The book “How to Read a Book’ provides an illustrative description of a way to gain the power of reading a book, to analyze
the hidden meaning of the context and to enjoy the art of reading a book. The author J.Adler has divided the book into primarily three sections. The first section deals with the activity of reading itself. The rules follow in the next section and the final section by the impact on a reader’s life thereafter. The book, itself, is an effective tool which helps you to cultivate the habit of reading not only for learning but also for fun and pleasure. The first section talks about the reading process itself. As it goes on to tell us, there is a big difference between the reader’s ability to determine the actual context of the text. Adler writes that an average reader might just read for the sake of reading but he will surely miss the entire hidden concept or the knowledge itself. Until and unless there is an inner desire and self motivation, nobody can improve their reading skills. As he mentions his initial quality of a teacher and a reader when he used to read about the text he was going to teach and not read actual context itself, he realized or was rather made aware by some excellent students and colleagues who truly understood the material and had a inner passion about it.(8). It needs an inner desire to understand what the writer of the book is trying to reveal to us or is throwing at us. In addition to this desire, we, without any external help, should try to catch what is being thrown by the writer. Though it sounds and seems easy, the process is not as easy as we have imagined. Consistent conscientiousness and the actualization of our inner potential are needed so that we can comprehend the meaning of even harder text. Generally, when we read book just to seek information, we miss the whole essential side. When we read to understand, we really begin to like the reading procedure; and more importantly, the reading material. The book further reveals that live teachers can always help us
to comprehend the meaning of the context, but we have to read on our own to understand much more effectively. The author in the next section follows with the steps of developing the skill to read a book. A good book is worth reading at least three times. The reading procedures can be classified in three distinct types. The first one is reading the book as a whole, the second process is reading the book from parts to whole, and the third one is critically evaluating the author (124). Each reading procedure has own specific simple rules. The first two procedures are the way to reach the level of understanding. The third procedure begins only after we have reached that level of understanding where we have the actual power of criticizing them. After we determine the type of book, which is based on the careful review of the title, the process of reading becomes much harder, where we deal with the main body of the book. A good way of choosing this would be determining the theme of the plot. Aristotle gives an example from the poem Odyssey by structuring the theme of the play in few sentences while the rest of story is termed as episode (165). We should also have an idea of the whole book as an organized structure of the individualized parts. Aristotle in his book of ethics starts by saying that happiness is the end of life and then he describes its relation with other goods. He gives the idea and theme first and describes it more in detail later in the body. We should try to uncover the hidden meaning of the text that the author has concealed. Furthermore, author says that there may be some cases where we are unsure of meaning of a word or words. Identifying the important basic words and using it with the context or sense helps in these kinds of situation. It is very necessary to determine the judgment or the intentions of the author.
The author has the first speech and the reader has the last say. A book should be read like a conversation. This makes it much more effective. Arguing with the author and accepting the truth even if we were wrong contributes to the art of reading. Adler says that a good book fights with the reader with arguments. Even if we have read the whole book to understand the writer’s notion, there can still be some issues raised on disagreements because the author’s notion can be viewed from different prospect. When we say that we do not understand, we need to have the full understanding of what we did not understand before raising a hand towards the ambiguity of the text. Adler continues saying that different types of book should be handled in different ways. Reading Poetry is entirely different from reading a book on Mathematics. In poems, where imaginative creations are used, it is sometimes impossible to comprehend the real meaning of the author. Sometimes it’s of no use. The plays of Shakespeare have been searched for its hidden meaning and the effort is fruitless (305). Reading the book is not primarily for telling it to other people. Its main motive is to let the reader have a deeper understanding of author’s viewpoint and develop the power of evaluating them. I think that this book, “How to Read a Book”, is of great use for people of all age, especially for students. It gives a fair chance to help average readers to get through other books. Though originally written at 1940 the book is still effective in its approach to the art of reading a book. It explains the golden rule of reading a book- read it. There are no short-cuts in reaching the theme of the text. What this book does is that it helps us to read the book in an effective manner. It gives us a way to get inside the flesh of the Book and uncover its skeleton. Practice and Patience is very essential to get to the end of the book. Though there are still many ways to get to hold of any book, the best way is still with us. Without the inner will and
desire to study a book, nobody can help us to get to the knowledge. People might speak about it, but we will not be able to capture their words and even if we do we still are missing an entire other meaning of the words.