Nathan Schneider

Reccomended: How to Read a Book

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I want to suggest a book: How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren.

I first came across this book while in college. One of my good friends suggested it by professing, “This is the best book ever written in the English language.” A bold statement and one that would cause anyone to consider picking it up. I eventually did and I’m glad I did. It took me only a short while to finish it, but I feel like I’m still reading through it as I’m constantly going back to it. The information has proved to be invaluable for a student like myself.

I don’t know if I would call it the “best book ever written in the English language,” but it has been the most useful resource I’ve come across in aiding my ability to read better and with more enjoyment. Some of the best material in this book has to do with understanding a book, or the author’s intent, before ever reading it thoroughly. I’ve also learned how to read the best books and avoid reading for mere information. Reading is about understanding and not just the collection of knowledge. There are lots of strategies given for becoming a better reader, including the art of note-taking. Again, it is very helpful. This from the back cover:

How to Read a Book, originally published in 1940, has become a rare phenomenon, a living classic. It is the best and most succesful 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.


“These four hundred pages are packed full of high matters which no one solicitous of the future of American culture can afford to overlook.” -Jacques Barzun

“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.” -The New Yorker

How to Read a Book on Amazon


Author: schneinm

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