How to Read a Book: The Classic Best-selling Guide to Reading Books

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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, X-ray it, extract the author's ...

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How to Read a Book

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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, X-ray it, extract the author's message, criticize. You are taught the different reading techniques for reading practical books, imaginative literature, plays, poetry, history, science and mathematics, philosophy and social science.

Finally, the authors offer a recommended reading list and supply reading tests whereby you can measure your own progress in reading skills, comprehension and speed.

There are over 190,000 copies in print of this classic guide to getting the most from your reading.

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Editorial Reviews

New Yorker
It shows concretely how the serious work of proper reading may be accomplished and how much it may yield in the way of instruction and delight.
From Barnes & Noble
Written by two acclaimed scholars, this classic guide to reading books and accessing information teaches how to read for understanding and appreciation. Since its initial best-selling edition in 1940, How to Read a Book has become an indispensable tool for the serious reader. Now completely revised revised and updated, it remains an essential part of educational literature. Learn to analyze a book, comprehend its structure, dissect its main argument, and consider its bias. The antidote to today's information overload, the guide is filled with insight as to how to get to the heart of a book. Covers in detail such topics as history, science, mathematics, philosophy, fiction, drama, poetry, biography, current events, manuals, social science, and scripture.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781567310108
  • Publisher: MJF Books
  • Publication date: 9/28/1992
  • Pages: 426
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface

PART ONE
THE DIMENSIONS OF READING

1. The Activity and Art of Reading

Active Reading
The Goals of Reading: Reading for Information and Reading for Understanding
Reading as Learning: The Difference Between Learning by Instruction and Learning by Discovery
Present and Absent Teachers

2. The Levels of Reading

3. The First Level of Reading: Elementary Reading

Stages of Learning to Read
Stages and Levels
Higher Levels of Reading and Higher Education
Reading and the Democratic Ideal of Education

4. The Second Level of Reading: Inspectional Reading

Inspectional Reading I Systematic Skimming or Prereading
Inspectional Reading II: Superficial Reading
On Reading Speeds
Fixations and Regressions
The Problem of Comprehension
Summary of Inspectional Reading

5. How to Be a Demanding Reader

The Essence of Active Reading: The Four Basic Questions a Reader Asks
How to Make a Book Your Own
The Three Kinds of Note-making
Forming the Habit of Reading
From Many Rules to One Habit

PART TWO
THE THIRD LEVEL OF READING: ANALYTICAL READING

6. Pigeonholing a Book

The Importance of Classifying Books
What You Can Learn from the Title of a Book
Practical vs. Theoretical Books
Kinds of Theoretical Books

7. X-raying a Book

Of Plots and Plans: Stating the Unity of a Book
Mastering the Multiplicity: The Art of Outlining a Book
The Reciprocal Arts of Reading and Writing
Discovering the Author's Intentions
The First Stage of Analytical Reading

8. Coming to Terms with an Author

Words vs. Terms
Finding the Key Words
Technical Words and Special Vocabularies
Finding the Meanings

9. Determining an Author's Message

Sentences vs. Propositions
Finding the Key Sentences
Finding the Propositions
Finding the Arguments
Finding the Solutions
The Second Stage of Analytical Reading

10. Criticizing a Book Fairly

Teachability as a Virtue
The Role of Rhetoric
The Importance of Suspending Judgment
The Importance of Avoiding Contentiousness
On the Resolution of Disagreements

11. Agreeing or Disagreeing with an Author

Prejudice and Judgment
Judging the Author's Soundness
Judging the Author's Completeness
The Third Stage of Analytical Reading

12. Aids to Reading

The Role of Relevant Experience
Other Books as Extrinsic Aids to Reading
How to Use Commentaries and Abstracts
How to Use Reference Books
How to Use a Dictionary
How to Use an Encyclopedia

PART THREE
APPROACHES TO DIFFERENT KINDS OF READING MATTER

13. How to Read Practical Books

The Two Kinds of Practical Books
The Role of Persuasion
What Does Agreement Entail in the Case of a Practical Book?

14. How to Read Imaginative Literature

How Not to Read Imaginative Literature
General Rules for Reading Imaginative Literature

15. Suggestions for Reading Stories, Plays, and Poems

How to Read Stories
A Note About Epics
How to Read Plays
A Note About Tragedy
How to Read Lyric Poetry

16. How to Read History

The Elusiveness of Historical Facts
Theories of History
The Universal in History
Questions to Ask of a Historical Book
How to Read Biography and Autobiography
How to Read About Current Events
A Note on Digests

17. How to Read Science and Mathematics

Understanding the Scientific Enterprise
Suggestions for Reading Classical Scientific Books
Facing the Problem of Mathematics
Handling the Mathematics in Scientific Books
A Note on Popular Science

18. How to Read Philosophy

The Questions Philosophers Ask
Modern Philosophy and the Great Tradition
On Philosophical Method
On Philosophical Styles
Hints for Reading Philosophy
On Making Up Your Own Mind
A Note on Theology
How to Read "Canonical" Books

19. How to Read Social Science

What Is Social Science?
The Apparent Ease of Reading Social Science
Difficulties of Reading Social Science
Reading Social Science Literature

PART FOUR
THE ULTIMATE GOALS OF READING

20. The Fourth Level of Reading: Syntopical Reading

The Role of Inspection in Syntopical Reading
The Five Steps in Syntopical Reading
The Need for Objectivity
An Example of an Exercise in Syntopical Reading: The Idea of Progress
The Syntopicon and How to Use It
On the Principles That Underlie Syntopical Reading
Summary of Syntopical Reading

21. Reading and the Growth of the Mind

What Good Books Can Do for Us
The Pyramid of Books
The Life and Growth of the Mind

Appendix A. A Recommended Reading List

Appendix B. Exercises and Tests at the Four Levels of Reading

Index

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 35 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(21)

4 Star

(7)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 35 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    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.

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 9, 2010

    Adler is an incredibly effective writer whose work not only teaches but motivates.

    Mortimer J. Adler goes above and beyond; giving clear and concise instruction on reading techniques. At the same time, he urges his readers to not only follow the guidelines he proposes, but to push their own boundaries and expand their abilities to eventually become professionals in the art of reading. Adler has this peculiar way to transform a seemingly boring subject into what the readers will eventually see to be an interesting field of study. Adler's great achievement in "How To Read A Book" is to reveal this hidden world where the ideas of authors and the language they use converge, and to provide us with the tools to decipher what the true meaning of an author's message is.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Intellect is always reviewing itself

    In my desire to get the most out of the Great Books, I came across this gem in my research. While many of the things listed in this book are things I already do, I also learned new approaches and refined my existing approaches to reading analytically. Despite it being published in 1972, it remains relevant and a great tool for reviewing, revising and improving reading skills.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 13, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Essential reading for any reading enthusiast

    Within the first few pages, my view of reading was changed - not dramatically, but certainly changed. This is a book I recommend to anyone who enjoys reading; and learning, for that matter. Though the title suggests the material is elementary, and the concept may seem foolish to many, I assure you, this book is essential if you are an avid reader. It will change the way you read, think about reading, and learn in general. I recommend it highly.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2009

    Fantastic!

    I borrowed this book from the public library, and I found it very useful. My daughter was not good at reading, and she always found it boring. Then I told her how to read books according to this book. She gradually grasps the key methods of reading, and becomes interested in it. I registered Beestar online reading programs for her, so she can practise her skills every week.

    Wendy

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 20, 2013

    outstanding for enhancing all there is to know about reading

    outstanding for enhancing all there is to know about reading

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 6, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    I read this book when I was twenty and I learned more about how

    I read this book when I was twenty and I learned more about how to read from it than I had ever learned in high school, or for that matter, college. Since then I've returned to it again and again, which I will continue to do until I master reading, which is probably a lifetime goal, though this book certainly increases the odds I'll get there.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    more than facts

    Today there is much uncertainty. Too many facts.


    I remember an Adler example of fact and idea from a TV show. He pointed to a telephone book and attributed it with tens of thousands of facts, but not one idea.


    Many of his examples are elegant. Chapter 9 Determining an Author's Message begins "Not only coming to terms but also making propositions occurs among traders as well as in the world of books. What a buyer or seller means by a proposition is some sort of proposal, some sort of offer or acceptance." Interesting. Such a deal. A math guy might picture a homomorphism.


    Many threads are savory. In Chapter 18 How to Read Philosophy, he begins 'Children ask magnificent questions. "Why are people?"' The second paragraph begins "The child is a natural questioner." The third paragraph ends "It is easy enough to learn answers. But to develop actively, inquisitive minds, alive with real questions, profound questions - that is another story." As an adult, looking back, I know I have sometimes begun with the wrong question.


    This is the revised edition. Makes sense to me. I need to read better, especially today when there is so much truth. Guess when I can understand more, and then arrive at belief, it may be just as good as truth.

    Thinking out of the box?

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 16, 2009

    It helped...

    I am a forgein personto teh USA and I am trying to understand the educationsystem over here so I can help my child. We did not have liturature study where I am from so this has helped me understand things to be able to help my child with her school work.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2005

    THIS BOOK SAVED MY MARRIAGE

    Like, I knew how to read a book before, and sliding through topics here and there, and i'd have someone bantering me about takin the garbage out, and i couldn't focus that well, ugh! very annoying. This book helped me put everything into perspective, and I can grab all topics, instead of being left behind, and feeling inadequit. My marriage got better, because of the communication, and I started to listen to her in a different way, and never strayed from the conversation at hand, with the little thoughts of, ...oh, i have to get my laundry, or... wow, i need to mow the lawn. Now, I'm focused, I stay on track, and we talk more better. Thank you for writing this book! It's DEFINATELY, worth the read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2003

    Life Changing Book

    In my school days, I would have regarded the suggestions in this book to be cheats or shortcuts, mainly because no one would have taken the time to explain why these tools are so effective (or necessary). Although I read this book after graduating college in 1991, it has boosted my reading skills and confidence to Doctoral levels. As a book, I woould only give it 3 stars. The language has a stilted, 1930's-style formality about it that proves to be a little plodding. However, the author has made extensive use of metaphors (especially baseball) to explain concepts. And his key points are clearly memorable. But the book gets 5 stars for its live changing ability. If you or someone you know is having difficulty understanding their classwork, this book could easily be THE SOLUTION. Don't wait, buy now.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 28, 2014

    Nice,,,, Great...!

    Nice,,,, Great...!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2014

    Why is this a book how will someone learn to read by reading this book if they cant read

    Now dont hate on me and dont drink haterraid

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  • Posted November 22, 2013

    Essential.

    Once upon a time this was required reading for 11th or 12th grade, and it should be once again. Students who read Adler's gem find themselves far ahead of their peers in reading, analyzing and understanding the written word (including mathematics), and how to apply his wisdom to their own writing. If you have a teenager or college student buy it for them and make sure it doesn't just sit on the shelf. Shoot, read it yourself.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2013

    M

    Boobytrap spelled backwards is "partyboob"

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2013

    Day by day

    Day after day

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 11, 2012

    highly recommended

    very good book :)

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2005

    Should Be Required Reading for a College Prep.

    One of the greatest books on reading that has ever been or will be written. This book will make you smarter...period.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2004

    Amazing book!!! Very useful!!!

    I would recommend this book for all those who enjoy reading, as well as those who sometimes find themselves reading and reading, but can't get past the basic, topical message.....this book helps you get past the surface, on to what a book is really about, it gives you simple quidelines to follow, as well as, some more time consuming steps, but it is all worthwhile and indispensable!!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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