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How to Read a Book
 
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How to Read a Book [Format Kindle]

Charles Van Doren , Mortimer J. Adler
4.3 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (3 commentaires client)

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Descriptions du produit

Extrait

How to Read a Book

1

THE ACTIVITY AND ART OF READING


This is a book for readers and for those who wish to become readers. Particularly, it is for readers of books. Even more particularly, it is for those whose main purpose in reading books is to gain increased understanding.

By “readers” we mean people who are still accustomed, as almost every literate and intelligent person used to be, to gain a large share of their information about and their understanding of the world from the written word. Not all of it, of course; even in the days before radio and television, a certain amount of information and understanding was acquired through spoken words and through observation. But for intelligent and curious people that was never enough. They knew that they had to read too, and they did read.

There is some feeling nowadays that reading is not as necessary as it once was. Radio and especially television have taken over many of the functions once served by print, just as photography has taken over functions once served by painting and other graphic arts. Admittedly, television serves some of these functions extremely well; the visual communication of news events, for example, has enormous impact. The ability of radio to give us information while we are engaged in doing other things—for instance, driving a car—is remarkable, and a great saving of time. But it may be seriously questioned whether the advent of modern communications media has much enhanced our understanding of the world in which we live.

Perhaps we know more about the world than we used to, and insofar as knowledge is prerequisite to understanding, that is all to the good. But knowledge is not as much a prerequisite to understanding as is commonly supposed. We do not have to know everything about something in order to understand it; too many facts are often as much of an obstacle to understanding as too few. There is a sense in which we moderns are inundated with facts to the detriment of understanding.

One of the reasons for this situation is that the very media we have mentioned are so designed as to make thinking seem unnecessary (though this is only an appearance). The packaging of intellectual positions and views is one of the most active enterprises of some of the best minds of our day. The viewer of television, the listener to radio, the reader of magazines, is presented with a whole complex of elements—all the way from ingenious rhetoric to carefully selected data and statistics—to make it easy for him to “make up his own mind” with the minimum of difficulty and effort. But the packaging is often done so effectively that the viewer, listener, or reader does not make up his own mind at all. Instead, he inserts a packaged opinion into his mind, somewhat like inserting a cassette into a cassette player. He then pushes a button and “plays back” the opinion whenever it seems appropriate to do so. He has performed acceptably without having had to think.

Active Reading


As we said at the beginning, we will be principally concerned in these pages with the development of skill in reading books; but the rules of reading that, if followed and practiced, develop such skill can be applied also to printed material in general, to any type of reading matter—to newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, articles, tracts, even advertisements.

Since reading of any sort is an activity, all reading must to some degree be active. Completely passive reading is impossible; we cannot read with our eyes immobilized and our minds asleep. Hence when we contrast active with passive reading, our purpose is, first, to call attention to the fact that reading can be more or less active, and second, to point out that the more active the reading the better. One reader is better than another in proportion as he is capable of a greater range of activity in reading and exerts more effort. He is better if he demands more of himself and of the text before him.

Though, strictly speaking, there can be no absolutely passive reading, many people think that, as compared with writing and speaking, which are obviously active undertakings, reading and listening are entirely passive. The writer or speaker must put out some effort, but no work need be done by the reader or listener. Reading and listening are thought of as receiving communication from someone who is actively engaged in giving or sending it. The mistake here is to suppose that receiving communication is like receiving a blow or a legacy or a judgment from the court. On the contrary, the reader or listener is much more like the catcher in a game of baseball.

Catching the ball is just as much an activity as pitching or hitting it. The pitcher or batter is the sender in the sense that his activity initiates the motion of the ball. The catcher or fielder is the receiver in the sense that his activity terminates it. Both are active, though the activities are different. If anything is passive, it is the ball. It is the inert thing that is put in motion or stopped, whereas the players are active, moving to pitch, hit, or catch. The analogy with writing and reading is almost perfect. The thing that is written and read, like the ball, is the passive object common to the two activities that begin and terminate the process.

We can take this analogy a step further. The art of catching is the skill of catching every kind of pitch—fast balls and curves, changeups and knucklers. Similarly, the art of reading is the skill of catching every sort of communication as well as possible.

It is noteworthy that the pitcher and catcher are successful only to the extent that they cooperate. The relation of writer and reader is similar. The writer isn’t trying not to be caught, although it sometimes seems so. Successful communication occurs in any case where what the writer wanted to have received finds its way into the reader’s possession. The writer’s skill and the reader’s skill converge upon a common end.

Admittedly, writers vary, just as pitchers do. Some writers have excellent “control”; they know exactly what they want to convey, and they convey it precisely and accurately. Other things being equal, they are easier to “catch” than a “wild” writer without “control.”

There is one respect in which the analogy breaks down. The ball is a simple unit. It is either completely caught or not. A piece of writing, however, is a complex object. It can be received more or less completely, all the way from very little of what the writer intended to the whole of it. The amount the reader “catches” will usually depend on the amount of activity he puts into the process, as well as upon the skill with which he executes the different mental acts involved.

What does active reading entail? We will return to this question many times in this book. For the moment, it suffices to say that, given the same thing to read, one person reads it better than another, first, by reading it more actively, and second, by performing each of the acts involved more skillfully. These two things are related. Reading is a complex activity, just as writing is. It consists of a large number of separate acts, all of which must be performed in a good reading. The person who can perform more of them is better able to read.

The Goals of Reading: Reading for Information and Reading for Understanding


You have a mind. Now let us suppose that you also have a book that you want to read. The book consists of language written by someone for the sake of communicating something to you. Your success in reading it is determined by the extent to which you receive everything the writer intended to communicate.

That, of course, is too simple. The reason is that there are two possible relations between your mind and the book, not just one. These two relations are exemplified by two different experiences that you can have in reading your book.

There is the book; and here is your mind. As you go through the pages, either you understand perfectly everything the author has to say or you do not. If you do, you may have gained information, but you could not have increased your understanding. If the book is completely intelligible to you from start to finish, then the author and you are as two minds in the same mold. The symbols on the page merely express the common understanding you had before you met.

Let us take our second alternative. You do not understand the book perfectly. Let us even assume—what unhappily is not always true—that you understand enough to know that you do not understand it all. You know the book has more to say than you understand and hence that it contains something that can increase your understanding.

What do you do then? You can take the book to someone else who, you think, can read better than you, and have him explain the parts that trouble you. (“He” may be a living person or another book—a commentary or textbook.) Or you may decide that what is over your head is not worth bothering about, that you understand enough. In either case, you are not doing the job of reading that the book requires.

That is done in only one way. Without external help of any sort, you go to work on the book. With nothing but the power of your own mind, you operate on the symbols before you in such a way that you gradually lift yourself from a state of understanding less to one of understanding more. Such elevation, accomplished by the mind working on a book, is highly skilled reading, the kind of reading that a book which challenges your understanding deserves.

Thus we can roughly define what we mean by the art of reading a...

Revue de presse

"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)

"These four hundred pages are packed full of high matters which no one solicitous of the future of American culture can afford to overlook." (Jacques Barzun)

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Commentaires client les plus utiles
5.0 étoiles sur 5 great job by adler and doren 18 juillet 2014
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
This book it's like you are going to a specific place in ny (because let's suppose you have a Meeting or an interview), you have a car but you Don't have a GPS. You might miss the Meeting or the Interview because you keep looking for the place. This book is a GPS
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0 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Un livre magnifique, mais l'emballage - tres mal 18 août 2013
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
Le livre - a recommender, mais emballage etait mal, donc j'ai recue un livre abime. Dommage, je suis decue pour ca.
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1 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Irritating but useful 23 juillet 2001
Format:Broché
As the title suggests, this book professes to be a how-to manual for literacy. However, a large portion of the book is devoted to bemoaning the decline of education in America. It is interesting to observe the similariy of the complaints noted in this book and the complaints of today's education critics.
In any case, the tips and suggestions offered in this book are sound. Adler advocates a structured approach to reading to increase comprehension. The general gist of his recommendations hold equally well for writing as for reading.
The reader should be warned that Adler's writing style can be irritating. His tone ranges from nagging to condescending to hectoring. However, once you get past the tone and down to the actual material, this book provides for some very instructional reading.
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 étoiles sur 5  272 commentaires
634 internautes sur 645 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Foundational to all non-fictional reading 9 décembre 2000
Par Rob Taylor - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested" (Francis Bacon). This is one of those books.

How to Read a Book is a classic guide to intelligent reading and my opinion is that it should be standard reading, particularly for the college-bound student. Don't let the title fool you. This book is not a simplistic review of what you learned in the second grade. The book is divided into four parts.

Part one includes what Adler calls the first two levels of reading: elementary and inspectional reading. In total he sets forth four levels of reading: elementary reading, inspectional reading, analytical reading and syntopical reading. He proceeds to tell us that reading is an active process since the teacher is not available to deliberate. In keeping with this activity we are told how to read faster while comprehending more, how to find answers to our questions from within the book and how to make the right kind of notes in the book.

Part two contains the third level of reading: analytical reading. "Reading a book analytically is chewing and digesting it" (p.19). We now learn how to determine the type of literature we are reading, what type of structure it has and we learn that we must come to grasp with the author's vocabulary. The point of all this is to understand the message of the author. If we are unable to state the author's message concisely in our own terms, we have learned nothing. Only after we first understand what the author is saying, can we begin criticize him fairly. Once we have read analytically, we can agree with the author, disagree with him or we can postpone judgment until we have learned more if we wish. Adler suggests that we do not consult other study helps until we first have read the book analytically. This will deaden our ability to read and think for ourselves as well as confuse the message of the author.

Part three tells us how to read different types of literature including practical books, imaginative literature, stories, plays, poems, history, philosophy, science, mathematics and social science. Each type of literature has its own vocabulary, propositions, arguments, and questions that must be asked of it. This section is particularly helpful in applying the basic rules of reading to the type of literature that is to be read.

The final part of the book is dedicated to the ultimate goals of reading. The first goal is the fourth and final level of reading: syntopical reading. Syntopical reading is the reading of different works on the same subject with a view to constituting a general view on the subject. The idea is to read a number of books on a given subject, as objectively as possible, and withhold judgment and criticism of all the books until you understand the different perspectives. This is the bread and butter of research and is the best way to understand any given subject matter, which is why this book is vital to the college student as well as anyone with academic pursuits. This is also the way to become educated as opposed to being indoctrinated. The last of the two ultimate goals of reading is to expand your mind for further understanding. Your mind is like a rubber band in that when it is stretched, it never fully returns to its original shape.

I found this book to be highly organized and thoroughly outlined. The back even contains two appendices with a list of recommended books and exercises at the four levels of reading. It is essentially a "how to" book therefore its contents are very practical and immediately helpful.
903 internautes sur 941 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 What Reading is Really All About 28 juin 2002
Par R. Tiedemann - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
As a book reviewer for the past 20 years, with hundreds of reviews in print and electronic media, I think I know a little about reading books. I was fascinated to find that Adler and Van Doren have, in HOW TO READ A BOOK, clearly articulated what I had discovered on my own.
Most people read at an elementary level. Common print media -- newspapers, magazines -- are geared to this first level, that of eighth or ninth grade. Reading at this level is simple and unsophisticated. It is a fairly simple procedure. As someone once said, "You just pick up a book and look at every word until you've seen them all."
The second level of reading is inspectional. Two steps are performed simultaneously. The reader skims, or pre-reads, by studying the title page, preface, table of contents, index, dust jacket and a chapter or two. He thumbs through the book, reading a bit here and there. Then he reads the entire book superficially without bothering whether he understands it or not. I might argue that if you don't understand what you're reading, you're not reading at all. However, this is the kind of reading I do when I'm selecting a book to review. It is just the beginning.
Adler and Van Doren argue that this kind of superficial reading can prepare a reader for enjoying more difficult works. "The tremendous pleasure that can come from reading Shakespeare, for example, was spoiled for generations of high school students who were forced to go through 'Julius Caesar,''As You Like It,' or 'Hamlet' scene by scene, looking up all the strange words in a glossary and studying all the footnotes," write the authors. "As a result, the never read a Shakespeare play. By the time they reached the end, they had forgotten the beginning and lost sight of the whole...They should have been encouraged to read the play at one sitting and discuss what they got out of that first quick reading. Only then would they have been ready to study the play carefully and closely because then they would have understood enough of it to learn more."
The book describes how to be an active reader. A clue for the average reader: Active readers don't go to sleep over books. The third level of reading is analytical reading, which is what book reviewers do. The reader classifies the book, reads it carefully, determines the author's message and evaluates how well it's presented and compares it to comparable works.
Adler and Van Doren cover subjects like classifying books, x-raying them, determining the author's message, how to criticize a book fairly, and the role of relevant experience in reading. They then go on to describe the different approaches to various kinds of reading -- practical books, imaginative literature, plays, stories, poems, history, science, mathematics, social sciences, and philosophy.
The highest level of reading, synoptical reading, is the reading of several books on a particular subject. They describe how to select a bibliography (which I found truly useful), how to narrow the subject, how to inspect the material. The five steps of synoptical reading are included in this chapter.
Reading is a search for truth, and truth can be found only through thoughtful comparison and discussion. "The truth then, insofar as it can be found -- the solution to the problem, insofar as that is available to us -- consists rather in the ordered discussion itself than in any set of propositions or assertions about it...thus, in order to present this truth to our minds -- and to the minds of others -- we have to do more than merely ask and answer the questions. We have to ask them in a certain order, and be able to defend that order."
Sunnye Tiedemann (aka Ruth F. Tiedemann)
149 internautes sur 162 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The best reference book you can have!!!! 30 octobre 1999
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
Now in my last year of law school, I found myself extremely angry upon completing this book. How invaluable this book would have been if I had read it before reading the hundreds of books that were assigned to me in high school, college, and law school. Why didn't anybody tell me about this marvelous gem?!! But the good news is that I have my entire life ahead of me, and I will begin putting this book to use right away.
Anybody who hasn't bought this book yet, stop reading and buy it NOW!
Anybody who knows somebody about to enter high school, college, or graduate school, or who is serious about education and the pursuit of knowledge in general, buy this book for them NOW and they will be forever grateful!!
50 internautes sur 52 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A promise kept 15 novembre 2001
Par Jennifer Hoins - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
Adler does exactly what he promises in the title. He tells you how to read a book. I read this book for a high school rhetoric class and though we read it in three weeks, I was so impacted by it that I have tried to apply his many suggestions.
He covers reading very thoroughly. Ideally, when we read a book, we first grasp what the author is saying (the who's and what's), then what he means, then how that relates to our life. These three steps fit into the first three levels of reading. The first asks 'What is the book saying?,' the second 'What type of book is it?,' and the third 'What does the book mean?.' There is another level which basically is a topical study- reading books to find what various authors say about a given topic.
Adler recognizes that we often don't get much from a book because we don't know how to read well. (He covers the relationship between reader and writer and their responsibilities toward each other)So for each level he gives rules and suggestions for how to read on that level. Often these are in the form of questions to ask that book.
Another thing Adler recognizes is that not all books are equal. Many books only need to be read on the first level, some on the second, and a few on the third. This also affects how fast one reads. The speed should match the difficulty, importance, and quality of the reading- even within the same book.
In addition to covering the four reading levels, Adler takes different types of books and gives specific applications of his suggestions to these books. You would not ask the same questions of a history book that you would of a play.
Oh and Adler provides exercises and a very good reading list to get you started on the road to good reading.
So Adler is very thorough and logical in his presentation and the reading is very enjoyable. His style is easy to understand and interesting at the same time. He covers some other topics here and there like reading education and the great books. This is an excellent book for both students (life long learners included) and those who just want to learn and enjoy books more.
38 internautes sur 39 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A wonderful guide to reading well 15 décembre 2001
Par cmweld - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
It's a common misconception that a person who has read a large number of books is therefore "well read". To be in fact well read according to this book's author, would be indicated not by the amount of books read, but by how well the books were read. Reading well is what "How To Read A Book" is all about.

This book is a course on the anatomy of a book, the peeling of its contents in exposing the central theme or message of its author. This is accomplished by the structured, methodical autopsy performed by the reader, who, in extracting the central contents, is rewarded with a much deeper and increased understanding.
Reading is looked upon by the author as an art. The reading of a good book, one that stretches you mentally, takes a high degree of skill and is a major exertion. It is very active. The reader, armed with pen in hand, is taking notes, underlining principle ideas, noting structure, asking questions of the author, thinking, concentrating. It is by no means passive.
This book comes highly recommended and is a real treasure. It will be with you for life (I am currently on my second copy, the first having been retired and permanently shelved following much use). One final word of note- It is the authors' goal to present the "Ideal" form of reading, however it is also the authors' understanding that not many readers have the time nor the desire to read every book in this manner (given the unlimited amount of time in both analytical and syntopical readings described in the book, it could take years of study if a person elected to do so). It is the authors' assertion that "you are a good reader to the degree in which you approximate it".
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RULE 1. YOU MUST KNOW WHAT KIND OF BOOK YOU ARE READING, AND YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS AS EARLY IN THE PROCESS AS POSSIBLE, PREFERABLY BEFORE YOU BEGIN TO READ. &quote;
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Enlightenment is achieved only when, in addition to knowing what an author says, you know what he means and why he says it. &quote;
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In tackling a difficult book for the first time, read it through without ever stopping to look-up or ponder the things you do not understand right away. &quote;
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