5 Lessons From Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book

How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler is a foundational book that teaches readers how to read effectively and gain more knowledge from the books they read. This classic work has been around for over 70 years, but its lessons are still relevant today. In this article, we will explore 5 lessons from How to Read a Book and discuss why this book is essential for anyone who wants to become a better reader. Seriously, this book will change the way you read.

Lesson 1: Active Reading

Adler emphasizes that reading should be an active process. We need to engage with the material actively rather than just passively reading it. He recommends asking questions as we read and finding answers to those questions within the text. This kind of active reading helps us to retain more information and to think more deeply about the material.

In addition, Adler recommends that we mark up the text as we read. Underlining, circling, and writing notes in the margins help us to remember important points and ideas. It also helps to organize the information in our minds, making it easier to recall later.

Lesson 2: Reading at Different Levels

Adler suggests there are four levels of reading: elementary, inspectional, analytical, and syntopical. Elementary reading is the basic reading level, where we simply decode words and sentences. Inspectional reading involves skimming through a book quickly to understand its overall content. Analytical reading is a more in-depth level of reading where we analyze the book’s content and try to understand its meaning. Syntopical reading involves reading multiple books on the same topic and comparing and contrasting their ideas.

By understanding these different levels of reading, we can better tailor our reading to our goals. We might use inspectional reading if we want a general understanding of a book. If we want to gain a deeper understanding, we might use analytical reading. If we want to compare different books on the same topic, we might use syntopical reading.

Lesson 3: The Importance of Pre-Reading

Adler emphasizes the importance of pre-reading before diving into a book. Pre-reading involves examining the title, table of contents, and any other introductory material. By doing this, we can get a sense of what the book is about and what it will cover.

Adler also recommends that we set goals for our reading. By identifying what we want to get out of a book before we start reading it, we can better focus our attention on the parts that are most important to us.

Lesson 4: Reading for Understanding

Adler stresses that the ultimate goal of reading is understanding. This involves not only comprehending the words on the page but also understanding the ideas and concepts behind them. To achieve this, Adler recommends actively engaging with the material, asking questions, and making connections between different parts of the text.

One way to do this is to summarize what we have read in our own words. This can help us internalize the information and ensure we understand it correctly.

Lesson 5: Reading as a Lifelong Skill

Finally, Adler emphasizes that reading is a lifelong skill we must continually develop and refine. We should not be satisfied with our current level of reading ability but should always strive to improve.

Adler recommends that we read widely and expose ourselves to a variety of different topics and genres. He also recommends that we read deeply, by re-reading books that we have already read and by reading books that are challenging and stretch our abilities.

Conclusion

How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler is a foundational book that teaches readers how to read effectively and gain more knowledge from the books they read. The five lessons we have explored – active reading, reading at different levels, the importance of pre-reading, reading for understanding, and reading as a lifelong skill – are essential for anyone who wants to become a better reader.

Adler’s emphasis on active reading and engaging with the material helps us to retain more information and to think more deeply about what we are reading. Understanding the different levels of reading allows us to tailor our reading to our goals and to approach different types of books in different ways.

Pre-reading and setting goals for our reading helps us focus on the most important parts of a book, while reading for understanding ensures that we are not just comprehending the words on the page but also the ideas behind them.

Finally, Adler reminds us that reading is a lifelong skill that requires continual development and refinement. Reading widely and deeply exposes us to new ideas and challenges us to think in new ways.

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How to Read a Book is a foundational book that teaches us how to read effectively and gain more knowledge from the books we read. By following Adler’s five lessons, we can become better readers, deepen our understanding of the world, and continue to learn and grow throughout our lives.

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