How to Read A Book

I bet you already know how to read a book. You were taught in elementary school.

But do you know how to read well?

There is a difference between reading for understanding and reading for information.

If you’re like most people, you probably haven’t given much thought to how you read. And how you read makes a huge difference to knowledge accumulation.

A lot of people confuse knowing the name of something with understanding. While great for exercising your memory, the regurgitation of facts without understanding and context gains you little in the real world.

A good heuristic: Anything easily digested is reading for information.

Consider the newspaper, are you truly learning anything new? Do you consider the writer your superior when it comes to knowledge in the subject? Odds are probably not. That means you’re reading for information. It means you’re likely to parrot an opinion that isn’t yours as if you had done the work.

There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s how most people read. But you’re not really learning anything new. It’s not going to give you an edge or make you better at your job.

Reading alone isn’t enough to improve your knowledge. Learning something insightful requires work.  You have to read something above your current level. You need to find writers who are more knowledgeable on a particular subject than yourself. This is how you get smarter.

Reading for understanding narrows the gap between reader and writer.

The Four Levels of Reading

Mortimer Adler literally wrote the book on reading. In his book, How to Read a Book, he identifies four levels of reading:

  1. Elementary
  2. Inspectional
  3. Analytical
  4. Syntopical