Not long ago, I read "How to Read a Book: The Most Useful Book You May Ever Read" by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren, c 1972.

I found the book insightful; however, with my small brain I found it difficult to put into action the recommended steps for analyzing a book:
1) Classify the book according to kind and subject matter
2) State what the whole book is about with the utmost brevity
3) Enumerate its major parts in their order and relation, and outline these parts as you have outlined the whole.
4) Define the problem or problems the author has tried to solve.
5) Come to terms with the author by interpreting his key words.
6) Grasp the author's leading propositions by dealinfg with his most important sentences.
7) Know the author's arguements, by finding thim in, or constructing them out of, sequences of sentences.
8) Determine which of his problems the author has solved, and which he has not; and of the latter, decide which the author knew he had failed to solve.

I read several books a month but I find it difficult to remember and even apply the material that I may find useful at the time I read it. That was the reason for diving into the above book. However, the steps outlined above as you can see are difficult to apply.

Two questions: 1) Recommendations on a "For Dummies Book" on "How to Read"
2) Tips on reading and how to commit the newly imprinted knowledge to memory for later application

glenn.brooke's picture
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Here are some suggestions to help you get more out of books.

First, create accountability: plan to write up a summary, or prepare a 5 min presentation to someone else. If you know that you have to do this, it sharpens your reading and analysis.

Second, take some notes as you read. Capture key ideas, illustrations, and questions that come to your mind as you read the book. These are your notes, you don't have to share these with anyone, so don't worry too much about the level of detail. The value of taking notes is that you're interacting with the material, which triggers analysis and reinforces memory.

Third, where there is a key idea, say it aloud a few times. Imagine that you're saying it to someone else, and say it again. There is a simple fact about our memory: we remember much more of what we say than what someone else says, [i]even if we only say it to ourselves.[/i]

Try these on your next book. Once you get moving, you'll begin to get more from your reading, you'll be able to convey the value of what you're reading to others on your team (or your boss), and you'll become more discerning.

jhack's picture

and don't feel obligated to finish a book whose first couple chapters aren't any good. It's unlikely it will get better, and you should set it aside and pick up a better one.


US101's picture
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Adler's book is excellent. I used when teaching Critical Thinking.

To simplify Adler -

1. What information is the author basing his/her conclusions on?
2. From what point of view is the author writing?
3. What are the implications of the author's conclusions?

kaspar's picture

[quote="jhack"]whose first couple chapters aren't any good.[/quote]

And how many times do do read a book where the essence is already in the first 30 pages, and the rest is just written to get the book heavier.

AManagerTool's picture

I have read books where the essense is in the