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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern classic
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...
Published on 9 Dec 1997

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34 of 44 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I have to disagree, this book is repetitive and of little worth
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...
Published on 9 Mar 2009 by JL


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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern classic, 9 Dec 1997
By A Customer
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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66 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Prequel to all books, 20 Dec 2005
By 
Layla Halabi (Dubai - UAE) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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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100 of 106 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Higher literacy, 29 Dec 2005
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
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. While they do not get into the theoretical complexities of learning styles as intricately as more recent educational theorists, they do make interesting and insightful distinctions between learning by instruction and learning by discovery.
This section is, in fact, full of rules. Rules for notetaking, annotating (highlighting, underlining, summarising, etc.), skimming, comprehending, etc. are all presented in an almost overwhelming sequence. There is so much to remember while reading (and I remember how smug I felt at having discovered many, if not most, of the rules on my own). But the authors beg for the rules to be consistently applied so that they merge together to become simple habit. They use the analogy of learning to ski - the rules are important, each in and of itself, but successful skiing transcends a mere application of rules until they become a natural impulse. So it is with reading.
Analytical Reading
This is crucial for true benefit and comprehension of any book. The authors talk about analysis in stages:
o Pigeonholing a book
o X-raying a book
o Coming to terms with an author
o Determining an author's message
o Criticising a book fairly
o Agreeing or disagreeing with an author
o Aids to reading
Approaches to Different Kinds of Reading Matter
In this section, the authors look at critical differences between different styles of books. It is obvious to even the inexperienced reader that reading a technical manual is vastly different from reading plays, poems, or history texts. Even the most educated of people occasionally stumble when confronted with high-level material from outside fields, such as asking the social scientist to deal with mathematical and scientific texts, or asking the physicist to deal with history and psychology treatises. One might argue about their divisions, but within the chapters they cover a very broad area.
The Ultimate Goals of Reading
Why does anyone read in the first place? Here the authors talk about developing beyond individual books into fields of learning, introducing ideas of synoptic reading and understanding the importance for doing so. Again charting rules of engagement for multiple texts, the authors discuss the importance of reading for understanding and deeper comprehension.
* * *
The first appendix consists of a lengthy list of the great books identified by Adler, modified over time by the various people involved in great books curriculum development. This is an admittedly Western-dominated list.
The list is certainly a long one. There are 137 authors, often with several works attached, recommended in this list. One can find this list in physical form in the Great Books series that is a companion to the Britannica. Itself only recently updated and revised, it consists of several linear feet of bookshelves, and even their recommended 10-year plan is ambition and doesn't cover the entirety of the series. The list is presented (as the book set is organized) in chronological order; this is not the best order in which to read the works.
The second appendix is actually a series of reading exercises for self-examination or group consideration. These are designed to be used for different levels of readers and different intentions. The authors tackle the question of arbitrary and cultural bias in manners of testing, coming to the pragmatic conclusion that, so long as academic and society advancement is tied to these kinds of testing and evaluations, it makes sense to learn how to do them, and however biased they may be in form or content, they still do provide a good measure, if not the best possible measure, for reading comprehension and retention.
One can tell that one's book has been successful when parody versions begin to appear. The year after the first edition of How to Read a Book appeared, there was the spoof How to Read Two Books; shortly thereafter there was a serious monograph by a Professor I.A. Richards entitled How to Read a Page.
Happy reading!
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You'll never read a book the same way again, 13 Jun 1998
By A Customer
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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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant., 26 Jun 1999
By A Customer
This book is one of the best books I have read, and it has exerted immense influence on me. I now read actively -- I mean, as much as possible -- and can feel how much more I am gaining from reading. The book has shown me the way to life-long learning.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From the dustjacket--, 29 May 1996
By A Customer
From the back cover--

Originally published in 1940, has become a rare phenomenon, a living classic. It is the best and most successful 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 mathmatics, philosophy and social science.

Finally, the authors offer a recommended reading list and supplu reading tests whereby you can measure your own progress in reading skills, comprehension and speed.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading - For Committed Readers, 24 Jan 2011
I think that some of the low-scoring reviewers are guilty of skimming this book - and missing the point.
There is a book of tremendous value for anyone wanting to improve the depth of their reading, and of their understanding.
Several concepts are introduced: You can read a book several times, or alternatively, that books exist that need more commitment than a single read: A list of examples are supplied (although from a traditional, white, male, western perspective pre-1950's);
There are levels to reading - and the highest level involves multiple books being cross-read (having already read the individual works analytically) to get the real content from them through an understanding of individual authors terminology.
None of this is obvious and helps any reader take on more challenging works by difficult authors: It lets you understand how you could tackle a complex work by drilling into its content rather than just giving up part way.
My advice to any negative reviewers would be to read it again.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Book in the Head is Worth Two in the Hand, 8 Jun 2011
By 
John M. Ford "johnDC" (near DC, MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
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. We haven't really read a book if we cannot clearly identify our points of agreement and disagreement with its author.

The Level 4 Interpretive or "Syntopical" Reader has master the skills of reading related books and synthesizing from them a grasp of the larger body of knowledge. To echo one critic of this book's first edition, they know "How to Read Two Books." The skills of Level 4 Reading are locating key passages in books, identifying the vocabulary, key questions and major issues of the subject area, and analyzing the ongoing discussion between authors of books on the same topic. Far from believing that this four-level approach is all the guidance we need, Adler and Van Doren present strategies for reading various types of books, ranging from poetry and imaginative literature to history, science and philosophy. They leave us well prepared to enrich ourselves from the pages of books.

This is a valuable book for anyone who reads seriously. I'll advise slipping it into the suitcase of a college-bound niece or nephew. It will also reward a snow-bound adult on a chilly afternoon. For those who write as well as read, The Craft of Research is a congenial companion volume. May your reading be rewarding.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Book Has Changed The Way I Read, 4 Jun 1999
By A Customer
Frankly, though I have been a book reader for many years, I can say that I have always been reading the "wrong kinds" of books until I read this book. It has helped me to widen my scope in readings as well as expanding my mind! It is a must have and more important a must read book. Highly Recommended. It will forever change the way you read and your reading life will never be the same again.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading, 15 Sep 1998
By A Customer
The first question this book asks, "is why are you reading?" As a teacher of reading, I get all sorts of answers to this question, usually "cuz I hafta". This book teaches one to narrow the answer a bit and then focuses on teaching one to read to a purpose. The reading list is okay for someone who has the time, but the most important thing is to get through the stuff we read "cuz we hafta". This book is indispensable to such readers.
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