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How to Read a Book Paperback – Aug 15 1972

4.5 out of 5 stars 75 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 426 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; REV edition (Aug. 15 1972)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671212095
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671212094
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.8 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 381 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 75 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #176 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"These four hundred pages are packed full of high matters which no one solicitous of the future of American culture can afford to overlook." (Jacques Barzun)

"It shows concretely how the serious work of proper reading may be accomplished and how much it may yield in the way of instruction and delight." (The New Yorker)

"'There is the book; and here is your mind.' Adler and Van Doren's suggestions on how to connect the two will make you nostalgic for a slower, more earnest, less trivial time." (Anne Fadiman)

About the Author

Dr. Mortimer J. Adler was Chairman of the Board of the Encyclopedia Britannica, Director of the Institute for Philosophical Research, Honorary Trustee of the Aspen Institute, and authored more than fifty books. He died in 2001.

Dr. Charles Van Doren earned advanced degrees in both literature and mathematics from Columbia University, where he later taught English and was the Assistant Director of the Institute for Philosophical Research. He also worked for Encyclopedia Britannica in Chicago.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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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Format: 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.
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Format: 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.
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Format: Paperback
Do you remember being amazed by the disparity between reading abilities amongst your class-mates? I do.
Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren assert that most people never learn to read for deep comprehension. In those remembered classes, I was amongst the stronger students. Only once I was beyond college did I realize I wanted to read more closely and tackle more challenging texts.
HOW TO READ A BOOK tackles the essential skills you need to read intelligently and learn from the greatest teachers of all time.
It teaches how to read a single work on its own, how to read different genres effectively (including an interesting section on dramas and plays, which are essentially blueprints of complete performance works), and how to read books in relation to each other so one can understand the great conversation amongst books (so fascinatingly visited in The Name of the Rose).
I feel that I have made a leap in my comprehension and analytical skills by working through this book. Unfortunately, "working" is an appropriate verb. The authors are verbose, making their points over and over, to the detriment of clarity and simplicity.
If you are interested in learning to analyze philosophy and practical works, are engaging in higher studies and find your skills falling short of your expectations, or just want to push yourself, take the time to read this handbook. Expect to draw comments from everyone who sees it in your hands -- for everyone believes that reading is a simple skill. Know that you are working towards making it an art!
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