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How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading (A Touchstone book) Paperback – 1 Jan 1972


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Product details

  • Paperback: 426 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; Revised edition edition (1 Jan. 1972)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671212095
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671212094
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.8 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 12,372 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"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

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This is a book for readers and for those who wish to become readers. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 9 Dec. 1997
Format: Paperback
How many other "How-To" books originally published in 1940 still pertain today? This books offers practical suggestions on getting the most out of a book, by reading more actively and attentively than you ever thought possible. The book does not suffer from the most common complaint of other practical books; you don't even need to set the book down in order to put your new skills as a reader into practice. The 13 page Recommended Reading List alone is worth the price of the book.
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70 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Layla Halabi on 20 Dec. 2005
Format: Paperback
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.
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102 of 108 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME on 29 Dec. 2005
Format: Paperback
Imagine me - there I was, for decades of my life, thinking I knew how to read a book. I'd advanced through elementary school and prep, into college and finally to graduate school when I discovered, to my horror, that I in fact did not know how to read! Perhaps that helps to explain my affinity to literacy programmes, with whom I will begin working again come this Wednesday.
But no, perhaps I overstate the situation. What I actually mean to say is that it was not until my graduate school days that I happened across the most excellent work How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading, by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren. This staple had somehow eluded me; familiar as I was with both Adler and Van Doren, I had never encountered this text.
This book was written in 1940, as World War II was beginning and the Great Depression ending; it was revised in the 60s and again in 70s, with the assistance of Charles Van Doren, another person who had had some difficult dealings with Columbia, due to his involvement in the quiz show scandals of the 1950s. Van Doren moved away from the East Coast and landed in Chicago, near Adler, at Britannica, also again near Adler, and has the kind of intellect and unconventional circumstance that Adler admired. Adler of course had his own unique academic career, failing to get an undergraduate degree due to a physical education requirement that went unmet.
The book itself is divided into four main sections with two sizeable appendices.
The Dimensions of Reading
In this section, the authors look as types of reading and reading levels. They look at basic goals for reading, and discuss different types of learning.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 13 Jun. 1998
Format: Paperback
I purchased this book many years ago. My wife thought I was crazy to buy a "How to" book on reading. This book truly changed the way I read (and think). I can no longer sit down with a serious book without having a pen in hand to write down comments and questions as I go.
This book should be mandatory reading for all high school students and for all education professionals.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John M. Ford TOP 500 REVIEWER on 8 Jun. 2011
Format: Hardcover
Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren have written an insightful guide to reading books that are worth reading. First published in 1940, their advice for understanding the written word has aged well. Their goal is to help us use the best books in our lifelong education. This version, rewritten in 1972, improves on the first release by incorporating recent research on the psychology of reading and reference to current additions to the growing population of worthy books.

This book discusses both how to read and how to decide what is worth reading. There are four different levels of reading. The first is Level 1 Elementary Reading, in which we move straightforwardly through text, absorbing the obvious. It is a perfectly acceptable way to read road signs and the backs of cereal boxes. It is not sufficient for most books. Level 2 Inspectional Reading consists of scanning the structure and skimming the content of a book to get a general sense of its message. It requires fluency in Level 1 skills and is necessary to make an informed decision about whether to invest more effort in a book.

Level 3 Analytical Reading is an advanced skill to which the authors devote seven chapters of carefully-considered description. Analytical readers need to classify a book and relate it to others that quote or supersede it. They need to outline or profile a book and understand its central messages. Analytical reading requires understanding the book's author, including the vocabulary of words, phrases and personal experiences the author uses to communicate and his or her purposes in writing the book. Analytical reading moves beyond understanding and accepting what authors tell us. It requires fairly evaluating their arguments and then taking a stand with respect to them.
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