So, why do doctoral level students need to read a book called, “How to Read a Book”? I found out why in this engaging and enjoyable book. As an old dog at the age of 65, I still learned some new tricks.
The authors, Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren explain that we can reach the goal of going from “understanding less to understanding more” (p. 8) when we follow the steps of intelligent reading. As children we learned how to read at an elementary level. To be competent readers we move on to three more levels – inspectional, analytical, and syntopical. In each of these stages, Adler and Van Doren give a helpful set of rules to follow. There are questions we ask in order to analyze a book. The summary at the end of each section is a great review. Overall, their method teaches us to be active readers. The more we read, the better readers we become. It is important to read books that stretch our minds.
The main reason this book was so enjoyable for me was that I found out that I do about 90% of what the authors recommend including syntopical reading. It was an encouraging confirmation for me. In addition to the items in their “inspectional” list, I also read the bibliography and footnotes at the back before I begin a book. I like to know what sources an author is using.
The one important new skill I need is “how to read some books faster than others” (p. 306,307). I am very “type A” and tend to feel the need to read a book cover to cover. After all, if the professor assigned it, it must be important and I should get every word. If I learn how to use the method in Adler’s book more effectively, I should be able to figure out which books I can read less slowly. This doesn’t mean skipping any sections; it means learning to get to the meat of the book more quickly. Looking at the Nohria/Khurana book coming up, I think I’m really going to need this!!!