Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Art of Reading

Some people think it is strange that I have read Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book multiple times. Reading, however, is both an art and a science. You get better by doing it and it helps if you read books for pleasure. The more you read, the better you get at reading which will motivate you to want to read more books. Adler recommends you read books a little above you to stretch your mind. The mind is a muscle that improves with exercise.

Tips on Reading for NonFiction Books

  • Read the preface, introduction, foreword, the blurb on the cover because they give you an overview of the book and the author's purpose, argument, and intended audience.
  • Skim the book: read the title, table of contents, conclusion, beginning and ending paragraphs of each chapter, and the index, and extra material in the appendix
Mark the book as you read---underline key words and phrases; outline the arguments of the book; mark things you do not understand, and things you dispute; write one to two sentences summary at the end of each of the chapters. Make sure you understand the book before you critique it.

Don't forget to read the notes and bibliography after reading the book. It will lead you to other books you might want to read. The notes will also allow you to enter in conversation with the author.

Some of the books you read will be over your head. That is okay. The best thing is to read the book quickly the first time. Do not worry about things you do not understand. More understanding will come with each reading of the book. Do not believe that we should read books only once. Some books take many readings to get all the knowledge and wisdom contained in the book. You wouldn't want to read the Bible only once. We get new things out of it with each new reading.

Not all books will require a thorough reading. Some books you will skim for needed information. Some books will be read for pure enjoyment and some books you will chew on and digest. 

Do not forget the library. The library and librarians are the reader's best friend. The library also offers an Inter-library Loan that allows you to order books the library does not own. A library is a good place to find good books to read. Librarians take time to select the best books published for their collection. They also can provide guidance on good books to read. In addition, they can provide help in finding resources you need.

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