Tag Archives: Charles Van Doren

How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren


  1. Describes the different levels of reading and what each level entails. Also, details very useful techniques on how to scan a book to determine if it is worth your time and lays out how to read different genres and types of reading materials.
Key Takeaways
  1. Meant to help you improve your skill in reading
  2. Supposed to read different books at different speeds depending on genre and what you’re hoping to get out of it
  3. 2 ways of learning – discovery and being taught (unaided discovery)
  4. Skim the book before reading it to see if it is actually worth reading – get the author’s main arguments
  5. Superficial reading – with difficult books, read completely without stopping. This will help not “lose the forest for the trees”
  6. Reading speed should vary based on the goal, nature and complexity of the book
  7. In order to read faster and still comprehend, underline passages with your finger/pen and don’t subvocalize
  8. Ask questions while reading – what is the book about, what is discussed in detail, is the book true, why is it important. Write the answers to these questions on the cover page and as you read through it, answer them. 
  9. Must classify a book before reading it.
  10. 4 Different Levels of reading – elementary, inspectional, analytical, syntopical
  11. Offers suggestions on how to read different types of genres and topics from philosophy to plays to poetry to history
  12. Amazing recommended reading list in the appendix
What I got out of it
  1. How to read is something most of us probably take for granted but when was the last time you were taught how to read? Adler and Van Doren outline how to properly read and this varies depending on the genre as well as your goals in reading the book, article, magazine, etc. The questions and techniques described help you get the most of out of what you’re reading and by clarifying what and why you’re reading something, it makes the material that much more impactful.

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