Like many people, I have a huge book backlog. I have books that I’ve intended
to read for many moons, many moves, and many homes. While Kindle and library
usage has made this some better, I can’t claim that my throughput rate in
any way matches my acquisition rate. What’s to be done?
As noted in my post on Adler and van Doren’s How to Read a Book,
“Inspectional Reading (IR)” is a two-phase technique that answers the
question of whether a book requires deeper (“Analytical”) reading to be
understood and whether the reader will benefit from such an understanding.
The first phase locates the “big reveal” of the argument and its key
premises first. In the second phase, the reader works to embellish that
scaffolding here and there but moves through the content quickly.
As a result, readers have an augmented skeleton of the book such that the
skeletal elements are fitted to the premises in a way that nets the
I used this technique on Willingham’s Why Don’t Students Like School?.
My determination is that IR, when practiced consciously, with notepad handy,
does produce a strong grasp of non-fiction materials. For this book, I
invested approximately 90 minutes of time and finished with several good
ideas that I could present in cocktail party conversation and will likely
integrate into some of the educational material my team curates.