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

Author: Mortimer J. Adler, Charles Van Doren
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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: