How to Read a Book (by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren) – Part 1


I wish I had read this book a long time ago. I’m a classic readoholic but it’s been a journey of guilt. There are many books that I have read that I don’t remember. There are many books on my shelf that I have started with great flourish but never completed. I could have avoided many reading gaffes if I had known the skill that reading is.

They don’t teach you how to read in school though it would be a good idea to tell your kids about some techniques in this very practical book- for instance your index finger is a great tool while speed reading. Hold your finger on the word and your monkey mind stays there.

Good old pencils make your reading experience worthwhile. When you do those squiggly markings and underlining, you imprint the message of the book in your mind.

There is a method to this madness and knowing how to use a book as sedative is not it.

Cover of

Cover of How to Read a Book (A Touchstone book)

While reading this book and occasionally checking  out #amwriting and #reading on twitter, it struck me that many people don’t dedicate time to reading like they would, say to me-time.

The 1970s was the Decade of Reading in America. Now it’s more of visual excess. So is a how to read manual relevant even today?

Don’t see why not. Since we read online all the time, knowing how to read well is a bonus.

Though I would like a new revised chapter on how to read emails without missing the most important bits, how to make the most of your e-reader and how to speed read one hundred and fifty webpages a day without getting cross-eyed.

No point in being one of those “bookful (rewrite: e-bookful)  blockheads, ignorantly read”.

Shouldn’t a reader know that there are four kinds of reading?

  1. Elementary
  2. Inspectional
  3. Analytical
  4. Syntopical

My favourite classification was Inspectional reading- the kind of reading you do in a book store before you buy a book. You stand for a while perusing the book, deciding whether or not you want to buy it. What should you look out for?

Read this book to find out.

In Part 2 of this review, I’ll talk about how you can X-ray a book. You can!


  1. Hello,

    We are a not-for-profit educational organization founded by Mortimer Adler and we have recently made an exciting discovery—three years after writing the wonderfully expanded third edition of How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren made a series of thirteen 14-minute videos—lively discussing the art of reading. The videos were produced by Encyclopaedia Britannica. For reasons unknown, sometime after their original publication, these videos were lost.

    Three hours with Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren, lively discussing the art of reading, on one DVD. A must for all readers, libraries and classroom teaching the art of reading.

    I cannot exaggerate how instructive these programs are—we are so sure that you will agree, if you are not completely satisfied, we will refund your donation.

    Please go here to see a clip and learn more:

    ISBN: 978-1-61535-311-8

    Thank you,

    Max Weismann, Co-founder with Dr. Adler

  2. Pingback: How to Read a Book (by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren) – Part 2 | InstaScribe

  3. Reblogged this on Booknomics and commented:

    Book Review.

  4. Pingback: Writing for Children and Teenagers (Revised Edition) by Lee Wyndham (Part 1) | InstaScribe

  5. Want to copy articles from other sources rewrite them in seconds and post on your site, or use for
    contextual backlinks? You can save a lot of writing work, just search in google:

    Daradess’s Rewriter

  6. Pingback: Eleven Takeaways from Writing Reviews of Books on Writing | InstaScribe

  7. Pingback: Flying kites and the Language of Poetry @ the BYOB Party in September (Part 3) | InstaScribe

  8. There are lots of SEO services providing companies inside the UK that really help you develop a easy to use website,
    which could transit the traffic that comes to your web
    site into esteemed clients. We added integrated Twitter, Facebook and
    Google plus. You may take a do-it-yourself approach to learning
    the ideas and tricks of just as one SEO. If not
    you might seriously need to consider hiring a company that matches your financial allowance and offers affordable SEO

  9. Pingback: Flying kites and the Language of Poetry @ the BYOB Party in September (Part 3) | Worth a Read

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: