How to Read a Book - Product Review May 24 2014, 0 Comments
When first I came across the book, How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren, the question flashed through my mind, “Why would I read this book? I already know how to read a book.” But amidst many jokes from my family, I got through the book! And have a new appreciation for books.
The books that How to Read a Book primarily deals with are non-fiction books that are written to increase the understanding of the reader, not just read for enjoyment. There is a section for reading for fiction books also, though that it not the main focus of the book.
The author first lays out rules for reading, and then demonstrates how those rules will be adjusted based on the subject matter of the book (i.e. science vs. philosophy vs. history). These rules encourage the reader to both slow down and not skip important parts of the book such as the Table of Contents and the Preface. Additionally it is important to do a pre-read where the reader tries to understand the overall theme of the book before carefully reading and outlining the book. Adler also instructs his readers how to look for main topics and basic outlines of each section of the book, thereby understanding the structure of the arguments which support the main theme.
Adler is a very logical thinker, and the book reads a bit like a step by step "how to" book. However, this does not make it not engaging to read. The author encourages the reader to use active reading to improve his understanding of the world around him, while evaluating an author's understanding of and ability to communicate his own understanding of the world. As a reader you become part of a conversation, agreeing or disagreeing with the author, not based on feeling, but based on reasoned responses.
I believe reading and analyzing a book in the way taught by Adler would help all students to better understand what they read and to better evaluate it according to scripture. Books should be read skeptically, so we don't fall prey to vain philosophies, always with a view to evaluating them through the lens of God's Word. Adler's book is an excellent tool that can aid parents and older readers how to more intelligently read a book.