Is this title a bit condescending? After all, one thing we’ve in common at the Kill Zone is we’re avid readers. We enthusiastically read books, ergo: All writers are readers, but not all readers are writers. Right? (said in a mock-condescending tone) “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the tools to write. Simple as that.” ~Stephen King in On Writing.
I’m not sure where, but I recently stumbled across a book titled How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren. It was published in 1940 and remained in print ever since. That speaks for itself, so I bought a Kindle version to see what the fuss was all about. Here’s Amazon’s blurb:
With half a million copies in print, How to Read a Book is the best and most successful guide to reading comprehension for the general reader, completely rewritten and updated with new material.
A CNN Book of the Week: “Explains not just why we should read books, but how we should read them. It’s masterfully done.” –Farheed Zakaria
Originally published in 1940, this book is a rare phenomenon, a living classic that introduces and elucidates the various levels of reading and how to achieve them—from elementary reading, through systematic skimming and inspectional reading, to speed reading. Readers will learn when and how to “judge a book by its cover,” and also how to X-ray it, read critically, and extract the author’s message from the text.
Also included is instruction in the different techniques that work best for reading particular genres, such as practical books, imaginative literature, plays, poetry, history, science and mathematics, philosophy and social science works.
Finally, the authors offer a recommended reading list and supply reading tests you can use measure your own progress in reading skills, comprehension, and speed.
What I found was a compressed guide to improving reading skills and getting maximum value from any publication, whether that be fiction or non-fiction. It’s a timeless resource for anyone seeking efficiency and thoughtfulness in their reading approach. The authors emphasize reading should be an active process that demands full engagement and critical thinking where a reader should be aware of their methodology which they break into these four categories:
Elementary Reading — This level is the most basic skill where readers grasp the primary surface content and simple meaning of the book. (Fun)
Inspectional Reading — This level allows readers to scan the material, particularly the preface, index, and chapter openings/closings to assess the book’s structure and main ideas. (Curiosity)
Analytical Reading — This level engages a deeper examination of the book’s core content such as the author’s arguments, key concepts, and presented evidence to support the book’s point. (Research)
Syntopical Reading — This level is the highest reading form where multiple books are read so the reader can fully understand the entire subject matter delivered from multiple sources across the knowledgeable spectrum. (Eggheadism)
So far, I’ve done a Level One go-over on How to Read a Book. It intrigues me enough that I’m going straight to Level Three and understand this information, but I thought I’d share my new find with folks at the Kill Zone. So, let’s discuss how we read books. Fiction and non-fiction.
Do you have a process that’s similar to these four methods, maybe a combination, or possibly an entirely novel approach (don’t excuse the novel pun) to reading? What’s your way of enjoying, comprehending, and retaining stuff in the books you read?