Syntopical Reading - Deepstash

Syntopical Reading

Syntopical Reading involves reading many books on the same subject and comparing and contrasting ideas, vocabulary, and arguments.

This task is undertaken by identifying relevant passages, translating the terminology, framing and ordering the questions that need answering, defining the issues, and having a conversation with the responses.

The goal is not to achieve an overall understanding of any particular book, but rather to understand the subject and develop a deep fluency.

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

Mortimer Adler literally wrote the book on reading. Adler identifies four levels of reading:

  1. Elementary Reading
  2. Inspectional Reading
  3. Analytical Reading
  4. Syntopical Reading

They are thought of as levels because you can’t move to a higher level without a firm understanding of the previous one — they are cumulative.

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There are four rules to Analytical Reading:

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

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The Difference Between Reading for Understanding and Reading for Information.

There is a difference between reading for understanding and reading for information. Anything easily digested is reading for information. The regurgitation of facts without solid understanding and context gains you little in the real world. 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.

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Inspectional reading allows us to look at the author’s blueprint. There are two sub-types of inspectional reading:

  • Systematic skimming, this is meant to be a quick check of the book by reading the preface; studying the table of contents; checking the index; and reading the inside jacket.
  • Superficial reading, this is when you just read. If you don’t understand something, move on.

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RELATED IDEA

The importance of marking a book

Why is marking a book indispensable to reading it? 

First, it keeps you awake, not merely conscious, but wide awake. 

Second, reading, if it is active, is thinking, and thinking tends to express itself in words, spoken or written. The person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it usually does not know what he thinks.

Third, writing your reactions down helps you to remember the thoughts of the author.

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Making Bad Decisions: Being Intentionally Stupid

Our various cognitive biases make us behave irrationally, even though we believe we are acting logically. If we are tired, in a rush, or are distracted we tend to rush towards a bad decision. Other factors include working with an authority figure or in a group.

The rule to follow is to never make important decisions when one is emotionally weak, tired, distracted, or in a hurry.

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The best-case scenario

The best-case scenario is seldom the one that happens. It is okay to hope for the best. Some degree of optimism is necessary for trying anything new. Without it, we would not start a business or enter a new relationship.

Even when the best-case scenario comes to pass, it rarely unfolds according to plan. Unforeseen problems may appear due to lack of information. Or our ideas may take much longer to implement.

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