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How to Read a Book | [Mortimer J. Adler, Charles Van Doren]

How to Read a Book

How to Read a Book, first published in 1940, is the best and most successful guide to reading comprehension for the general reader. Now it has been completely rewritten and updated.
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Publisher's Summary

How to Read a Book, first published in 1940, is the best and most successful guide to reading comprehension for the general reader. Now it has been completely rewritten and updated.

Learn about the various levels of reading and how to achieve them, from elementary reading through systematic skimming and inspectional reading to speed reading. Learn how to pigeonhole a book, "x-ray" it, extract the author’s message, and critique it. The authors offer different reading techniques for various types of books, and finally, a recommended reading list and reading tests for measuring your own progress in reading skills, comprehension, and speed.

©1972 Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren (P)1997 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“It shows concretely how the serious work of proper reading may be accomplished and how much it may yield in the way of instruction and delight.” (The New Yorker)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (206 )
5 star
 (87)
4 star
 (46)
3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Overall
3.9 (135 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
4.0 (129 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Lulu 06-07-12
    Lulu 06-07-12

    I ignore genre labels. Some of my favorite books are outside my genre comfort zone. Listening to audiobooks is still reading. Not theater.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "If You Read Books, You Must Read This"

    I picked the original 1940s edition of this up at an estate sale several years ago. Since I am someone who is seldom seen without a book in hand (now it is earbuds in ears), my family teased me incessantly about the title. But this book taught me more about the art and skill of reading to learn and reading to understand than I learned through my entire formal education. I would almost say that this book "taught" me to read and what I had done up until that point was a pale imitation. This should be required reading to every person even considering going to college. And if they cannot understand and learn from the book, that is a good sign their reading skills need remedial work.

    I was excited when I noticed that Audible had the updated 1970s edition available. It is a major departure from the original work. It was almost entirely overhauled. Even though they are considerably different I found them both equally well written and the new version presented new ideas.

    I felt somewhat foolish listening to a book about how to read. But I have found the same skills helpful as I listen, as I found them as I read. And while the book deals primarily with "serious" or "scholarly" reading, the skills discussed also enhance my experience reading modern fiction, even trashy modern fiction. You can always learn something, if you know how to go about it.

    I cannot recommend this book enough. To say it changed my life when I first read it, might be an overstatement. But it certainly caused me to enjoy reading even more, and to not just use books to reinforce what I already know, but to stretch myself and actually learn something new.

    18 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hind Thadiq, Saudi Arabia 08-13-10
    Hind Thadiq, Saudi Arabia 08-13-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "awesome"

    This book is great if you want to improve your reading skills and get more out of what you read.I am going to do postgraduate study in the near future and this book helped me considerably in this regard ! I agree with the author that this book should be taught in schools .

    15 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda Hendersonville, NC, United States 11-17-10
    Linda Hendersonville, NC, United States 11-17-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Thought Provoking"

    Mr. Adler's theories on 'active' reading caused me to consider how I read and gain from it. His guidance on making a book my own through questions, referencing and notes has given me an outline for future reading. Like many others, I wish I had known about this book when I was in school. I'll be buying a copy for each of my grandchildren as they enter high school.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura Kansas City, MO, United States 06-07-12
    Laura Kansas City, MO, United States 06-07-12 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "If You Read Books, You Must Read This"

    I picked the original 1940s edition of this up at an estate sale several years ago. Since I am someone who is seldom seen without a book in hand (now it is earbuds in ears), my family teased me incessantly about the title. But this book taught me more about the art and skill of reading to learn and reading to understand than I learned through my entire formal education. I would almost say that this book "taught" me to read and what I had done up until that point was a pale imitation. This should be required reading to every person even considering going to college. And if they cannot understand and learn from the book, that is a good sign their reading skills need remedial work.

    I was excited when I noticed that Audible had the updated 1970s edition available. It is a major departure from the original work. It was almost entirely overhauled. Even though they are considerably different I found them both equally well written and the new version presented new ideas.

    I felt somewhat foolish listening to a book about how to read. But I have found the same skills helpful as I listen, as I found them as I read. And while the book deals primarily with "serious" or "scholarly" reading, the skills discussed also enhance my experience reading modern fiction, even trashy modern fiction. You can always learn something, if you know how to go about it.

    I cannot recommend this book enough. To say it changed my life when I first read it, might be an overstatement. But it certainly caused me to enjoy reading even more, and to not just use books to reinforce what I already know, but to stretch myself and actually learn something new.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pam United States 10-01-12
    Pam United States 10-01-12 Member Since 2007

    Science writer in America's heartland

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    "Good Info; Not an Easy Listen"

    It's somewhat ironic to listen to a book about how to read a book, isn't it? This book is about maximizing our skill at reading printed material, and an important tip from the author is to pay close attention while reading. The funny thing was, I found that I had to pay very close attention while listening. When I tried to multitask (driving, cooking, etc.), I found that I often lost track of the more complex ideas and had to rewind. I did find the instruction on how to annotate books very useful. I just think I didn't get nearly as much out of this book as I would have, had I read it instead of listening to it.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marcus Brasília, Brazil 03-11-12
    Marcus Brasília, Brazil 03-11-12 Member Since 2010

    mvrb

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    "Instructive Insights"

    The book is a classic. The narrative in the audio version is clear and understandable, even for foreign like me.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dominegro Columbus, OH, United States 02-12-13
    Dominegro Columbus, OH, United States 02-12-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Literary Enlightenment"
    Would you listen to How to Read a Book again? Why?

    I'm going to listen to it over and over again. After I listen to it 10 more times I will write another review to show exactly how much this book has adjusted my critiquing ability.
    Rules, categories, recommendations, explanations, definitions, and style; all this knowledge opened up a completely new dynamic of reading. I am a college student and have been reading at the elementary level, I was beginning to doubting my intelligence- not anymore. Of all the books that I have read, this one deserves to be the corner stone, the foundation, to a lifetime of good books.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura 01-30-13
    Laura 01-30-13 Member Since 2010
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    "Helpful and suprisingly interesting"

    I was required to read this for a class, and expected it to be grueling. Instead, the content was fascinating, and the reader made it so engaging. I found myself wishing two things: 1) that I'd read it in high school 2) that I had time to read more books and apply what I was learning!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Horner 06-04-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Good information, but repetitive"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    no, because it's too repetitive.


    What was most disappointing about Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren ’s story?

    again repetitive, repetitive, repetitive.


    Which character – as performed by Edward Holland – was your favorite?

    No Character performance here but Mr Holland did a very good job reading


    Was How to Read a Book worth the listening time?

    information though good and a bit interresting was again repetitive.


    Any additional comments?

    Shorter version would get the point across.

    3 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    JRK United States 12-05-10
    JRK United States 12-05-10 Member Since 2010

    JK

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    "Painfully slow"

    The author goes into overbearing detail and repeats points over and over. The information is useful, but it could be condensed into a format one quarter the size.

    6 of 14 people found this review helpful
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