How to Read a Book | Mortimer J. Adler

Summary of: How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading
By: Mortimer J. Adler


Embark on a journey that will transform your reading experience with the book ‘How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading’ by Mortimer J. Adler. This summary unveils a series of valuable techniques and strategies to help you become a more proficient reader, empowering you to absorb information efficiently and analyze texts on a deeper level. Discover how reading is an active task that requires effort, practice, and the mastery of various levels – ranging from elementary reading to syntopical reading. Explore the significance of inspectional reading, analytical reading, and the evaluation process that aids in identifying the quality and significance of different texts.

Becoming an Effective Reader

Reading is not a passive activity. It requires effort from the reader to understand what the author is conveying. To become an effective reader, it is essential to master different levels of reading, from the superficial to the analytical. This requires commitment and practice, just like any other skill. With some tips and tricks, one can quickly understand and select information from a text, but it’s important to understand what it means to be an effective reader. In short, if you want to become a highly proficient reader, you must learn and practice the skills involved.

Mastering the Basics of Reading

Reading comprehension is the foundation of understanding the meaning of a text. The first step towards understanding a text lies in decoding the words and sentences in it, to comprehend its basic content. Children learn to read by linking symbols on a page to sounds to form words and sentences. This is what is referred to as elementary reading. Basic as it might seem, this skill is crucial in helping readers comprehend what a text intends to communicate. To understand what a book communicates, readers must decode the words and sentences within it fully. Without mastering this fundamental skill, readers will only skim the surface of the book’s contents and fail to grasp its meaning. Therefore, to get the most out of a book, readers should start by understanding the basic concepts from the start.

Mastering Inspectional Reading

Inspectional reading helps you to absorb the basic points of a book in a limited amount of time. By knowing what the book is about, you can determine if it’s worth investing your time in. Inspectional reading is done by systematically skim-reading the book, going over elements such as the title page, table of contents, and editor’s blurb. If the book is relevant to you, proceed to read the entire book superficially. This technique helps you to understand the entire book before reading it thoroughly, which can be useful in analyzing difficult parts.

Analyzing Books for a Deeper Reading Experience

Learn how to classify books and analyze their content through summarizing and identifying themes and subplots.

If you want to take your reading experience to the next level, then you must start reading analytically. This process helps you digest and comprehend the content of a book better. First, you need to find out what type of book you’re reading and how the themes connect with each other. Knowing the nature of the book’s argumentation will allow you to prepare for more complex parts as you read along. The easiest way to classify a book is to focus on its superficial properties, including the language it uses and its title.

Once you’ve established the book’s nature and themes, it’s time to go deeper. This phase of analysis involves identifying the plot, summarizing the story, and noting the different subplots. You can extract a brief storyline, and then list the crucial events that make up the plot.

By following this analytical reading strategy, you can discern the structure and subplots of a book to understand its nature fully. It’s like taking an X-ray of the book to uncover all its hidden details. By the time you finish reading, you’ll discover that you have a deeper understanding of the book’s themes, subplots, and overall message.

Understanding Texts: Pinpointing Key Concepts

In order to understand whether an author’s work is high quality, it’s important to understand their vocabulary and arguments. Identifying key words in textbooks is often easy, through graphical underlining or bold font, and the author’s definition. By analyzing the surrounding words and context we can discover their meaning. Once key words are identified, we move onto the propositions. A proposition is the main argument in a text and can be an answer, declaration or opinion. These can be found in key sentence sections and can be used to convey the main message. Identifying the argument’s structure is also vital, to see whether propositions logically follow one another, or whether supporting evidence is presented before or after the main argument. Finally, to check our understanding, rephrasing in our own words is an effective tool. By following these steps, readers can clarify what is being said and how the text is being said.

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