Top critical review
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I have to disagree, this book is repetitive and of little worth
on 9 March 2009
I'm going to have to disagree with the other reviewers of this book, the first 1/2 of the book is just terrible arrogant repetitive drivel. The book only gets moderately interesting in the second half.
The first two sections talk about the various levels of reading, split into 4 distinct levels: Elementary, Inspectional, Analytical and finally Syntopical.
Elementary - essentially being able to read at the level of an 8 year old, recognising words and sentences etc
Inspectional - Divided into two types Skimming (pre-reading) and superficial. Basically, understanding the outline of a book through the table of contents, another other dividers like chapters and subheadings. The goal is to understand the general landscape of the book by identifying its major landmarks.
Superficial reading is then a reading of the book, like one would an undemanding novel page by page without stopping, without pondering on deeper meanings or ambiguities etc.
Analytical - Move on to understanding a book. Understand its place in relation to other books, start dissecting it, trying to state the unity of the main premises etc. Having confidence in talking about the book, that is the plot, overarching themes etc.
This exposition on how to read, expands these, simple, common-sense ideas, with infuriating repetition (to genuinely ridiculous levels) taking up some 190 pages. Nothing more is said that that stated above. I challenge anyone to show otherwise. Just to take one example "How to use a dictionary" says dictionaries are used to find the meanings of unfamiliar words. This rather straightforward idea takes some 5 pages and 1500 words to elucidate. The first half of this book is an embarrassment that should not have been printed.
DO NOT READ THE FIRST HALF JUST LOOK ABOVE!
The second half however, has some reasonable content, but again is far too repetitive to merit much praise. I would certainly recommend purchasing the book for the second half and will therefore not summarise the second half other than to say it describes methods of how to approach different reading matter that approaches the heady heights of being mildly informative.
The whole book reads like the authors are trying to inflate themselves as intellectuals when in actuality they display verbosity without much content.
Adler was a philosopher of sorts, and I did read a few of his books after this, and to be fair to the man (who has produced a terrible book here), he wrote a reasonable introduction to Aristotle, although not without the faults displayed in this book: the characteristic ostentatious writing style, the insecure bombasity and the kind of self-important naivety that the ideas that occur to him are somehow necessarily insightful and not just trivially obvious, as they in fact are.
Charles Van Doren the co-author was a quiz show cheat on the famous Twenty-one and I think that is all that I need to say to allow my impression to be felt.
I am so inconsolably perplexed this book has such good reviews that I had to add my own (my first Amazon review incidentally).
The first 200 pages are a waste of ink, the last 200 are worth skimming but contain nothing you would miss. I would still however recommend a purchase, if not to witness a literate idiot attempt to sound intelligent.