“There is clearly no difficulty of an intellectual sort about gaining new information in a course of reading if the new facts are of the same sort as those you already know.” I must admit that these words were my biggest fear with this book; in other words, what is the challenge of reading a book when I have so much experience reading books? However, though this was truly the case at some points, I also found myself very pleased at some of the revelations made. There were many times I found personal insight into my own reading voyage through my life. As a young lad I loved stories like “Shipwrecked”, “Oliver Twist”, “The Three Musketeers” and of course, “Tom Sawyer”. I was raised in a house with five older sisters and no brothers, and often found that it was much better alternative to get lost in a book than to hang out with the girls…well, I out grew that stage. Instead, as I got older, my creative books were traded for schoolbooks, and for some reason, I just did not find history as interesting as fantasy and fiction. My reading seemed to take a hiatus and I actually found that I could make very good grades by only reading what was necessary to get the grade; hours upon hours of deep reading turned into skimming and page flipping. College did not make reading any more enjoyable except that I felt as though I was back to making more decisions in my extracurricular reading…mainly in regards to bible study. For the first time in my life since boyhood, I actually started getting interested in the story again. As I read through “How to Read a Book,” I felt as though their levels of reading almost mirrored mine exactly, and found it almost intriguing to how well they knew me…they should be scared though.
This past week in South Africa we actually had a conversation about how I viewed some readings I had to do during my M.Div days. I had become less interested in the works of a particular author because of his use of giant words that I felt seemed to alienate the reader. As I worked through our reading, I found some of the very skills they discussed had been put to work without me even intending on it. Believe me, it was not planned, but rather just disinterest in what I was reading. Though I was relating a lot to the reading, I also found myself remembering some of the emotions I felt toward the author. In one chapter the authors were talking about the attitudes of “agreement or disagreement” we come to when reading, and how we choose to agree or disagree with the positions presented by the author; I found that true with the book, only it was not as much because of the content, but rather because of how the content was presented. It literally bothered me that the author used so many, as I like to call them, 5-point words. I kept feeling as though he was so caught up in trying to sound smart that he did not care if I understood what he was saying. The irony is, that my roommate this past week actually liked the author, and did not share the attitudes I had. “Understanding a book can be described as a kind of agreement between writer and reader.” It was obvious there was no agreement there.
However, with that all said, I loved how the authors brought this same principle to mind in regard to Canonical books; mainly the Bible. In the same manner that I could not connect to the previous author mentioned, I also feel connected to God through Scripture. When I read the bible, I never feel as though it was written for me, but rather, know that somewhere in its pages; God is just waiting to teach me. I never know when it will come, or what the lesson may be, but there is a message waiting. The authors expressed that because we see it as the true “Word of God,” that it presents much more difficulty for some in the reading because of the seriousness that it requires. I must admit, though I understand the point, and even agree with the concept, I guess for myself, I have always found that to be what made reading it even easier. There was a point when I was doing a personal study on the book of 1 Timothy; it was not for a class or sermon, it was just for me. 1 Timothy had been the first book I had been encouraged to study when I preached my first sermon at the age of 11. I studied hard out of a study guide called “A Book for Young Leaders,” which was designed as short easy sermons for young future preachers. Though the lessons were helpful, and set me on a great path, as a grown minister, many years later, I found that the same understanding I had as a youth seemed to have changed. When I was 11 I connected with the book of Timothy from the point of view of the young man in the story, but as a grown man, I found myself connecting more with Paul teaching lessons to a young man. I envisioned my own sons sitting next to me as I explained to them the struggles of ministry and the importance of staying true the Word that God had given to them. The book of 1 Timothy has never made as much sense to me as it did that day.
I believe that ultimately, this book on “how to read a book” was showing the importance of connecting with your material. The more interested I am in reading it, or the more invested I am in needing to know its contents, the more impacting it may become. As we work on our dissertations for this program, I kept thinking about how important it is that we truly pick a topic that we are passionate about. How do we truly write an honest and impacting paper if we cannot even grow from the sources we study? Anyone can write a paper, but it takes passion to write a good one.
Adler, Mortimer J. & Charles Van Doren. How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading. New York : Simon & Schuster, 1940.
 Adler 1940, p 9.
 Ibid, p 151.