Personal blog of Abhishek Kona

Book notes: How to read a book

Notes from the book How to read a book link.

If I read as many books as most me do, I would be as dull-witted as they are

Knowledge is not as much a prerequisite to understanding. We do not have to know everything about something in order to understand it.

Reading can be more or less active and the more active the reading the better.

We can learn only from our “betters”. We must know who they are how to learn from them.

If you remember what an author says, you have learned something from reading him.

Enlightenment is achieved only when, in addition to knowing what an author says, you know what he means and why he says it.

Hence, there must be discovery – the process of learning something by research, by investigation, or by reflection, without being taught.

The art of reading, in short, includes all of the same skills that are involved in the art of unaided discover: keenness of observation, readily available memory, range of imagination, and of course, an intellect trained in analysis and reflection.

Reading speed

Read different things at different –appropriate– speeds, not everything at the greatest possible speed

Every book should be read no more slowly than it deserves, and no more quickly than you can read it with satisfaction and compreshension.

Levels of reading

  1. Elementary Reading
  2. Inspectional Reading
  3. Analytical Reading
  4. Synoptical Reading

Inspectional reading

  1. Look at the title page, and if the book has one, its preface and read them quickly.
  2. Study the table of contents to obtain a general sense of the book’s structure.
  3. Check the index if the book has one.
  4. Read the publishers blrub.
  5. Form a general and vague knowledge of the book’s contents. Look now at the chapters that seem pivotal to its argument.
  6. Turn the pages, dipping in here and there, reading a paragraph or two, sometimes several pages in sequence, never more than that.

Questions to ask of a Book

  1. What is the book as a whole?
  2. What is being said in detail, and how?
  3. Is the book true, in whole or part?
  4. What of it? Is it important? What is the significance?

How to make a book your own

Before reading a book write the structure and gist of the book in the beginning.

Writing your reactions down helps you remember the thoughts of the author.

Use numbers to mark the authors arguments before he makes the big point.

Reading a book

Rule 1

You must know what kind of a book you are reading, and you should know this as early in the process as possible, preferable before you begin to read.

Rough kinds of books

  1. Fiction / entertainment
  2. Theoretical
  3. Practical
  4. Scientific / history books / philosophy – they tell facts.

If a theoretical book emphasizes things that lie outside the scope of your normal, routine, daily experience, it is a scientific work. If not, its philosophical.

Rule 2

State the unity of the whole book in a single sentence, or at most a few sentences.

Rule 3

Set forth the major parts of the book, and show ho these are organized into a whole, by being ordered to one another and to the unity to the whole.

Remember: a person can be skilled in an art without being the ideal artist; approximation is your friend.

Rule 4

Find the important words and through them come to terms with the author. The compreshension 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.

Rule 5

Mark the most important sentences in a book and discover the propositions they contain. Look for sentences that puzzle you, ponder about them.

Ideally you should be able to say the same thing in totally different words. If you cannot get away from him to you, not thought or knowledge.

Find the paragraphs in a book that states its important arguments; but if the arguments are not the expressed your task is to construct them by taking a sentence from this paragraph, and one from that, until you have gathered together the sequence of sentences that state the propositions that compose the argument.

Which of the problems that the author tried to solve did he succeed in solving? In course of solving the problem did he raise new ones?

Criticizing a book fairly

  • Wait till you have finished the book before you start disagreeing.
  • Read not to contradict and confute; Do not scorn a book, just weigh in.
  • Before you say I agree or disagree you must be able to say I understand.
  • Start by believing a book
  • Do not think of the book as a contest.
  • If you disagree, formulate a question that would change your mind.
  • Notice why you disagree – is it personal opinion or you have some knowledge.
  • You make disagree due to feelings, be wary.
  • Do not quarrel about the assumptions.
  • Is the book illogical? Is there a non sequitur, which means that what is drawn as a conclusion simply does not follow from the reasons offered.

There are, of course, many books worth reading well. There is a much larger numbers that should be only inspected. To become well-read, in every sense of the word, one must know how to use whatever skill one posses with discrimination – by reading every book according to its merits.

Reading Fiction

  • Mark when a new character is introduced.
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