How to read a book - Ebook download as PDF File .pdf) or read book online. This is the best summary of How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler and of this Classic Guide on Intelligent Reading, also available in PDF. With half a million copies in print, How to Read a Book is the best and most successful guide to reading comprehension for the general reader, completely.
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How to Read a Book attempts to inculcate skills that are useful for reading anything. can read books, magazines, and newspapers of transient interest without. Introduction and Premise. Reading books is a way of learning, with the author being your instructor. The more active the reading, the better. Quasi-permanent URL: echecs16.info But many of the books, articles, and other documents you'll read during your.
Some books, such as novels, have to be read this way, since a basic principle of fiction is to hold the reader in suspense. Here's how my much younger self used to read novels: a Start at the begining b Read a few pages until you're reasonably sure all major characters have been introduced. Cronin like that I know, right? On the other hand I remember a particularly tedious passage in 20, Leagues Under the Sea where several pages passed describing various molluscs found at the bottom of the sea. I actually read it all very carefully because I was curious to see how much it would last for and whether there was some bit of plot hidden in between the discussions of various species' chiralities etc. Jules Verne could eat Stephen King for breakfast when he got into his stride.
Next, as you read the book, analyze how it develops its arguments. Finally, only after you understand the book, critique the author by agreeing or disagreeing, but always give reasons for your critique. No higher commendation can be given to a book than praise for the measure of truth it has achieved. Yet today books win plaudits almost to the extent to which they flout the truth.
The vast majority of books will not strain your ability to read analytically.
They deliver information that fits your current framework, or are read for entertainment. There is a second class of books that teach you both how to read and how to live.
This might be fewer than one out of every hundred, or one out of every thousand. There is a final highest class of books, perhaps fewer than a hundred, that you can return to over and over again and they seem to have grown with you.
You see new things in it that you did not see before. You should seek out these books, for they will teach you the most. To identify these books, you might consider the desert island question — which 10 books would you take with you if you could never read any book ever again? These differ between humans, and you should start with the classics that interest you the most.
When starting a book, figure out what genre of book it is. According to How to Read a Book , this prepares you to customize your engagement with the particular type of text, much as a philosophy teacher might instruct differently from a physics teacher.
Every good book has a skeleton that forms the structure of the book. The author covers the skeleton with flesh; your job is to strip it away to expose the skeleton again. Note that books are not meant to be published as mere outlines. The flesh of a book adds life to the skeleton.
Unity of The Wealth of Nations: It discusses the various ways in which capital can be more or less gainfully employed, and relates the origin and use of money to the accumulation and employment of capital.
Examining the development of opulence in different nations and under different conditions, it compares the several systems of political economy, and argues for the beneficence of free trade. A first, treating of happiness as the end of life, and discussing it in relation to all other practicable goods; a second, treating of the nature of voluntary action, and its relation to the formation of good and bad habits; a third, discussing the various virtues and vices, both moral and intellectual; a fourth, dealing with moral states that are neither virtuous nor vicious; a fifth, treating of friendship; and a sixth and last, discussing pleasure, and completing the account of human happiness begun in the first.
As much as possible, you should struggle with the book independently on a first pass. This will help you see the forest for the trees, rather than getting mired in minutiae. When you use an external resource, understand 1 what you hope to get from consulting it, 2 the limitations of the resource.
From this point on, you can argue with the author and express yourself. Determine which of her problems the author has solved, which she has not, and decide if the author knew she had failed to solve. According to How to Read a Book , If you disagree with the author, your criticism must fit into a set of categories:. The above principles apply generally to all books, in particular expository books. This section treats different genres and guides on how to adjust the four key questions:.
Practical books concern how to do things better. They can be mainly a book of rules like a cookbook or a set of principles that generate rules like The Wealth of Nations , or somewhere in between.
The practical book itself can never solve its targeted problems directly. Note that practical books are not purely theoretical emotionless treatments, like math proofs are. To be effective, they contain rhetoric or propaganda that appeal to the heart as well as the mind.
Most of the principles so far apply to expository writing, where the aim is to convey information or lead to action. The goal of imaginative literature is different: Allow it to move you. Where expository writing defines its terms with explicit precision, imaginative works deal in ambiguity. Imaginative works are judged by how well they reflect reality. Not necessarily in verisimilitude as science fiction or fantasy violate but rather whether what is being said rings true — characterization, how characters respond to events, whether themes are revealed that reflect your experiences.
Reading imaginative works should be active and critical. When you say you like or dislike a fictional work, you should articulate why, and what is good or bad about the book. The analogy breaks down on inspection, but the purpose of this reasoning is to enhance your pleasure by understanding why you like something. History shows the actions of people in the past, making it less imposing for you to repeat them in the case of good achievements or avoid their mistakes.
The way to read history is not just to learn what happened, but also to learn the way people act in all times and places, especially now. History works try to establish that something happened in the past with no live witnesses to question. The terms are connected in propositions: the characters live and breathe in the world. The arguments are the interaction between the propositions: how the characters respond to events.
The analogy breaks down on inspection, but the purpose of this reasoning is to enhance your pleasure by understanding why you like something.
Summarize the plot of the book in a few sentences. What are the elements of the work — its setting, characters and their thoughts and actions , events?
What is the shape of the plot, to climax and aftermath? Do the characters behave realistically? What have you learned from the experience? Does it satisfy your heart and mind? Do you appreciate the beauty of the work? Readers live out fantasies in the characters — passionate love, empire construction, overcoming struggle. People crave a feeling of order and justice.
In bad stories, people seem to be punished or rewarded with no rhyme or reason. The great books tend to satisfy the deep unconscious needs of almost everybody. Read it quickly with total immersion, ideally in one sitting.
This is just like moving to a new town. The important ones will keep resurfacing. Once the story ends, it ends. Your imagination of what the characters do afterward is meaningless. They lack stage direction. Instruct the actors on where to stand, where to face, and how to say their lines. Tell them the importance of certain lines. Some lines of plays are ambiguous — how you choose to act will affect the interpretation of the scene.
Are you honest? When confused by a line, say it aloud and with meaning — this will clarify many a line without having to consult a dictionary. In tragedies eg Aeschylus , the essence of tragedy is time, or the lack of it. We see what should have been done, but would we have been able to see it in time? Poetry Poetry is a spontaneous overflowing of the personality. Defining what constitutes poetry is difficult, but you know it when you see it. Read it through without stopping and trying too hard to understand every single line.
The essence of a poem is never in the first line, but rather in the whole. Then read it aloud. Like this summary? Have too much to read?
You'll love my new book summary product Shortform. Even better, it helps you remember what you read, so you can make your life better. History shows the actions of people in the past, making it less imposing for you to repeat them in the case of good achievements or avoid their mistakes.
The way to read history is not just to learn what happened, but also to learn the way people act in all times and places, especially now. History works try to establish that something happened in the past with no live witnesses to question. Historians must infer what happened from source material, and often have to impose patterns and infer motivations.
Therefore, you should always be wary of what is written: What does the author want to prove? Whom does she want to convince? What special knowledge does she assume? What special language does she use? Does she really know what she is talking about? This is all the more important if the event has practical significance for us like the Civil War.
Know the limited scope of the work. A history of the Civil War is not a history of the world in the 19th century. Is the work divided into chapters that correspond to years, or is it divided by subject economics in one, wars in another? Which of these is most important to the author? Did the historian misunderstand the sources, perhaps because of deficiency in her grasp of human nature? Did the historian misuse sources, or omit key sources?
Of different types of historical works: Biographies The definitive biography is usually written after several other biographies have been written. Autobiographies and authorized biographies where the subject or her estate gives exclusive right to private materials should be assumed to be biased.
The subjects have incentive to hide the negative and embellish the positive — this is the way his friends want the subject to be known to the world. Whom is the work written for? Since these primarily convey information, you need not perform the full analysis. But you should continue asking the critical questions.
When reading digests of news, be wary of what is left out. Math and Science Historical math and science works tend to be more accessible than people think because 1 historically, they were written for broad readership; 2 they tend to clarify upfront their terms and propositions.
Modern works tend to be written by experts for experts for reasons of expediency, since fields have become deeply specialized. Thus they contain jargon and require prior training. When reading math, remember that math is a language like any other, with its own conventions and grammar. It is in fact easier to understand than most languages, since it is not spoken and there are no emotional connotations.
Treat it like this and it will become less inscrutable. When reading science, the goal is not just to absorb the scientific laws and hypotheses, but more broadly to understand the history and philosophy of science. The scientific problem is to describe the phenomena as accurately as possible, and to interconnect different kinds of phenomena. State as clearly as you can the problem the author has tried to solve.
What experimental data are required to believe the arguments? They are likely outside the realm of your experience. What assumptions are required to form the propositions? Theoretical conclusions can have important practical consequences eg on climate change. On existence: What is the difference between existing and not existing? What are properties of al lthings that exist, and those of things that do not?
Are there different modes of existence? Does everything exist physically, or do some things exist non-materially? And so on. Note that not all questions asked by philosophers were philosophical — like the composition of terrestrial vs celestial bodies. Adults lose this curiosity at some point in development, and philosophers help evoke the questions again. Up until , philosophical books were written for the general reader. Unlike science, which often requires external data, philosophy deals with questions that can be answered entirely within the mind.
There is nothing to do but think. On theological works: treat the dogma with the same respect you treat assumptions of a mathematician. Take the assumptions to be true, then see what arguments and conclusions result. Do not discard the entire work, assuming the arguments are as dogmatic as the assumptions. State the questions the work tries to answer.
Discover the controlling principles of the author. Plato assumed that conversation about philosophy is the most important of all human activities.
Aristotle believed that happiness is the whole of the good, not the highest good.