How to Read a Book
How to Read a Book

How to Read a Book

Table of Contents

The packaging of intellectual positions and views is one of the most active enterprises of some of the best minds of our day. The viewer of television, the listener to radio, the reader of magazines, is presented with a whole complex of elements—all the way from ingenious rhetoric to carefully selected data and statistics—to make it easy for him to “make up his own mind” with the minimum of difficulty and effort. But the packaging is often done so effectively that the viewer, listener, or reader does not make up his own mind at all. Instead, he inserts a packaged opinion into his mind, somewhat like inserting a cassette into a cassette player. He then pushes a button and “plays back” the opinion whenever it seems appropriate to do so. He has performed acceptably without having had to think. (Location 166)

Note: Media neatly package a view which is then regurgitated by people,elimenating the need for them to think for themselves

The distinction between reading for information and reading for understanding is deeper than this. Let us try to say more about it. We will have to consider both goals of reading because the line between what is readable in one way and what must be read in the other is often hazy. To the extent that we can keep these two goals of reading distinct, we can employ the word “reading” in two distinct senses. The first sense is the one in which we speak of ourselves as reading newspapers, magazines, or anything else that, according to our skill and talents, is at once thoroughly intelligible to us. Such things may increase our store of information, but they cannot improve our understanding, for our understanding was equal to them before we started. Otherwise, we would have felt the shock of puzzlement and perplexity that comes from getting in over our depth—that is, if we were both alert and honest. The second sense is the one in which a person tries to read something that at first he does not completely understand. Here the thing to be read is initially better or higher than the reader. The writer is communicating something that can increase the reader’s understanding. Such communication between unequals must be possible, or else one person could never learn from another, either through speech or writing. Here by “learning” is meant understanding more, not remembering more information that has the same degree of intelligibility as other information you already possess. (Location 229)

Note: We can read for information or for understanding. Reading info increases our store of info but not our level of understanding

What are the conditions under which this kind of reading—reading for understanding—takes place? There are two. First, there is initial inequality in understanding. The writer must be “superior” to the reader in understanding, and his book must convey in readable form the insights he possesses and his potential readers lack. Second, the reader must be able to overcome this inequality in some degree, seldom perhaps fully, but always approaching equality with the writer. To the extent that equality is approached, clarity of communication is achieved. (Location 246)

Note: In order for reading for understanding to take place there must be a difference in the level of understanding between the author and reader, and it must be possible to reduce this gap

Our subject, then, is the art of reading good books when understanding is the aim you have in view. (Location 263)

To be informed is to know simply that something is the case. To be enlightened is to know, in addition, what it is all about: why it is the case, what its connections are with other facts, in what respects it is the same, in what respects it is different, and so forth. This distinction is familiar in terms of the differences between being able to remember something and being able to explain it. If you remember what an author says, you have learned something from reading him. If what he says is true, you have even learned something about the world. But whether it is a fact about the book or a fact about the world that you have learned, you have gained nothing but information if you have exercised only your memory. You have not been enlightened. Enlightenment is achieved only when, in addition to knowing what an author says, you know what he means and why he says it. (Location 267)

The goal a reader seeks—be it entertainment, information or understanding—determines the way he reads. The effectiveness with which he reads is determined by the amount of effort and skill he puts into his reading. (Location 334)

Note: Three types of reading are: entertainment,information and understanding

There are four levels of reading. They are here called levels rather than kinds because kinds, strictly speaking, are distinct from one another, whereas it is characteristic of levels that higher ones include lower ones. So it is with the levels of reading, which are cumulative. The first level is not lost in the second, the second in the third, the third in the fourth. In fact, the fourth and highest level of reading includes all the others. It simply goes beyond them. (Location 341)

Note: 4 levels of reading

The first level of reading we will call Elementary Reading. (Location 345)

The child’s first encounter with reading is at this level. His problem then (and ours when we began to read) is to recognize the individual words on the page. The child sees a collection of black marks on a white ground (or perhaps white marks on a black ground, if he is reading from a blackboard); what the marks say is, “The cat sat on the hat.” (Location 348)

The second level of reading we will call Inspectional Reading. It is characterized by its special emphasis on time. When reading at this level, the student is allowed a set time to complete an assigned amount of reading. He might be allowed fifteen minutes to read this book, for instance—or even a book twice as long. Hence, another way to describe this level of reading is to say that its aim is to get the most out of a book within a given time—usually a relatively short time, and always (by definition) too short a time to get out of the book everything that can be gotten. (Location 361)

Note: inspectional reading - not enough time to read a book properly

Analytical reading is thorough reading, complete reading, or good reading—the best reading you can do. If inspectional reading is the best and most complete reading that is possible given a limited time, then analytical reading is the best and most complete reading that is possible given unlimited time. (Location 378)

Francis Bacon once remarked that “some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” Reading a book analytically is chewing and digesting it. (Location 383)

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Note: .quote

We also want to stress that analytical reading is hardly ever necessary if your goal in reading is simply information or entertainment. Analytical reading is preeminently for the sake of understanding. Conversely, bringing your mind with the aid of a book from a condition of understanding less to one of understanding more is almost impossible unless you have at least some skill in analytical reading. (Location 384)

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Note: Analytical reading is rarely required for entertainment and information reading

The fourth and highest level of reading we will call Syntopical Reading. It is the most complex and systematic type of reading of all. It makes very heavy demands on the reader, even if the materials he is reading are themselves relatively easy and unsophisticated. Another name for this level might be comparative reading. When reading syntopically, the reader reads many books, not just one, and places them in relation to one another and to a subject about which they all revolve. But mere comparison of texts is not enough. Syntopical reading involves more. With the help of the books read, the syntopical reader is able to construct an analysis of the subject that may not be in any of the books. It is obvious, therefore, that syntopical reading is the most active and effortful kind of reading. (Location 387)

Note: Synoptical reading involves comparing to other similar books and drawing ypur own conclusions

4 The Second Level of Reading: Inspectional Reading

Inspectional Reading I: Systematic Skimming or Pre-reading

STUDY THE TABLE OF CONTENTS to obtain a general sense of the book’s structure; use it as you would a road map before taking a trip. (Location 560)

Note: Study the table of contents befoore reading a book

From your general and still rather vague knowledge of the book’s contents, LOOK NOW AT THE CHAPTERS THAT SEEM TO BE PIVOTAL TO ITS ARGUMENT. If these chapters have summary statements in their opening or closing pages, as they often do, read these statements carefully. (Location 587)

Note: Read the key points from pivotal chapters


Above all, do not fail to read the last two or three pages, or, if these are an epilogue, the last few pages of the main part of the book. Few authors are able to resist the temptation to sum up what they think is new and important about their work in these pages. You do not want to miss this, even though, as sometimes happens, the author himself may be wrong in his judgment. (Location 592)

Note: When skimming ensure to read the last few pages

Inspectional Reading II: Superficial Reading

In tackling a difficult book for the first time, read it through without ever stopping to look up or ponder the things you do not understand right away. (Location 611)

In most cases, you will not be able to puzzle the thing out by sticking to it. You will have a much better chance of understanding it on a second reading, but that requires you to have read the book through at least once. (Location 616)

With regard to rates of reading, then, the ideal is not merely to be able to read faster, but to be able to read at different speeds—and to know when the different speeds are appropriate. Inspectional reading is accomplished quickly, but that is not only because you read faster, although in fact you do; it is also because you read less of a book when you give it an inspectional reading, and because you read it in a different way, with different goals in mind. Analytical reading is ordinarily much slower than inspectional reading, but even when you are giving a book an analytical reading, you should not read all of it at the same rate of speed. Every book, no matter how difficult, contains interstitial material that can be and should be read quickly; and every good book also contains matter that is difficult and should be read very slowly. (Location 656)

Note: Reading at different speeds

Every book should be read no more slowly than it deserves, and no more quickly than you can read it with satisfaction and comprehension. (Location 706)

Finally, do not try to understand every word or page of a difficult book the first time through. This is the most important rule of all; it is the essence of inspectional reading. Do not be afraid to be, or to seem to be, superficial. Race through even the hardest book. You will then be prepared to read it well the second time. (Location 711)

Note: If reading a difficult book do not try to understand everything on the first read, do this on the second read

Systematic skimming, in other words, anticipates the comprehension of a book’s structure. And the second stage of inspectional reading—the stage we have called superficial reading—serves the reader when he comes to the second stage of reading at the analytical level. (Location 719)

5 How to Be a Demanding Reader (Location 724)

one simple prescription for active reading. It is: Ask questions while you read—questions that you yourself must try to answer in the course of reading. (Location 744)

There are four main questions you must ask about any book.I 1. WHAT IS THE BOOK ABOUT AS A WHOLE? You must try to discover the leading theme of the book, and how the author develops this theme in an orderly way by subdividing it into its essential subordinate themes or topics. 2. WHAT IS BEING SAID IN DETAIL, AND HOW? You must try to discover the main ideas, assertions, and arguments that constitute the author’s particular message. 3. IS THE BOOK TRUE, IN WHOLE OR PART? You cannot answer this question until you have answered the first two. You have to know what is being said before you can decide whether it is true or not. When you understand a book, however, you are obligated, if you are reading seriously, to make up your own mind. Knowing the author’s mind is not enough. 4. WHAT OF IT? If the book has given you information, you must ask about its significance. Why does the author think it is important to know these things? Is it important to you to know them? And if the book has not only informed you, but also enlightened you, it is necessary to seek further enlightenment by asking what else follows, what is further implied or suggested. (Location 746)

Note: Four main questions to ask when reading a book

Knowing what the four questions are is not enough. You must remember to ask them as you read. The habit of doing that is the mark of a demanding reader. More than that, you must know how to answer them precisely and accurately. The trained ability to do that is the art of reading. (Location 765)

Note: You must rememmber to continually ask questions when reading

Good books are over your head; they would not be good for you if they were not. And books that are over your head weary you unless you can reach up to them and pull yourself up to their level. (Location 769)

If you have the habit of asking a book questions as you read, you are a better reader than if you do not. But, as we have indicated, merely asking questions is not enough. You have to try to answer them. And although that could be done, theoretically, in your mind only, it is much easier to do it with a pencil in your hand. The pencil then becomes the sign of your alertness while you read. (Location 773)

Note: Ask questions ann answer them by writing out the answer

is an old saying that you have to “read between the lines” to get the most out of anything. The rules of reading are a formal way of saying this. But we want to persuade you to “write between the lines,” too. Unless you do, you are not likely to do the most efficient kind of reading. (Location 776)

Note: Write between the lines for the most effective reading

Full ownership of a book only comes when you have made it a part of yourself, and the best way to make yourself a part of it—which comes to the same thing—is by writing in it. (Location 780)

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Note: Full ownership of a book comes by writing in it

The person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it usually does not know what he thinks. (Location 783)

Reading a book should be a conversation between you and the author. Presumably he knows more about the subject than you do; if not, you probably should not be bothering with his book. But understanding is a two-way operation; the learner has to question himself and question the teacher. He even has to be willing to argue with the teacher, once he understands what the teacher is saying. Marking a book is literally an expression of your differences or your agreements with the author. It is the highest respect you can pay him. (Location 784)

The Third Level of Reading: Analytical Reading

Note: Part 2

6 Pigeonholing a Book

The Importance of Classifying Books The first rule of analytical reading can be expressed as follows: RULE 1. YOU MUST KNOW WHAT KIND OF BOOK YOU ARE READING, AND YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS AS EARLY IN THE PROCESS AS POSSIBLE, PREFERABLY BEFORE YOU BEGIN TO READ. (Location 899)

Note: You should classify books early

To make knowledge practical we must convert it into rules of operation. We must pass from knowing what is the case to knowing what to do about it if we wish to get somewhere. This can be summarized in the distinction between knowing that and knowing how. Theoretical books teach you that something is the case. Practical books teach you how to do something you want to do or think you should do. (Location 996)

Note: Theoritical books teach you that something is the case, practical books teach you how to do something

In describing the art of inspectional reading, we noted that you should not ordinarily stop after reading the front matter of a book and perhaps its index. You should read passages in the book that appear to be of a summary nature. You should also read the beginning and end of the book and of its major parts. (Location 1039)

Kinds of Theoretical Books The traditional subdivision of theoretical books classifies them as history, science, and philosophy. (Location 1057)

Philosophy is like science and unlike history in that it seeks general truths rather than an account of particular events, either in the near or distant past. But the philosopher does not ask the same questions as the scientist, nor does he employ the same kind of method to answer them. (Location 1076)

7 X-raying a Book

The second rule of analytical reading can be expressed as follows: RULE 2. STATE THE UNITY OF THE WHOLE BOOK IN A SINGLE SENTENCE, OR AT MOST A FEW SENTENCES (A SHORT PARAGRAPH). (Location 1134)


RULE 4. FIND OUT WHAT THE AUTHOR’S PROBLEMS WERE. The author of a book starts with a question or a set of questions. The book ostensibly contains the answer or answers. ... it is your task as a reader to formulate the questions as precisely as you can. You should be able to state the main question that the book tries to answer, (Location 1384)

Note: The author of a book starts out with a set of questions, which the book looks to answer

THE FIRST STAGE OF ANALYTICAL READING, OR RULES FOR FINDING WHAT A BOOK IS ABOUT 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 is trying to solve. (Location 1425)

Note: Classify, summarise, define the problem the author is looking to solve

8 Coming to Terms with an Author

the trial-and-error method of putting a jigsaw puzzle together. The more parts you put together, the easier it is to find places for the remaining parts, if only because there are fewer of them. (Location 1613)

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Note: .metaphor

your comprehension of any book will be enormously increased if you only go to the trouble of finding its important words, identifying their shifting meanings, and coming to terms. Seldom does such a small change in a habit have such a large effect. (Location 1678)

Note: Identify the important words and their meaning each time they are used

9 Determining an Author’s Message

Because language is not a perfect medium for the expression of thought, because one word can have many meanings and two or more words can have the same meaning, we saw how complicated was the relation between an author’s vocabulary and his terminology. One word may represent several terms, and one term may be represented by several words. (Location 1726)

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Note: Language is not the perfect medium for the expression of thought becaue words can have multiple meanings


Wonder is the beginning of wisdom in learning from books as well as from nature. If you never ask yourself any questions about the meaning of a passage, you cannot expect the book to give you any insight you do not already possess. (Location 1813)

“State in your own words!” That suggests the best test we know for telling whether you have understood the proposition or propositions in the sentence. If, when you are asked to explain what the author means by a particular sentence, all you can do is repeat his very words, with some minor alterations in their order, you had better suspect that you do not know what he means. Ideally, you should be able to say the same thing in totally different words. The idea can, of course, be approximated in varying degrees. But if you cannot get away at all from the author’s words, it shows that only words have passed from him to you, not thought or knowledge. You know his words, not his mind. He was trying to communicate knowledge, and all you received was words. (Location 1851)

Note: You must be able to express a passage in your own words to show you have understood the authors message

THE SECOND STAGE OF ANALYTICAL READING, OR RULES FOR FINDING WHAT A BOOK SAYS (INTERPRETING ITS CONTENTS) 5. Come to terms with the author by interpreting his key words. 6. Grasp the author’s leading propositions by dealing with his most important sentences. 7. Know the author’s arguments, by finding them 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 as to the latter, decide which the author knew he had failed to solve. (Location 2010)

Note: Look for key words and sentences, the main argument, the problems they have solved and are looking to solve

10 Criticizing a Book Fairly

Note: First understand completely, then do not have a heated argument, look to resolve and learn


Note: You must understand before you can pass judgement

Most people think that winning the argument is what matters, not learning the truth. (Location 2151)

Note: Knowing the truth is more important than winning the argument

disagreement is futile agitation unless it is undertaken with the hope that it may lead to the resolution of an issue. (Location 2170)

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Note: .disagreement do not have a diagreement unless It can fix the issue being argued

There is, of course, another sort of disagreement, which is owing merely to inequalities of knowledge. The relatively ignorant often wrongly disagree with the relatively learned about matters exceeding their knowledge. The more learned, however, have a right to be critical of errors made by those who lack relevant knowledge. Disagreement of this sort can also be corrected. Inequality of knowledge is always curable by instruction. (Location 2175)

Note: Those lacking in knowledge on a topic often disagree with peole far more knowledgable

the person who, at any stage of a conversation, disagrees, should at least hope to reach agreement in the end. He should be as much prepared to have his own mind changed as seek to change the mind of another. He should always keep before him the possibility that he misunderstands or that he is ignorant on some point. No one who looks upon disagreement as an occasion for teaching another should forget that it is also an occasion for being taught. (Location 2181)

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Note: .disagreement a disagreement is always an opportunity to learn

Conversation is hardly better than a ping-pong game of opposed opinions, a game in which no one keeps score, no one wins, and everyone is satisfied because he does not lose—that is, he ends up holding the same opinions he started with. (Location 2187)

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Note: .disagreement disagreement is totally useless if neither party is open to changing their opinions


Let us now summarize the three general maxims we have discussed in this chapter. The three together state the conditions of a critical reading and the manner in which the reader should proceed to “talk back” to the author. The first requires the reader to complete the task of understanding before rushing in. The second adjures him not to be disputatious or contentious. The third asks him to view disagreement about matters of knowledge as being generally remediable. This rule goes further: It also commands him to give reasons for his disagreements so that issues are not merely stated but also defined. In that lies all hope for resolution. (Location 2221)

Tags: reading

Note: .reading first understand, then do not be heated in your argument and be open to both resolving and learning

11 Agreeing or Disagreeing with an Author

The four points can be briefly summarized by conceiving the reader as conversing with the author, as talking back. After he has said, “I understand but I disagree,” he can make the following remarks to the author: (1) “You are uninformed”; (2) “You are misinformed”; (3) “You are illogical—your reasoning is not cogent”; (4) “Your analysis is incomplete.” (Location 2285)

We have now completed, in a general way, the enumeration and discussion of the rules of analytical reading. We can now set forth all the rules in their proper order and under appropriate headings. I. THE FIRST STAGE OF ANALYTICAL READING: RULES FOR FINDING WHAT A BOOK IS ABOUT 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. II. THE SECOND STAGE OF ANALYTICAL READING: RULES FOR INTERPRETING A BOOK’S CONTENTS 5. Come to terms with the author by interpreting his key words. 6. Grasp the author’s leading propositions by dealing with his most important sentences. 7. Know the author’s arguments, by finding them 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. III. THE THIRD STAGE OF ANALYTICAL READING: RULES FOR CRITICIZING A BOOK AS A COMMUNICATION OF KNOWLEDGE A. General Maxims of Intellectual Etiquette 9. Do not begin criticism until you have completed your outline and your interpretation of the book. (Do not say you agree, disagree, or suspend judgment, until you can say “I understand.”) 10. Do not disagree disputatiously or contentiously. 11. Demonstrate that you recognize the difference between knowledge and mere personal opinion by presenting good reasons for any critical judgment you make. B. Special Criteria for Points of Criticism 12. Show wherein the author is uninformed. 13. Show wherein the author is misinformed. 14. Show wherein the author is illogical. 15. Show wherein the author’s analysis or account is incomplete. (Location 2386)

Before proceeding to Part Three, perhaps we should stress, once again, that these rules of analytical reading describe an ideal performance. Few people have ever read any book in this ideal manner, and those who have, probably read very few books this way. The ideal remains, however, the measure of achievement. You are a good reader to the degree in which you approximate it. (Location 2434)

Note: The rules represent the ideal way to read, which few people follow exactly

When we speak of someone as “well-read,” we should have this ideal in mind. Too often, we use that phrase to mean the quantity rather than the quality of reading. A person who has read widely but not well deserves to be pitied rather than praised. As Thomas Hobbes said, “If I read as many books as most men do, I would be as dull-witted as they are.” (Location 2437)

Note: The rules are the ideal way to read, which few people follow exactly.

12 Aids to Reading

We may not bring to bear our experience both of other books and of life as systematically as we should, but we nevertheless measure the statements and conclusions of a writer against other things that we know, from many different sources. Thus it is common sense to say that no book should be, because no book can be, read entirely and completely in isolation. (Location 2457)

Note: No book can be read in isolation. Over books we have previously read will influence our views

The extrinsic aids to reading fall into four categories. In the order in which we will discuss them in this chapter, they are: first, relevant experiences; second, other books; third, commentaries and abstracts; fourth, reference books. (Location 2464)

Approaches to Different Kinds of Reading Matter

13 How to Read Practical Books

The two groups of questions that we have discussed determine or identify two main divisions of philosophy. The questions in the first group, the questions about being and becoming, have to do with what is or happens in the world. Such questions belong to the division of philosophy that is called theoretical or speculative. The questions in the second group, the questions concerning good and evil, or right and wrong, have to do with what ought to be done or sought, and they belong to the division of philosophy that is sometimes called practical, and is more accurately called normative. (Location 3934)

Turning from theoretical to normative philosophy, the main distinction is between questions about the good life and what is right or wrong in the conduct of the individual, all of which fall within the sphere of ethics, and questions about the good society and the conduct of the individual in relation to the community—the sphere of politics or political philosophy. (Location 3948)

The literature of social science is not confined to nonfiction. There is also a large and important category of contemporary writing that might be termed social-science fiction. Here the aim is to create artificial models of society that allow us, for example, to explore the social consequences of technological innovation. The organization of social power, the kinds of property and ownership, and the distribution of wealth are variously described, deplored, or lauded in novels, plays, stories, moving pictures, television shows. Insofar as they do this they may be said to have social significance or to contain “relevant messages.” At the same time they draw on and disseminate elements of the social sciences. (Location 4247)

The Ultimate Goals of Reading

20 The Fourth Level of Reading: Syntopical Reading

their efforts are enormously wasteful because they do not understand how to read some books faster than others. They spend the same amount of time and effort on every book or article they read. As a result, they do not read those books that deserve a really good reading as well as they deserve, and they waste time on works that deserve less attention. (Location 4471)

Note: Not all books should be read at the same pace and to the same depth. Dont waste too much time on books that do not deserve the attention

Summary of Syntopical Reading We have now completed our discussion of syntopical reading. Let us therefore display the various steps that must be taken at this level of reading in outline form. As we have seen, there are two main stages of syntopical reading. One is preparatory, and the other is syntopical reading proper. Let us write out all of these steps for review. I. SURVEYING THE FIELD PREPARATORY TO SYNTOPICAL READING 1. Create a tentative bibliography of your subject by recourse to library catalogues, advisors, and bibliographies in books. 2. Inspect all of the books on the tentative bibliography to ascertain which are germane to your subject, and also to acquire a clearer idea of the subject. Note: These two steps are not, strictly speaking, chronologically distinct; that is, the two steps have an effect on each other, with the second, in particular, serving to modify the first. II. SYNTOPICAL READING OF THE BIBLIOGRAPHY AMASSED IN STAGE I 1. Inspect the books already identified as relevant to your subject in Stage I in order to find the most relevant passages. 2. Bring the authors to terms by constructing a neutral terminology of the subject that all, or the great majority, of the authors can be interpreted as employing, whether they actually employ the words or not. 3. Establish a set of neutral propositions for all of the authors by framing a set of questions to which all or most of the authors can be interpreted as giving answers, whether they actually treat the questions explicitly or not. 4. Define the issues, both major and minor ones, by ranging the opposing answers of authors to the various questions on one side of an issue or another. You should remember that an issue does not always exist explicitly between or among authors, but that it sometimes has to be constructed by interpretation of the authors’ views on matters that may not have been their primary concern. 5. Analyze the discussion by ordering the questions and issues in such a way as to throw maximum light on the subject. More general issues should precede less general ones, and relations among issues should be clearly indicated. Note: Dialectical detachment or objectivity should, ideally, be maintained throughout. One way to insure this is always to accompany an interpretation of an author’s views on an issue with an actual quotation from his text. (Location 4779)

21 Reading and the Growth of the Mind

If you are reading in order to become a better reader, you cannot read just any book or article. You will not improve as a reader if all you read are books that are well within your capacity. You must tackle books that are beyond you, or, as we have said, books that are over your head. Only books of that sort will make you stretch your mind. And unless you stretch, you will not learn. (Location 4835)

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Note: You must read books beyond your level to stretch yourself

good book does reward you for trying to read it. The best books reward you most of all. The reward, of course, is of two kinds. First, there is the improvement in your reading skill that occurs when you successfully tackle a good, difficult work. Second—and this in the long run is much more important—a good book can teach you about the world and about yourself. You learn more than how to read better; you also learn more about life. You become wiser. Not just more knowledgeable—books that provide nothing but information can produce that result. But wiser, in the sense that you are more deeply aware of the great and enduring truths of human life. (Location 4860)