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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My conversion from being widely-read to well-read
I am an engineer by training, and since I have been out of grad school for a few years now, I enjoy reading books in order to occupy my mind. However, I was what Adler and Van Doren would call a "widely-read" person, which is to say that I should have been pitied rather than respected. This book really changed my perception of reading from being a casual hobby...
Published on June 29 2004 by Ray Farmer

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars How to read more deeply
How To Read A Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren is a very useful book for anyone wishing to give their books a more thoughtful, in-depth reading.
The book does have an agenda to push. That agenda is to see more people go beyond high school reading levels. The authors begin by reviewing how America got to the point where almost everyone could read, but...
Published on Oct. 30 2000 by NotATameLion


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars How to read more deeply, Oct. 30 2000
This review is from: How to Read a Book (Paperback)
How To Read A Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren is a very useful book for anyone wishing to give their books a more thoughtful, in-depth reading.
The book does have an agenda to push. That agenda is to see more people go beyond high school reading levels. The authors begin by reviewing how America got to the point where almost everyone could read, but very few people could read well. They offer the techniques in this book as a path from this superficial knowledge of reading to a deeper understanding of how to read more effectively and more deeply.
The book breaks down the levels of reading. They present four levels of reading: Elementary, Inspectional, Analytical, and Syntopical.
The most time and attention is given to Analytical writing. The authors present ways to read more analytically. They also lay out rules for giving a book a fair analytical reading. I found this part very helpful personally.
The other three levels of reading are treated in much less detail. Each is more presented than taught. The authors demonstrate how each level is dependent on the one preceding it.
This book is very well put together and nicely laid out. One can tell that this was a labor of love by the authors. A feature that I found particularly interesting was the suggested reading list in the back of the book.
How To Read A Book will be helpful to any reader who desires to learn how to read more deeply. I recommend it.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My conversion from being widely-read to well-read, June 29 2004
By 
Ray Farmer (Concord, MA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: How to Read a Book (Paperback)
I am an engineer by training, and since I have been out of grad school for a few years now, I enjoy reading books in order to occupy my mind. However, I was what Adler and Van Doren would call a "widely-read" person, which is to say that I should have been pitied rather than respected. This book really changed my perception of reading from being a casual hobby to a lifelong process of self-education, and so I am currently undergoing my conversion to being a well-read reader, or a person who reads for understanding not just information.
Others might scoff at my literary ignorance, but I was really impressed by Adler and Van Doren's suggestion that the Great Books should be read chronologically, in order to take part in this "Great Conversation" that has been going on since man learned how to write. Previously, I had regarded the Great Books as so many individual stars in a literary universe, with absolutely no rhyme or reason on where to begin reading. However, now, I am approaching these classics in a more disciplined way by following a chronological reading list, and this has added a dimension of understanding to my reading that I really had not encountered before.
Adler and Van Doren say a lot in this book that I agree with, and previous reviewers have done a good job of summarizing the levels of reading, and the activities associated with them. However, I felt that the authors' suggestions for reading fiction were a bit vague and insufficient. For example, Adler and Van Doren say that the "truth" of a work of fiction is determined by its beauty to the reader, and the reader should be able to point out in the book the source of this beauty. Such a suggestion leaves a lot of things left unsaid and I felt that the authors could have commented a little more on how the reader could go about analyzing imaginative literature.
Nevertheless, this book is a classic. If you consider yourself a serious reader, but have never been formally instructed in how to engage books, then I highly, wholeheartedly, and absolutely recommend that you read this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bible guide of reading art, May 5 2004
This review is from: How to Read a Book (Paperback)
Absolutelly awesome. Just an advice. Read it...and PRACTICE it. It's worth it. Don't read anything before this incredible book. Don't be one of those lazy people who take a glance the book in 2 minutes and throw it away because they alredy "know" all that stuff. This is a practical book. The fact that the book is easy to read and understand, and that is a matter of common sense, doesn't mean that it's a bad book. Take at least 30 min a-day, a full month. Only when you put all that text into practice you will know how incredible book you had in your hands. I did.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And I Thought I Knew How To Read..., Jan. 31 2004
This review is from: How to Read a Book (Paperback)
My reasons for reading this book are many. The initial one was curiosity, because the title intrigued me. Another reason, and a more important one, was the fact that I am now studying for a Doctor of Business Administration degree, which is purely based on my learning from reading. Being someone for whom English is a second language, it is my opinion that my skills can always be improved and it was in that spirit that I took this book into my daily life.
In fairness, this is not the easiest book my hands have ever touched or my eyes have ever rested upon, but having spent the time to read it, my opinion is that it will make a significant difference to my reading and learning in the future.
It is easy to fool oneself by thinking that one knows all or most of what there is to know about reading, since most people's reading starts at an early age. Some people is likely to have that kind of attitude and dismiss this book, however if they read it they would come to discover that there is so much to be learned by reading it. "How to Read a Book" is now amongst the books that I treasure. It is a joy to read as one learns the principles of reading from its pages, and then later applys them to reading the book itself as it will have to be read in more than one sitting. I now find that my reading has been improving and my understanding of what I am reading is growing thanks to applying what I am learning from it.
I believe that anyone who reads can benefit from "How to Read a Book", even more so the ones who really need to learn from the books read, as applying the right techniques can make all the difference to the enjoyment as well as the benefits obtained from reading a book.
The authors have written such a valuable work because not only do they describe how reading a book should be approached but also whether a book should be read at all so at a minimum the reader would save time after reading it, if not improving their skills in reading, however I think they will achieve both things.
I now find that my reading has been improving and my understanding of what I am reading is growing thanks to applying what I am learning from it, as I revisit it. I believe that anyone who reads can benefit from "How to Read a Book", even more so the ones who really need to learn from the books read.
Amongst the many things learned from the book is how to read the work of poets and philosophers, which have always attracted me. Not having English as my first language, I did not have an early exposure to the works of people like Shakespeare; therefore I am glad that now I will be able to do it the right way and therefore obtain maximum enjoyment from it.
I am sure others can write a much better review than I did, so I will stop here and just say that this is a great read and I thoroughly recommend it to any reader, not matter now advanced they think they might be, because this book will make them better readers.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable, May 19 2004
By 
Penn Jacobs (Rutherford, NJ USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: How to Read a Book (Paperback)
Excellent. I just re-read it again after nearly 20 years. It inspired me years ago to go to a great books college for a Master's degree. I found its advice quite useful there, and, returning to it after all these years, I still found it helpful when dealing with texts. It's also a good deal more nuanced then I remembered, with good advice on how to place texts in context, for example.
If you've never read it, and you have a vague sense that your education is somehow incomplete and you'd like to remedy that, this is your book. Period.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Art of Reading 101, May 17 2004
By 
Christopher Nelson (Oakland, CA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: How to Read a Book (Paperback)
The first time I ever saw this book was my first year in college where it was required reading . . . unfortunately, I pretty much tossed it aside after looking at the "embarrasing" title, which screamed: "Hey look, I'm illiterate!" Years after I graduated (and had sold my copy) I came across it again sitting face up in a used book-shop, staring me in the face as if to say: "We've unfinished business, you and me!". So, I decided to give it a second chance. It's now thoroughly underlined, highlighted, and thumbed through. I continue to use the reading list in the appendix as a lifetime must-read list.
This is one of those books that really should be required reading in college, and perhaps high-school (but I doubt most high school students would bother with it). The fraction that I did originally read in college stayed with me all these years, and brought me back to the complete book. I won't go into detail of how the book works (other reviewers have done that), but will say that if you follow Adler & Van Doren's suggestions for active, passionate reading you'll find yourself enjoying books more than ever. And, in my case, enjoying the act of reading for the first time in my life. Since first reading "How to Read a Book" some years ago, I've rarely been without reading material that I was enthusiastic about, and continue to use the suggestions in this "guide to intelligent reading" at various times to remind myself of such things as the difference between reading for information vs. understanding; or when and how to read long novels quickly and with immersion and not get lost or bogged down without taking forever to finish, if at all.
This guide is filled with information and recommendations which most of us probably think we already know, but since the subject of reading itself isn't usually well taught, becomes a classic, and vital handbook for any serious reader.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, July 14 2014
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This review is from: How to Read a Book (Paperback)
Book could be titled "How to think critically"
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5.0 out of 5 stars Helpful to any mature students, Oct. 11 2013
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This review is from: How to Read a Book (Paperback)
This book is really helpful to me when it comes to reading. It gave me a lot of tips on how to read faster and with efficiency. Considering English is my second language and I am a mature university students finishing my B.A. studies. I have read hundreds of books but it triple my speed of reading since I discovered some tips from this book on 'How to read a book' with speed and with analytical thinking.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Book in the Head is Worth Two in the Hand, Feb. 19 2013
By 
John M. Ford "johnDC" (near DC, MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: How to Read a Book (Paperback)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars LIFE SAVER, Aug. 5 2012
By 
Thomas James Wagner (Los Angeles, CA, US) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: How to Read a Book (Paperback)
This book should be mandatory for ALL high school freshman.
The formost tech. book ever written. If a person doesn't understand
what's in this book, they really don't know how to READ.!!!!
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How to Read a Book
How to Read a Book by Charles Van Doren (Paperback - Aug. 15 1972)
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