How To Read A Book by Mortimer Adler – Book Notes, Summary, Review

Book-Notes
Written: January 22, 2021
Reading Time: 12 mins

You might think you know how to read a book but you’re probably not remembering much of what you’re reading. That’s where this book comes in. It describes the different levels of reading and how you can get much more out of the books you read.

While the book may be challenging to read, it’s important to read books that challenge you, so where better to start than with this book.

Read This Book On Amazon


Who Should Read This Book?

There is a lot of value in reading this book for anyone that wants to get the most out of what they read.

It’s one thing to say you’ve read 100 books this year but can you remember what you have learned from those 100 books?

It’s important to mention that this book was written quite a number of years ago so the language can seem overly complicated.

With that said, the author challenges readers to read books that are beyond us so why not start with this book?

There may be some aspects of the book that can be skimmed over; for me, I don’t think I’ve read poetry since I was in school so I didn’t really look at that section in detail.

What I’m saying is you don’t need to be intimidated by the length of the book as some parts will be more relevant to you than others.

I would consider this book and How To Take Smart Notes to be the go-to resources for anyone looking to actively read more effectively and build a repository of knowledge.


How This Book Changed Me


My Top 3 Quotes That Resonated With Me

“To be informed is to know simply that something is the case. To be enlightened is to know, in addition, what it is all about”

How To Read A Book by Mortimer Adler p13

“Too often, we use that phrase [well read] to mean the quantity rather than the quality of reading. A person who has read widely but not well deserves to be pitied rather than praised.”

How To Read A Book by Mortimer Adler p163

“You must tackle books that are beyond you, or, as we have said, books that are over your head. Only books of that sort will make you stretch your mind. And unless you stretch, you will not learn.”

How To Read A Book by Mortimer Adler p327


Book Notes

Part One: The Dimensions Of Reading

1 The Activity and Art Of Reading

“We can learn only from our ‘betters’. We must know who they are and how to learn from them.” (p13)

“To be informed is to know simply that something is the case. To be enlightened is to know, in addition, what it is all about” (p13)

2 The Levels Of Reading

1 Elementary Reading

2 Inspectional Reading

3 Analytical Reading

4 Syntopical Reading

4 The Second Level Of Reading: Inspectional Reading

Inspectional Reading 1: Systematic Skimming or Pre-Reading

  1. Look at the title page and the preface
  2. Read the table of contents to get a sense of the structure of the book
  3. Read the index to see the topics that are covered in the book
  4. Read the publisher’s blurb (take this with a pinch of salt)
  5. Skim over some of the pages of the actual book – only briefly

Inspectional Reading 2: Superficial Reading

Part Two: The Third Level Of Reading: Analytical Reading

6 Pigeonholing A Book

7 X-Raying A Book

8 Coming To Terms With An Author

9 Determining An Author’s Message

“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom in learning from books as well as from nature. If you never ask yourself any questions about the meaning of a passage, you cannot expect the book to give you any insight you do not already possess.” (p120)

10 Criticizing A Book Fairly

11 Agreeing Or Disagreeing With An Author

Disagreeing with an author:

  1. You are uninformed
    • If the author is uninformed, he lacks some piece of knowledge that is relevant to the problem he’s trying to solve.
  2. You are misinformed
    • If the author is misinformed, he is saying something that is not the case
    • To say this you must be able to put forward an opposing and accurate argument instead.
  3. You are illogical
    • If the author is illogical, he is inconsistent or what he isn’t well-reasoned
  4. Your analysis is incomplete
    • If the author’s analysis is incomplete, he has not solved all of the problems he set out to.

“Too often, we use that phrase [well read] to mean the quantity rather than the quality of reading. A person who has read widely but not well deserves to be pitied rather than praised.” (p163)

Part Three: Approaches To Different Kinds Of Reading Matter

How To Read About Current Events

The questions you should ask when reading about current events:

  1. What does the author want to prove?
  2. Whom does he want to convince?
  3. What special knowledge does he assume?
  4. Does he really know what he’s talking about?

These questions are extremely important to ask in the current climate where fake-news is very hard to discern from “real-news”.

Part Four: The Ultimate Goals Of Reading

20 The Fourth Level Of Reading: Syntopical Reading

21 Reading And The Growth Of The Mind

What Good Books Can Do For Us

“You must tackle books that are beyond you, or, as we have said, books that are over your head. Only books of that sort will make you stretch your mind. And unless you stretch, you will not learn.” (p327)

The Life And Growth Of The Mind

“Reading well, which means reading actively, is thus not only a good in itself, nor is it merely a means to advancement in our work or career. It also serves to keep our minds alive and growing.” (p335)

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