Two Opposing Views of Reading
A Reader's Bill of Rights:
1. The right to not read
2. The right to skip pages
3. The right to not finish
4. The right to reread
5. The right to read anything
6. The right to escapism
7. The right to read anywhere
8. The right to browse
9. The right to read out loud
10. The right to not defend your tastes
Here, then, is Mortimer J Adler on reading:
"The art of reading consists in the habit of asking the right questions in the right order. Let me illustrate this by giving you the four main questions you must ask about any book or, to make it more concrete, about any nonfiction book.
* What is the book as a whole about? Here you must try to discover the leading theme of the books. And how the author develops this theme in an orderly way by subdividing it into its essential subordinate topics.
* What in detail is being said, and how? Here you must try to underline for yourself -- with a pencil, perhaps, or mentally if the book is borrowed -- the main ideas, assertions, and arguments that constitute the author's message.
* Is it true, in whole or part? You cannot answer this question until you have answered the first two. You have to know what is being said -- and to do that you must know how it is being said, for you must be able to penetrate through the author's language of his mind -- before you can sit in judgment and decide whether you agree or disagree. When you do understand a point, however, you are obligated, if you are reading seriously, to make up your own mind. Knowing the author's is not enough.
* What of it? If the book has given you information, and especially if it is true, you must certainly ask about its significance. Why does the author think it is important to know these facts? If the book has not only informed you, but also enlightened you, it is still necessary to seek further enlightenment by asking what follows next, what is further implied or suggested.
These four questions summarize all the obligations of a reader. They apply to anything worth reading -- a book or an article or even an advertisement for something you may be interested in buying. Knowing these questions is, of course, not enough. You must remember to ask them as you read. The habit of doing that is the first mark of an active reader. But more than that, you must be able to answer them precisely and accurately. The trained ability to do just that is the art of reading.
This ability most of our college graduates lack today