This book was the primary text for a year's world literature course I took in high school. Adler's approach to reading had a profound impact upon me, and influenced the way I read (and often write and talk) about every book since then, 35 years ago. If only most people were trained in the thinking skills, and "associational" skills in reading and thinking that Adler proposes. This is a VERY IMPORTANT book, and easy reading as well.
Good book to start a journey of serious academic reading, but I truly dispise the strict "Search for Truth" that Adler proposes. It is remniscent of Faust's pact with the Devil for "ultimate Knowledge."
The search for truth was the end of education for 2500 years -- the Greeks, the Romans, the ages -- sought to answer the timeless questions about existence. That search for truth has nothing to do with Faust and ultimate knowledge. The rigors of analysis have to be lost on two or three generations of students who have been taught by higher criticism that THEY infuse other people's works with meaning. Adler speaks another language -- a rich one that the starving postmodern mind can't even taste.
Originally published in 1940, How to read a book advocates reading as an active, enriching activity. It describes 4 levels of reading, spending most of the time with analytical reading. Although it claims the process works for almost any genre, most of the advice would work best for expository, non-fiction works. While it is reassuring that the systematic approach outlined here is an ideal process, the authors tone, looking down at the meager skill level of most (undergraduate) readers, might strike some as old-fashioned. After all, they are the type that still believes in such things as more knowledge, understanding, truth, as well as Great Books and etiquette in intellectual discourse. Nonetheless, I think the system outlined can be helpful if I can muster the discipline to follow it. It just didnt seem that helpful in terms of reading and understanding classic novels, which was my goal.