Adler and Charles Van Doren, the authors of How to Read a Book. The major portion of the book is devoted to analytic reading, followed by brief exposition on the syntopic. The authors, ever practical, suggest six steps to do this most of them self-evident and what any serious reader usually does with an expository book (this book is mostly about reading expository material and of limited value in reading literature and poetry, but more about that later). If the book deserves our serious attention, we can come back to those difficult places in our next reading. In the authors own words: Every book should be read no more slowly than it deserves, and no more quickly than you can read it with satisfaction and comprehension. If the first stage of analytical reading is related to the what , the second is related to the how ; how has the author attempted to solve the problem with which he started out. The argument here that any author, putting forth an argument, will use certain key words and terms (for example natural selection and evolution by Darwin in The Origin of Species). In the third stage of analytical reading, the reader, for the first time, starts to apply his critical senses and begins to agree or disagree with the author. Here according to the authors of the current book, the reader has to follow certain etiquette, captured in the following three rules: 1.Do not begin criticism until one has completed the outline (first stage) and interpretation (second stage). Syntopic Reading This is the fourth (and most advanced) level of reading, according to Adler and Van Doren though Id perhaps disagree. For example, if you want to read up on, say evolution, you must first understand what the significant books are on the subject: then you must proceed to read them, and summarise the arguments, both pro and con, preferably remaining objective throughout. First, create a bibliography of the subject and inspect all of the books to ascertain which are the relevant ones: then, do the following: 1.Do inspectional reading of the selected book to choose the passages which are most relevant to the subject at hand; 2.Establish a neutral terminology which is applicable to all the authors, so that all of them can be brought to the same terms; 3.Establish a set of neutral propositions, by framing a set of questions which all the authors can be seen as answering; 4.Range the answers on both sides of the issue. *** Whoever has read through this review so far would be asking (him/her)self: But thats applicable to expository books, where the main aim is the dissemination of information? Well, the authors extend their methodology to all kinds of books, but according to me, it falls flat. It well may, for the major part of the book devoted to analytical reading gave me some insights on how to tackle books on difficult subjects like philosophy and political theory (the two stars are for that). If anyone wants to read this book, I would recommend an inspectional reading concentrating mainly on the methodology of analytical reading only.
Probably one of the most important books you can read. I'll post that for my "review." How To Read A Book: (This is an outline of part of Mortimer J. A syntopical outline would be titled, How To Read Books. I hope the below outline will provide you with some practical knowledge of how to read well, not necessarily be well read. B. By taking notes, highlighting key points and arguments, asking questions of the author, etc. D. The demanding reader should be asking these 4 questions of the book: 1. You should know the main assertions and arguments which constitute the authors message 3. 2. Reading the index to see the major themes, topics, ideas, and terms the author will be discussing. To achieve this you must read through the entire book at a fast pace and without stopping to think about terms youre unfamiliar with, ideas you dont immediately grasp, and points which are footnoted for further inspection. Doing both (A) and (B) will prepare you to read the book through for the second time; the analytical stage. A. Stage one: Rules for finding out what the book is about. (b) To know the authors terms, then, is to understand the meaning of his argument or explanation, etc. (c) Find the important words and through them come to terms with the author. (d) The words he uses in an important way, or the ones you have trouble understanding, are probably the important terms you need to know. (e) Read all the words in context to find the meaning of the terms; how the author means them, that is. 7. Find the authors argument by finding them in the key sequences of sentences. 8. Find which problem(s) the author solved and which ones he did not. (c) Did the author admit or know that he failed to solve some of the problem(s)? (d) If you know the solutions to the problem/s you can be confident that you understand the book. C. Stage three: Rules for criticizing a book as a communication of knowledge. You are required to criticize the book you read. Criticize, or offering a judgment, does not necessarily mean that you disagree with the author. (a) Do not begin criticism until you have completed your outline and interpretation of the book. (d) Show where the authors analysis, argument, or solution to problem(s) is incomplete.
Who This Book is (not) For It focuses mainly on reading expositional, rather than imaginative material. It focuses mainly on analytical reading of non-fiction: knowing what sort of book it is, having an idea of the content and structure etc. For example, four rules of analytical reading are spread across two chapters, and only listed together at the end of the second. Then, in the next chapter, you discover rule five, and six It turns out there are 15 (yes, 15!) rules of analytical reading. It does not mean that most plays are not worth reading, though. The Literary Canon (only one?!) I dont think the authors really know who their audience is - a fatal flaw in any writer/reader relationship. It explicitly includes only Western works because: 1.The authors admit they know very little about Indian, Chinese, Japanese and other literary traditions. Id rather read a good book.
Its like having tea with your cane-thumping retiree-professor of a great-grandfather. And then him suddenly going quiet, when youve mustered the courage to ask about fictionhim quiet and then, and then: We do not know, we cannot be sure, that the real world is good. But the world of a great story is somehow good.
The authors propose that, in order to achieve this aim (intelligent, active, skillful reading), readers must observe certain rules. This book aims to help readers develop that very skill. Adler says that there are different goals of reading -- information, amusement/ entertainment, and understanding. So, the goal of this book is to help readers learn how to read for increased understanding. On the other hand, you are reading for increased understanding and enlightenment when, after finishing the book, you can state the things in the book and at the same time explain what they mean. Books can teach us something (they can help us increase our understanding about the world) although their authors may no longer be physically present. Adler and Van Doren says that the goal of this book is to help readers learn the skills they need in order to become well-read, as opposed to being merely widely-read. Thoughts: I love Adler's baseball analogy of reading: Pitcher/ hitter = Writer/ author Catcher = Reader Ball = The ideas or information contained in the book I also like to be reminded that reading (at least, reading for increased understanding, which is the main goal of this book) is never passive. However, I'm not sure if I agree with the authors when they say that our goal, if we wish to become intelligent and skillful readers, is to read difficult books so that our understanding about things will increase. I mean, can we not read books that are entertaining (and therefore easy to read) but can also increase our understanding about life and the world? Syntopical reading Elementary reading asks the question, "What is the sentence saying, and what do the words mean?" Inspectional reading asks, "What is the book about as a whole? What are its parts?" Analytical reading asks, "What is the author saying? Thoughts: I like how the authors break down the skill of reading into levels. Chapter three: The First Level of Reading: Elementary Reading Basically, Adler and Van Doren says that elementary reading has four stages: reading readiness, word mastery or the ability to understand basic words, rapid growth of vocabulary, and the further refinement of these skills. My vocabulary is really not that wide or deep, and sometimes I find it hard to understand the context of a given sentence, especially if the book I'm reading is advanced or tertiary-level. Adler and Van Doren says that inspectional reading achieves two things: It helps you know whether the book is, for you personally, worthy of being read analytically or not; and, it gives you a general idea of the book which is useful for your future reference. If you follow its steps, you will have a general idea of what the book is about -- you'll know what kind of a book it is (whether it's a work of fiction or non-fiction, etc.), what its subject matter is, what its structure/outline is, and what its main arguments are. Adler and Van Doren's suggestion to use the finger as a "pointer" while reading is also very helpful. Adler and Van Doren says that in order to become an intelligent or skilled reader, you must be demanding in your reading. Furthermore, to become a demanding or active reader, you must ask questions while you read. These are also the four questions you ask when you are reading a book analytically. The second question helps you know the book's structure, outline, and its main parts and arguments. The third question helps you know whether the author is right or not, or whether his arguments are true or not. And the fourth question helps you know what the book's significance and implication is to your life. The second step is to read the book and "interact" with the author's ideas by writing on the book or making marks on its significant sentences or paragraphs. The authors also say that, basically, in order to develop the skill of intelligent reading, you must ask questions and obey those four general rules. That is, when we read a book analytically, we always ask those four questions and do our best to answer them. For example, after reading an apologetic book like Reasonable Faith by the Christian philosopher William Lane Craig, we shouldn't just set it aside and act as if nothing happened and nothing changed.
In the first chapter the authors have mentioned that this book is about the art of reading for the sake of increased understanding. The authors have clearly stated that the book intends to help people understand expository works. However, the authors have included sections on how to read fiction, plays and poetry as well. The authors have included a reading list and said that these books would facilitate the growth of the mind.
For much of his remarkably long life, Mortimer Adler was the leading proponent of the Great Books paradigm of education. In addition to his editing and publishing work, Adler wrote many popular books on philosophy and education. Ever since I encountered the list of the Great Books of the Western World, I have been gradually making my way through them. It was this list that prompted me to take my self-education more seriously; and through it, Ive had some of my most rewarding reading experiences. Adler promises to aid the reader of any type of reading material; but as he later admits, the strategies he suggests are most directly applicable to non-fiction. This is curious, considering that in his section on reading practical books, Adler has this to say: You can see why the practical author must always be something or an orator or propagandist. This book would have been far more effective, I think, if he had dwelt more on the joys and rewards of reading. There are some good books and a few great ones, he thinks, and the rest is basically trash. All these reservations aside, I must admit that Adler basically succeeds in his goal, which is to develop a methodology for getting as much as you can from non-fiction books. What is more, I also must admit that every time I've read a book on Adlers list, I found it surpassingly excellenteven great.
He worked for Columbia University, the University of Chicago, Encyclopædia Britannica, and Adler's own Institute for Philosophical Research. While at Columbia University, Adler wrote his first book: Dialectic, published in 1927. In 1930 Robert Hutchins, the newly appointed president of the University of Chicago, whom Adler had befriended some years earlier, arranged for Chicagos law school to hire him as a professor of the philosophy of law; the philosophers at Chicago (who included James H. Adler founded and served as director of the Institute for Philosophical Research in 1952. He introduced the Paideia Proposal which resulted in his founding the Paideia Program, a grade-school curriculum centered around guided reading and discussion of difficult works (as judged for each grade). Adler long strove to bring philosophy to the masses, and some of his works (such as How to Read a Book) became popular bestsellers.