How to Read a Book
I love Mortimer Adler's book How to Read a Book. It gives you several techniques for reading a book:
- Skimming a book, including reading the table of contents and index. Do this for all books, to decide whether you want to proceed. If the book looks worthwhile, you may want to read it quickly without stopping. You can stop here for most books.
- Reading the book "analytically" – reserved for the "Great Books". Involves marking up the book, underlining its main arguments, building up an outline. Few books deserve this slow treatment.
- Reading several books together on the same subject ("synoptically"). Make the books dialogue with one another. The deepest level of reading. I haven't tried this.
To get a taste of Adler's writing, skim his online essays How to Mark a Book and Idling: Why It Is So Important Not To Be