The title of the book gives justice to only half of its contents. Adler does cover the technical process of reading but I think readers will find his explanation of why reading great books is important to be more inspiring.
The great books have stood the test of time for a reason. Their knowledge and wisdom are always relevant. I\’m grateful to Adler for reminding me to read more of them with this book.
Anyone who loves reading already or wants motivation to read more, this book is for you.
I gathered my favorite highlights from the book below. I possibly changed the wording of a couple of sentences but you can assume everything is a direct quote from the book.
Highlights and Notes
Imagine there was a college or university where Herodotus taught history, Plato and St. Thomas have a course in metaphysics, Bacon and Mill taught logic of science, Aristotle, Spinoza and Kant on moral problems; Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke on politics; William James taught the nature of man; Aristotle, Wordsworth and Shelly discussed nature of poetry; Adam Smith and Karl Marx taught economics… Would anyone want to go to any other university if you could get into this one…The price of admission— the ability and willingness to read.
The proliferation of textbooks and lecture courses in our education system is the surest sign of our declining literacy.
Teachers who cannot help their students read great books write textbooks for them.
Great books reward every degree of effort and ability to the maximum.
Great books can increase understanding, elevate our spirit, deepen our humanity.
Great books deal with the persistently unsolved problems of human life.
The most direct sign that you have done the work of reading is fatigue. If you are not tired out, you probably have not been doing the work.
If a book is worth reading at all, it is worth three readings at least… an expert reader can do all three readings at once (three types of reading below)
1. Structural reading
- What kind of book it is
- What the book as a whole is trying to say
- What parts is the whole divided
- The main problems the author is trying to solve
2. Interpretative Reading
- Must discover and interpret most salient words, sentences, and paragraphs
- Know the author\’s arguments
- Determine which of his problems the author solved, and which he did not
3. Critical or Evaluative reading
- do not begin until analysis and interpretation have been completed( you can\’t judge before you understand)
- reader judges author
- decides whether he agrees or disagrees
Those who can read well, listen and talk well, have disciplined minds.
Everyone wants to live in a good society, but few seem willing to work for it.
A good society is simply the enlargement of the community we share with our friends. Peaceful and intelligent association. We form a community to the extent that we communicate, share common ideas and purposes. The good society must be an association of people made friends by intelligent communication.
Reading, writing, listening, and speaking are the liberating arts that free us from unfounded opinion and prejudice.