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Charles Van Doren (1926–2019)

Forfatter af How to Read a Book, Revised and Updated Edition

21+ Works 9,472 Members 85 Reviews 1 Favorited

Om forfatteren

Charles Lincoln Van Doren was born in Manhattan, New York on February 12, 1926. During World War II, he served with the Army Air Forces. He received a bachelor's degree from St. John's College and a master's degree in mathematics from Columbia University in 1949. After studies at Cambridge vis mere University in England and the Sorbonne in Paris, he started teaching English at Columbia in 1955 and received a doctorate in literature there in 1959. From November 28, 1956 to March 11, 1957, he appeared on the NBC quiz show Twenty-One. He won a total of $129,000. He appeared on the cover of Time magazine and signed a $150,000 contract to appear on NBC shows for three years. As rumors and skepticism over TV quiz shows being fixed arose, he insisted that he had not taken part in any deceptions. However, on November 2, 1959, he told congressional investigators that the shows had all been fixed, that he had been given questions and answers in advance, and that he had been coached to make the performances more dramatic. He lost his job at Columbia, NBC canceled his contract, and he pleaded guilty to second-degree perjury and received a suspended sentence. He became an editor and a writer. He took a job with Encyclopaedia Britannica and eventually became a vice president in charge of the editorial department. He retired in 1982. He wrote several books including The Joy of Reading and A History of Knowledge. He died on April 9, 2019 at the age of 93. (Bowker Author Biography) vis mindre
Image credit: Quiz show "21" host Jack Barry turns toward contestant Charles Van Doren as fellow contestant Vivienne Nearing looks on/photo by Orlando Fernandez: New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)(LC-USZ62-126813)

Værker af Charles Van Doren

How to Read a Book, Revised and Updated Edition (1972) — Forfatter — 7,556 eksemplarer
Webster's American Biographies (1974) 81 eksemplarer
The Joy of Reading (1985) 56 eksemplarer
Great Documents in American Indian History (1973) — Redaktør — 51 eksemplarer
Letters to mother; an anthology (1959) 13 eksemplarer
How to Read a Book {video} — Forfatter — 8 eksemplarer
Growing Up on a Clipper Ship (1964) 2 eksemplarer

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An overview of human knowledge that, despite its relative conciseness, manages to serve as a source of inspiration for additional reading and rereading. If nothing else, this is a reference work well worth consulting for ideas on the salient features of the centuries' worth of advances in human knowledge.
jwhenderson | 6 andre anmeldelser | Feb 1, 2024 |
Of all elements this book has, the most striking one is perhaps its title. A rather simple, descriptive title, yet, ironically, attractive enough to spark curiosity for some, including myself, leading into a question: why should someone read a book about reading a book?

The answer itself reveals that the said title is actually a bit misleading. What the author means by "read" is not its meaning in a general sense, but a specific kind of it, which, if I try to rename the title of this book, it would be: "How to learn something from an expository book (and make sure you really understand it)".

Some readers, who expecting a more general or leisure type of reading, would feel being deceived; but then, such readers are unlikely to have interest in a book titled "How to Read a Book" in the first place. This is a book for those who want to read seriously--readers who often read a book and after which felt that the book itself still have more to say; or those who struggles to understand a certain difficult read.

The book itself is divided into two main parts. In the first part, the author gives a set of general "rules" that the readers have to follow in order to meet the objective of "mastering" the reading skill. The second part goes into explaining different methods of reading specific kind of books, such as science and history.

The general rules itself are separated into 3 levels, in which the author wants the readers to follow in orderly manner. The first part is called "Inspectional Reading", which purpose is to make the readers know what to expect from a book before a "real" reading takes place. Then followed by the next step, called "Analytical Reding". This is where the "real" reading occurs. In this kind of reading, Adler thinks that the readers should treat the process like a discourse with the book's author. The last step is called "Syntopical Reading". Unlike the former two, this type of reading is a special case applied only when the a reader wants to know a certain topic or subject which requires several books to study.

Some people might get overwhelmed by these rules, even say that they are overly unecessary and ended up hating the activity of reading itself. However, Adler emphasized in this book that these rules aren't supposed to be applied to all kinds of books. Some aren't worth youer time and effort to apply all of these rules when reading them. This is a key point which I think should be noted for the readers of this book.

I find in the second part, where Adler categorizes different rules for specific books, are interesting. My favorites are the parts about Philosophy and Science. In each of these sections, He explain what makes certain kind of books requires different kind of reading. He also gave his perspective and little bit of historical contexts about each of these book types, and why these rules will helps us reads the book better. There are also chapter about novels and poetry where Charles van Doren, Adler's co-author takes his seat of giving his expertise.

In the Appendix of the book, the authors gave us a list of books that they thinks are essentials book to read, the books where the special reading skill are worth to be applied to. There are also exercises to test of what we've learned from this book. The test will gave the readers a test to reads, and requires us to apply the rules from this book to answer.

So far, my only critic is the book's writing style that feels outdated and rigid, especially for today's people. However, I think the book itself delivers its objective. Reading difficult books is hard, and sometimes we gave up halfway. So does the skills required to overcome it. Readers who have patience and diligence of following the rules this books taught will, in my opinion, have their time and effort being paid and rewarded in the end.
… (mere)
arifrohman | 74 andre anmeldelser | Jan 23, 2024 |
Though I genuinely enjoyed the book, I feel obliged to highlight couple of glaring factual mistakes I detected. They both deal with Russia and as a Russian I could not pass them unnoticed. The Russo-Japanese War was started by Japan with a surprising attack. The author states opposite.

Next, he confuses Belorussians (literally "White Russians") with White Guards, who fought Reds in the Russian Civil War and had mostly nothing in common with these people, apart from sounding alike to a certain degree. To me it sounds liek a hilarious, pun-like joke, but for many foreign readers out there, who are not familiar with the topic it may serve as a misleading information.… (mere)
Den85 | 6 andre anmeldelser | Jan 3, 2024 |
"How To Read A Book", a classic originally published in 1940. My 7-year-old grandson, Cade, laughed at this book, "I don't get it. How can you read this book if you don't know how to read?" Haha...he's so clever!

This type of learning to read is just the reverse of discerning what books to read and reference when writing research papers. I learned a lot of this stuff in high school English class and LOVED it. It was definitely better taught hands on and in an orderly process than reading about it. But, I read this book anyway just to see if I was missing anything.

The main point when reading books you want to learn from, is not to be a lazy reader. You must be interactive with the book. Locating important key words and phrases and making sure you understand their meaning by marking it, looking words up, note the context it's used in the sentence. You must be able to determine if all their data collected to validate the author's point of view is actual facts (from what sources) or simply biased opinions. If it's part of the authors knowledge base, is that knowledge base correct or skewed? You must ask questions for the meaning of passages, or you cannot expect to learn any new insights from it, and to know what the arguments and solutions are and their meaning. To test yourself for understanding, rewrite the proposition (the main point) of a sentence or paragraph in your own words without using any of the author's words.

I loved the first half of this book on how to read a single expository book analytically. It gets a strong 4-stars. The second half of the book on how to read other types of books, such as literary books, novels, poetry, philosophy, social sciences, etc…, gets a strong 1-star. I couldn’t understand a darn thing I was reading, and they seemed to repeat themselves everywhere, adding to the length of the book. So, overall rating is about 3-stars.
**spoilers below**
There are 3 purposes for reading: entertainment, information and understanding. All three of these will determine HOW you read. For example, I'm reading this book really slow because I want to gain more than just information to store. I want insight on how I can literally be a better reader.

The author goes over four different levels of reading:

1. ELEMENTARY READING - just learning words and putting them together without any real meaning. You should see "reading readiness" by age 6 or 7, if not, that child may need extra help. Reading readiness involves physical (good vision and hearing), intellectual (remembers entire words and letters), language (speaks clearly and uses several sentences in correct order), and personal (work with other kids, attention span, and can follow directions). Delaying the reading experience is better than jumping the gun and pushing that child into a reading experience he is not ready for. This could turn that child off from reading for the rest of his life. It's okay to pick up reading at his own pace, as long as he is continuing to learn. By 4th grade, your child should be reading street and traffic signs, business signs, picture captions, etc... By 8th, 9th and 10th grade, your child should be able to read almost anything and mature enough to do high school work. By graduating high school, your child should have reached the analytical reading level before entering college or to be able to research and pursue his own interests in life. If they are more than just literate readers and have become "competent" readers, then they have reached the Elementary Reading stage successfully.

2. INSPECTIONAL READING - skimming over the book: the title, preface, the author's blurb, the table of contents and the index (Amazon now usually makes this available to view before purchasing any book) to determine what kind of book it is in a limited amount of time, read first and last couple of pages of the book and a couple of paragraph's in the chapters that may be relevant to you. When reading expository works, read through the entire book superficially. Then, go back and dissect it. [NOTES: This is much like when reading the Bible. I read the full chapter, then follow the study guide to dissect each verse.] And then there's "speed reading". I don't like to force this. Everyone reads different types of books at different speeds. I read mindless novels A LOT faster than expository works. I read the most horrible, awful books superfast, mainly skimming over words...just to say I at least looked at the words...and just to finish the ghastly book, and not even knowing what the heck I read. Very rare for me to actually do this. I know I for sure did this with "Absalom, Absalom" by William Faulkner. Ugh!

HOW TO MAKE A BOOK YOUR OWN, p. 48-51: The "art" of reading is demanding. You have to ask questions of the book, and with a pencil write and answer those questions : 1) What is the book about? 2) What is being said in detail, and how? (Main ideas, assertions, arguments) 3) Is the book true, in whole or part? (You decide) 4) What of it? (Did it enlighten you with knowledge? Do you need to seek more? What is implied?) You bought the book, mark it up and make it yours.

3. ANALYTICAL READING - a complete reading of a book given an unlimited amount of time, marking and highlighting and asking questions of the book. This level of reading is strictly for the sake of understanding. [NOTE: This is my favorite level of reading when it pertains to gardening, genealogical history, learning a new hobby, and reading up on natural health or health issues. I'm very analytical and active with these books, marking notes, highlighting, looking up words in a dictionary. I want to understand what I'm reading.] To answer the question: What is the book about as a whole, follow these four steps:

Step 1: Learn to classify expositorial books - Practical (how-to, should do and should not do, good, bad, ought to...medical, gardening, engineering, economics,) vs. Theoretical (states facts but tries to convince you something is true, and here is a way to make them better...psychology, philosophy, science, history and sometimes political books)

Step 2. If you cannot explain what the book is about (its plot or theme) in just a few words, or a few sentences, then you haven't fully grasped the meaning of the book.

NOTE: Strive to do this with EVERY book, whether novel or expository book. This will come in handy for my book reviews on Goodreads cause I'm so long winded. Remember that a book is something different to each reader, so don't go comparing my reviews with others.

Step 3. Identify the major parts of the book, as in an outline.

Step 4. Can you state the main question the expository book tries to answer?

In any case, the reader has the last say by way of critiquing. If you have not been convinced of the material, then you should present material to counter why you disagree. Don't just disagree and insult. "Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider." Francis Bacon. And then there are those who read just to doubt or read just to rip apart.

NOTE: What comes to mind here, in the year 2021, are political books. Lately, I have run across liberal individuals who are not even reading, but literally bashing conservative authors personally and trashing their name instead of reviewing the book. I have since deleted at least four of my Goodreads friends who "liked" a particular individual's person bashing review that wasn't focused on the book at all. I mean, after all, what is their own opinion now worth?

Reviews should at least be respectful. It does a reader well to live by the code of etiquette: be polite, but be effective when talking back (reviewing). But, know that you are not a "true" critic until you fully listen, or have read, and understand the content. To rate the book on lack of understanding, first be sure to give it your all. It will usually be the reader's fault for not understanding, and it is okay and preferable to state so in this case.

"Be as prepared to agree as to disagree." Your decision should be based on only one consideration - the facts and the truth about the author's case. Agree with the author when you see a point, and don't hesitate to disagree when you don't see their point, but give your grounds for disagreeing, whether it be knowledge (with current evidence) or personal opinion. First, make sure it isn't a misunderstanding, then determine between genuine knowledge or mere opinion. The problem we are having today in conversations regarding politics is perfectly stated on page 148-49: “The trouble is that many people disregard disagreement as unrelated to as either teaching or being taught. They think that everything is just a matter of opinion. I have mine, and you have yours...On such a view, communication can not be profitable if the profit to be gained is an increase in knowledge. 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.” If the reader does not know or value the difference between statements of knowledge and flat out expression of opinion, then he is not reading to learn. He is judging the author, not the book, itself.

When disagreeing with an author, specify why: 1) The author is uninformed, 2) The author is misinformed, 3) The author is illogical and not cohesive, or 4) The author's analysis is incomplete. Be specific about what exactly you disagree with AND support your point with specifics. You must be able to argue the truth.

4. SYNTOPICAL READING - most complex level of reading and usually involves the reading of other material, comparing, coming to a conclusion, whether through various sources or even your own conclusion not mentioned. This is research. [NOTE: At times, I do go here when it comes to natural health.]

I'm a life-time learner type person, always reading and yearning to learn more about anything really. This book is for people like me. But, if are a English student, it would actually be better to learn from an English teacher. And if you are an English teacher, then this is a must read so you can teach your students better reading habits of expository works. Also, if you are a writer, you will definitely want to read this book. It is the reverse of writing and provides all the steps in how to choose a book, how to scan a book for relevancy, how to properly agree or disagree with an author.

A well-read person is NOT the one who has read the most books. A well-read person is one who has applied all the principles of analytical reading, and has complete understanding of the subject or subjects of interest and the meaning the author has written. A good student often becomes a teacher, and a good reader often becomes a writer, and not always in the "professional" sense, but as in the sharing of information with others.

Special note to remember from page 339: "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."

But, most importantly, learning to read well (actively), keeps our minds alive. Like the muscles, over time, the mind can atrophy, if not used.
… (mere)
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MissysBookshelf | 74 andre anmeldelser | Aug 27, 2023 |


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