How to Read a Book: The Ultimate Guide by Mortimer Adler - Deepstash

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We’ve all heard or said that “reading is hard work”. Well, we don’t know the half of it.

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How to Read a Book: The Ultimate Guide by Mortimer Adler

How to Read a Book: The Ultimate Guide by Mortimer Adler

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I bet you already know how to read a book. You were taught in elementary school.

But do you know how to read well ?

There is a difference between reading for understanding and reading for information.

...

A useful heuristic: Anything easily digested is reading for information.

Consider the newspaper, are you truly learning anything new? Do you consider the writer your superior when it comes to knowledge in the subject? Odds are probably not. That means you’re readin...

Learning something insightful requires mental work. It’s uncomfortable. If it doesn’t hurt, you’re not learning. You need to find writers who are more knowledgeable on a particular subject than yourself. By narrowing the gap between the author and yourself,

EDGAR ALLAN POE

“Marking a book is literally an experience of your differences or agreements with the author. It is the highest respect you can pay him.”

Mortimer Adler literally wrote the book on reading. In How To Read...

The goal of reading determines how you read. Reading the latest Danielle Steel novel is not the same as reading Plato. If you’re reading for entertainment or information, you’re going to read a lot differently (and likely different material) than reading to increase understanding...

This is the level of reading taught in our elementary schools. If you’re reading this website, you already know how to do this.

We’ve been taught that skimming and superficial reading are bad for understanding. That is not necessarily the case. Using these tools effectively can increase understanding. Inspectional reading allows us to look at the author’s blueprint and evaluate the merits of a deeper reading exper...

This is meant to be a quick check of the book by 1) reading the preface; 2) studying the table of contents; 3) checking the index; and 4) reading the inside jacket. This should give you sufficient knowledge to understand the chapters in the book, pivotal to the author’s argument....

This is when you just read. Don’t ponder the argument, don’t look things up, don’t write in the margins. If you don’t understand something, move on. What you gain from this quick read will help you later when you go back and put more effort into reading. You now come to a...

Francis Bacon once remarked, “some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”

You can think of analytical reading as doing that chewing and digesting. This is doing the work.

Analytical reading is a thorough readin...

  1. Classify the book according to kind and subject matter.
  2. State what the whole book is about with the utmost brevity.
  3. Enumerate its major parts in their order and relation, and outline these parts as you have outlined the whole.
  4. Define the problem or problems the author...

You’ll probably notice that while the rules above sound pretty easy, they involve a lot of work. Luckily the inspectional reading you’ve already done has primed you for this.

After an inspectional read, you will understand the book and the author’s views.

This is also known as comparative reading, and it represents the most demanding and difficult reading of all. Syntopical Reading involves reading many books on the same subject and comparing and contrasting ideas, vocabulary, and arguments.

This task is undertaken by identi...

There are 5 steps to syntopical reading:

  1. Finding the Relevant Passages
  2. Bringing the Author to Terms
  3. Getting the Questions Clear
  4. Defining the Issues
  5. Analyzing the Discussion

You need to find the right books and then the passages that are most relevant to filling your needs. So the first step is an inspectional reading of all the works that you have identified as relevant.

In analytical reading, you must identify the keywords and how they are used by the author. This is fairly straightforward. The process becomes more complicated now as each author has probably used different terms and concepts to frame their argument. Now the onus is on you to est...

Rather than focus on the problems the author is trying to solve, you need to focus on the questions that you want answered. Just as we must establish our own terminology, so too must we establish our own propositions by shedding light on our problems to which the authors provide ...

If you’ve asked a clear question to which there are multiple answers then an issue has been defined. Opposing answers, now translated into your terms, must be ordered in relation to one another. Understanding multiple perspectives within an issue helps you form an int...

It’s presumptuous to expect we’ll find a single unchallenged truth to any of our questions. Our answer is the conflict of opposing answers. The value is the discussion you have with these authors. You can now have an informed opinion.

Reading is all about asking the right questions in the right order and seeking answers.

There are 4 main questions you need to ask of every book:

  1. What is this book about?
  2. What is being said in detail, and how?
  3. Is this book true in whole or in part...

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