I found it ironic that the first book that I am asked to read in my doctoral program is the book “How to Read a Book” by Mortimer J Adler and Charles Van Doren. The irony is in the fact that it can be assumed that once you reach this level of academia you should know how to read a book. I was intrigued by the title and wanted to understand what motivated Adler to want to write on this subject matter. In reading through this book, I realized how the literacy needs he was intending to address are still relevant today. Adler emphasizes that reading is meant to be active. It is intended to be informative as well as enlightening.
Active reading varies within the four levels of reading-Elementary, Inspectional, Analytical and Syntopical. Each of these levels encompasses the previous level. So as a reader at the Syntopical level has matured in each of the former levels of maturity and can use the skills and habits formed in each to truly read at a Syntopical level.
Instead of summarizing each level of reading I prefer to hone in on a few high level takeaways:
- There is no universal speed in which to read books. I remember years ago the infomercials on speed reading techniques. I was mesmerized watching people go so quickly through the page and be able to recite what they read afterwards. I was reminded in reading this book that each book requires its own speed cadence. Depending on the subject matter, it is best to know when and how to use reading techniques to ensure that you are actively engaging with what you reading. I laughed to myself when he noted that there are times when we can read something quickly or even slowly and still not be able to recall what you read.
- Another factor that contributes to speed is the amount of time you have to read the book. When not given a lot of time to read a book, it is best to very quickly get acquainted with the book you are reading. Being that we only had a couple of days to review this book, I began early on using my systematic skimming/ superficial reading ability to get a feel for the entire book. It was very helpful in understanding what Adler was trying to convey to his readers about how to read. Mastering the ability to inspect a book properly, among other skills, will enhance my ability to read at a Syntopical level.
- What in the world is “dialectical objectivity”? That is the question I asked when I first saw those words. Adler stresses that truly analyze a discussion you must look at every point of view being expressed while not taking on any of them. That is pretty much a non-realistic ideal; however, by not taking one stance over another you are able to formulate questions that can be applied to all points of view. In doing so, you can analyze each of voice in the discussion more objectively.
There were so many more jewels but the Theraflu I am taking has my brain going mush! I will definitely take heed to his recommendation on various methods of note taking. It is true that just having the information isn’t enough. Knowledge has to be incorporated in actively doing. I am hoping that as I continue to evolve and grow in my understanding that I will be able to turn this information into better habits that help me navigate through this program.