How to Read a Book Mortimer Adler Charles Van Doren

I have a number of Reading Guides from various stages of life. This one is subtitled – the classic guide to intelligent reading. 1940, renvewed 1967. It turns out it is on a summer reading list for one of the local highschools. I discovered this via a text message from a daughter to a friend who was trying to buy the book online all day, and missed the deadline by taking the dog for a walk. They said the title, I said by Adler? I have a copy…. My husband said SOLD (e.g. one more book OUT of the house!).
I felt this book was pretty much common sense – leaving through it again I realise I normally do these things. The Art of Reading… How to make reading a habit. Inspectional reading. The essence of active reading (four basic questions: 1) what is the book about? 2) what is being said in detail? 3)Is the book true (in whole or part)4)what of it? (in the chapter how to be a demanding reader – yup, that’s me!} Analytical Reading. Which is more relevant now as it relates to the author, to fairness, to reasoning/thinking about the book, the subject, the author.
There is a section on the approaches of different kinds of reading matter – as you should read history different from stories, different from poems, different from practical books, different from science/mathematics or philosophy. There is of cousre a suggested reading list and ‘what good books can do for us’.
I had forgotten the chapter on Syntopical Reading (especially as it is the ‘ultimate goal’ – reading several books on the same subject/topic. Of course it is not easy to determine what is considered the same topic! And I tend to forget people don’t read alot of books (the recent example of Stieg Larson, where it was supposed to be such new and original work, but honestly, haven’t you read that ending 100 times?) ….
I have to relate that it was THIS book, that started me reading Thucydides, The history of the Peloponnesian War – as it is on their recommended reading list. From High School through University, I attempted to read this list. Yes, during the summer, when everyone else was reading Beach reads! I will never forget the faces when asked what I was reading (and obviously enjoying). Looking through the list, there are still afew things I need to find (The Song of Roland, 12th century; Persian Letters, Gottfried Wilhel van Leibniz Discourse on Metaphysics (perhaps not)- I still haven’t read Henri Bergson or John Dewey or Alfred North Whitehead….
I finally read ‘about’ Adam Smith – Wealth of Nations because of PJ O’Rourke’s distillation).
It has obviously been a good 30+ years of reading this list though – I am astonished at the memories that each title brings back.
Happy Reading!


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