn well from books.


by balanced_goat   2019-07-21

How to Read a Book. Actually really good and useful.

by jking1226   2019-07-21

>You have no idea what you are talking about

Yup looks like a total lack of reading comprehension, here I'll walk you through it real slowly.

>I know you’re a racist because you took an entire population of people and just referred to them as “blacks”.

Notice how he doesn't say you are white here? He just says you're racist.

>Cant wait to here how you’re not racist though because you call people whites...

And here he says that you'll make the excuse that you aren't racist because you refer to white people the same way. Once again, he doesn't say anything about your race.

>I bet you are a white person that lives in a rich suburb. PS: I am black. I will wait for your racist remarks about black folk supporting Trump.

I don't really care who you're saying you are today, save your autobiography for someone who gives a shit.

Honestly a total lack of complex reading comprehension may be the best excuse for supporting Trump. He talks in nice short sentences and doesn't get too complex with his thoughts, and all the reports of his crimes use big words and take more than a minute to read.

If you wanna brush up on those skills I highly recommend Adler's "How to Read a Book"

by HobbesTheBrave   2019-07-21

Like this one, How To Read A Book. Or did you have something else in mind?

It's worth it. I own it and have read it.

by soxpride   2019-07-21

I've done this

by totalperspectiv   2018-11-10
If anyone is interested in a deep dive on this topic, I highly recommend 'How to Read Book' by Adler and Doren. It is a fantastic how to on learning and understanding new ideas.

by knight17   2018-11-10
The author mentions writing down a summary after every chapter in the book itself. The final notes are prepared from each chapter's annotations and handwritten summaries. If anyone is interested in reading to retain more, try How to Read a Book [1] by Charles Van Doren and Mortimer J. Adler. Reviews and summaries of the boook [2, 3].

[1] :

[2] :

[3] :

by cocacola1   2018-11-10
How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler

by jonnybgood   2017-08-19
The game changer for me was actually learning how to read a book. I no longer approach books the same way after having read How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler [1]. Once you have a method down, you can go through books rather quickly and retain knowledge. My biggest epiphany is that you don't need to read a book in its entirety to know all that it has to say.


by absconditus   2017-08-19
You may want to read How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren.

by spjpgrd   2017-08-19
It depends on your definition of "reading a book."

Wait, what?

I've been reading a book called, I kid you not, "How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading."

Adler and Doren identify four levels of reading:

1. Elementary: "What does the sentence say?" This is where speed can be gained

2. Inspectional: "What is the book about?" Best and most complete reading given a limited time. Not necessarily reading a book from front to back. Essentially systematic skimming.

3. Analytical: Best and most complete reading given unlimited time. For the sake of understanding.

4. Synoptical: Reading many books of the same subject at once, placing them in relation to one another, and constructing an analysis that may not be found in any of the books.

Amazon link for those interested: