Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

You cannot borrow my book!

Written by: on September 3, 2015

Every book has margins in it! In, “How to Read a Book” by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren, there is a clear reason given for the margins in a book.   It is to write in. There is so much more to reading a book than just covering the words on the pages.   There has to be an interaction that takes you from an elementary level of reading to one that engages you with the author. Thus the reason for margins: to start a dialogue with the author.

Enlightenment is the journey of discovery.   To truly gain knowledge from the author you must somehow engage in a dialogue or conversation.   The more in depth this conversation goes the more there is actual learning.   At the very beginning of the book this sentence jumped out to me: “The point of this book is about the art of reading for the sake of increased understanding.”[1]  Understanding is the gateway to knowledge.

What impact has this book already had on my ability to read a book? Training myself to thoroughly read all the vital information that is given in advance. The introduction, the table of content and the forward are not just filler.   They are there to set the reader up to know what is being said.   Knowing in advance where you are going is like a good GPS system.   In the past, this has not been something to devour, instead it has been something to skip past to get to the beginning of the book.   This is a mind shift on reading that is so simple but profound.

The rules and the guidelines given are another fantastic tool for me to have as a template to dissect each book the same way. There is great value in approaching each new adventure of a book with the same lens. This really does lend itself to deeper learning and the ability to take away a concept instead of just a collection of words.

Speed-reading is something that I have acquired over the years and it has allowed me to devour many volumes of material. Tracking with the Adler, really highlights the value of time and depth of reading. When you are dissecting more than one book at a time,  with this method,  you start to formulate your own synthetic knowledge.  This gives you the  ability to come up with a deeper knowledge and syntopical insight.  The five steps move you past speed and superficial reading to an ability to gain knowledge and to build an argument for or against the author’s point of view.  Finding the relevant passages, getting the terms of the author, getting the question clear, defining the issue and analyzing the discussion are much better than skimming the information.[2]  Doing it quickly I believe is the key.

BUT that wasn’t enough for me! If the author is really engaging me,  then I start to write back in the margins.   I have whole arguments with the author, over where they have changed their perspective, where they have changed their position on a fundamental truth, or I just completely disagree with them. I mark those pages all up and know right where that is at in the book so in the future I can go back and reference that point. Francis Bacon says, “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested.”[3] I completely agree with this outlook! Chapter 11, Agreeing or Disagreeing with an Author, was the most validation that I have had as an avid reader.

SO, that is why you cannot borrow my books.   I get way to personal with an engaging author for you to read what I have written.   The highlighter going out of control on areas that I adamantly disagree with will for sure, throw you off.   The people’s names that I put in to identify the characteristics that are being talked about could even be your name.   So, I can recommend this book to you, but no you can’t borrow mine.

[1] Adler, Mortimer, and Charles Van Doren. How to Read a Book. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster. 10.

[2]Adler and Van Doren, 316-322.

[3] Adler and Van Doren, 19.

About the Author


Kevin Norwood

My name is Kevin Norwood and I have been in youth ministry for the past 34 years. On February 14th, 1994, 27 years ago, we moved to Owasso OK and wow what a ride. My wife, Ann, is an RN and specializes in Clinical Documentation working from home. Maci is a my 21 year old daughter and she loves and shows horses. Her horse's name is Charlie. She is currently working with animals and loves to go on trail rides with her horse. London is my 10 year old son and he keeps me young. He absolutely loves life!! Golfing, baseball and Hawaii is his latest adventures. He skied for the first time in Colorado this year. I have started a coaching business for pastors at www.kevinnorwood.com and it is exciting the doors that God is opening. I earned my Doctorate in Leadership and Global Perspectives from George Fox on Feb 10, 2018.

14 responses to “You cannot borrow my book!”

  1. Phil Goldsberry says:


    Way to stir the pot! I bought this book for my IPad in Kindle format and wish I would have NOT. The limitations to “writing in the margins”, and in your own handwriting is important to me. I have also done what Adler recommends in writing in the covers of the book. This has been my “crutch” to go back to a book and see a quote and the page it came from for my reference.

    Do you think a person can read above an “elementary level” that Adler describes in Kindle formatting? Can you achieve “analytical” thinking in digital formats?

    Your thoughts?

    Looking forward to seeing you again!


    • Phil,

      I went to the iPad to be able to read books in the downloaded format but I went back to the “real” book simply because I don’t read for pleasure but for knowledge and the resources that I will use in the future. If you come up with a great way to keep record electronically let me know.

      I have a friend who does the whole index in the table of content area of the book and he is incredibly accurate at quotes and retention. I am not there yet but I am folding corners and making sure that I can get back to the information that has impacted me.


  2. Pablo Morales says:

    Kevin, do you apply the same principle about margins when reading your Bible?

  3. Kevin, I am totally tracking with you on the margins. I use to highlight books endlessly, but when I went back to find the information on the highlight, I had no idea why I highlighted it. I now write quite a bit of info in the book, so I do NOT let someone touch my books. They are invaluable to me.

    In regards to speed reading, what techniques have you applied that really help you move quick and digest?

    • Some of the techiniques that were mentioned in the book are what I have applied. To move from skimming to making it worth my time is was one of the things that prompted the writing in the margins.

      I hate it when I go back and have highlighted so much that it doesn’t catch my attention but my comments in the margins bring me right back to the whole argument or conversation that I have having with the author.

      I am looking forward to this journey.


  4. Claire Appiah says:

    Reading truly encompasses interaction, engagement, and dialogue in conversation with the author. You rightly stated that “understanding is the gateway to knowledge.” Also, if there is no understanding of what the author is saying that would lead to knowledge, there is no ability to make a critical analysis of the author’s position or conclusions with arguments of agreement or disagreement on any level.
    I also write copiously in the margins of my books as you do and as outlined by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren in How to Read a Book (48-51). There are some books I will not share with others because the notations are too personal or controversial. Chapter 20 in the book, “The Fourth Level of Reading: Syntopical Reading,” is the most significant chapter in the book for me. The Five Steps in Syntopical Reading will probably be the most valuable (316-323), because I can realistically apply these principles routinely in reading to maximize my reading and comprehension experience.

    • Rose Anding says:

      Thanks Kevin for a great blog; but as I read your blog, the Francis Bacon quote hit me right between the eyes. I was wondering if this book was one that could be “chewed and digested”, if so then maybe you could loan the book. Lol A great title!
      On a more serious note, since this book was birth as “The project for the Great Books of the Western World began at the University of Chicago, era of 1940”. Do you think it was original written for that generation? There have been several revisions since then; but what your thoughts on how the book affects various generations? Thanks, I looking forward to meeting you!

      • I believe when anything can withstand the test of time and still be relevant and that makes it incredibly valuable. Some times this generation wants to be so relevant and current that they become pointless and I do believe this book makes its point. Reading for depth is so important.

        Even if what you are reading is social media, personal blogs or even your twitter feed. HOW you read it is vitally important. What is the voice of the author? What is the meaning expressed in short bursts?

        One of the things that tempers this for me is not to give direction, correction, or specific instruction in this format because it can be and usually is misread. So even though it is convenient to communicate this way I choose to speak in person or even pick up a phone and use it as a phone….


    • I agree with you that the Five Steps will be of great value in the future for me as well. I incorporated that into my post with just the key phrases.

      Any time that I apply things that I have gained to what I currently do, it deepens my ability to grow in knowledge. I know this book was written a long stretch back and that makes simple principles that can stand time become valuable to me. Gain and grow is always the thought.


  5. Marc Andresen says:

    Kevin, as I’ve loaned so many books, I now wonder what people thought as they waded through all my comments in the margins. Perhaps the good news is that my handwriting is so bad they couldn’t read most of what I wrote.
    I’m with Phil. I’ve already figured out that the books I buy for Kindle, in our D Min studies, will be few. Kindle is great for pleasure reading but it drives me nuts NOT to be able to mark-up the book.

  6. Great post Kevin. Love it! My wife gets upset when I borrow one of her books because she knows it’s going to come back to her with a ton of writing in the margins.
    The hardest temptation I fight is when I start to write in the margins while picturing first person I am going to lend the book to. I find myself wanting to write them messages.
    My favorite is when I write in the margins and then lend it to someone and they return it with all their replies. Kind of reminds me of blogs and comments.

  7. One of my favorite books that I have written in the margins is “A Tale of Three Kings” by Gene Edwards. As I read and then reread it, the margins are not wide enough to write down what I have learned on the next season of the journey. How to be in a servant position and then be treated like one is an interesting place to be over and over again.

    The Bible is the same way. Things that have not grabbed my attention at all will all of a sudden grasp me like brand new and vital information. That is where it comes alive and is living and breathing more than any other book that I have read. Applying Adler to the Bible is going to be a knowledge expanding experience. Thanks for the comments and for posing questions that will stretch me.


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