I will be the first to admit that when I saw that I was assigned a book entitled, How to Read a Book, I was a little frustrated. After all, I am a highly skilled and highly educated man who has read plenty of books. Certainly, this would be a waste of time and energy to read such a book. The thought that our professor has certainly lost his mind crossed my realms of thought once or twice.
I begrudgingly dug into a book that I thought would be pointless, and as I dove into the book, I realized how often I do not absorb the information that is found within the pages that I read. The bait was set and I was hooked when he began discussing active reading and stated, “The art of reading on any level above elementary consists in the habit of asking the right questions in the right order: what is the book about as a whole, what is being said in detail, is the book true in whole or part, what of it?” While this may seem overly simplistic to some, it really revolutionized the way I approach any text.
Too often, I believe leaders busy themselves with completing the task of reading, so that they can seem erudite and sophisticated. However, the highest level of reading, syntopical, ignores the volume of written material that a reader can cover and instead drives the reader to discover how to make, “the books read serve you, not the other way around.” This is a significant change in what I was always taught.
While I do believe the axiom that readers are leaders and leaders are readers, I believe that my growth has been stunted because my focus has always been on volume. As I have read Van Doren’s and Adler’s work, I have discovered that while I did grow reading the volumes of information over the years, my growth quite frankly has moved at a snail’s pace. The struggle of combing through pages mindlessly trying to absorb the information did not serve me well, rather I was a slave to the author. At times, reading seemed painful and a frustrating process, but I did it so that I could feel educated with the scores of books I read, yet internally I knew that I cursed the dreaded process, and I was not growing by leaps and bounds.
Growth must be the purpose of reading. As stated by the authors, “It serves to keep our minds alive and growing.” A human being can continue to see robust growth in their mind as long as they are engaged in reading, but not just mindless reading. It would be reading that is actively engaged in the process absorbing the information that produces growth. To discover that my reading for reading sake method was keeping me in a fruitless state is liberating. Applying the discipline of reading well may be laborious at first, but in the end, it will provide exponential growth in the future.
While I still believe that any leader must be a reader, I believe that the reader must read well in order to lead well. After all a leader’s aim should be growth and not volume. How to Read a Book will help a challenge a leader to dig deeper in his reading, but in the end, the effort will be worth the work.
 Adler, Mortimer, and Charles Van Doren. How to Read a Book. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, p.52.
 IBID, 329.
 IBID, 361.