One night, after struggling with painting for about three years in art college, I suddenly learned to paint. It was amazing, like one of those "Eureka!" moments, where one second you're totally clueless and the next moment, you finally "get it." The following day, I was just as confused about my sudden improvement as my painting teacher was, and could only mumble "I don't know," when he asked me why I was painting well all of a sudden. It was only later when I realized I had learned to paint because of Dodson's book.
Why does Dodson's book work? For one, he demystifies the drawing process. Unlike other books that teach people that drawing is some mysterious, magical process that they can never hope to learn unless they are extremely talented, he encourages readers to believe that anyone can draw. In other words, he shows that drawing is not the possession of the Anointed Few, but a skill that we all can develop, regardless of how little talent we have. (In fact, in the book he presents an early picture of Van Gogh's before he became an art master to show that some of the many famous painters who have been viewed by history as having been born talented were really regular people who got that way by developing their drawing skills from "the very bottom.")
The second reason why this book is terrific is that it's downright practical. There are no other drawing books I know of, with the exception of those written by people like Burne Hogarth, that actually explain so clearly the process of drawing. This book will open your eyes. Even if you never become a brillliant draughstman like da Vinci, just reading this book through once will make you a better drawer.
Thirdly-- and here is the key-- what is so beautiful about his book is that it is a combination of art theory and art instruction WITHOUT the right brain/ left brain jargon of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. As revolutionary as Edward's book was, the biggest problem with it was that it introduced a lot of scientific and psychological verbiage that may have gotten in the way of learning drawing for the absolute beginner. (The best analogy about DOTRSB I can give is that it was like teaching people how to turn on a light bulb by introducing them to the basics of electrical wiring). If you enjoyed that book, yet felt that you needed something that went straight to the point, then Keys to Drawing is the book for you. Dodson's book cuts right to the chase, and in a very relaxed, informal way. The exercises are fun, the advice understandable and practical, and the writing encouraging. I highly advise that anyone hoping to learn to draw read this book; the lessons you'll gain from it will last a life time.