I found this book a few years ago on the sidewalks of Park Slope and I regret I
haven’t read it sooner!
Adler and van Doren provide a wonderful set of techniques for getting a better
grip on your “To Read” pile and help you feel more comfortable in choosing what
level of attention is appropriate for the material. By making this calculation
in an informed and methodical way, you can process your pile more effectively.
I really needed this help because I’m such a completionist, I’m always afraid
I’m going to lose a critical fact if I’m not diligent to the end degree. I hope
these techniques will help me move more quickly and exercise better judgment.
Having provided those techniques, the authors provide a very considerate
introduction on how to read books in genres that you might not be comfortable
in: science, social science, or philosophy.
Over and above those practical points, the book serves as a good set of advice
on how to do anything actively: active listening, active reading, active
programming, active conversation, etc. The skills of acting actively, we’d say
“mindfully” today, were seen as related to reading and writing when this book
came out in 1940, but the truths that underlie that view have not changed. I
found many places where “read/write a book” could have been swapped with
“read/write code” or “converse” or “learn to play guitar” or “meditate” or
“make tender love to” and the value been as impactful.
This book in the right hands at the right time could make for a huge change in
educational quality and life quality of the reader.
This is all the “reviewing” I’ll do here. Below I’ll cover the techniques and
distillations I made of the text. I’m posting them here for quick reference :).