Adler introduces the second chapter of this useful book with the of-course-why-didn't-I-think-of-this but pithy statement that our goal of reading will determine the way in which we read. In that light, he goes on to relay four different levels of reading which will be expanded upon in this book:
- Elementary Reading. A child (or adult's) first problem is to recognize the individual words on the page and to answer the question, "What does this sentence say?" This is the same process an individual goes through when learning a foreign language. This basic level of understanding lays the foundation for subsequent reading.
- Inspectional Reading. The goal of this type of reading is to get as much as possible out of a section within a short period of time. This is often referred to as skimming or pre-reading and can be as simple as picking up a book and reading the table of contents or flipping through its pages.
- Analytical Reading. This thorough thinking-about-the-material reading engages the reader with questions. The reader works at making book her own or as Francis Bacon said "some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." Adler writes, "Reading a book analytically is chewing and digesting it." This is what I'm doing as I write this blog to all of you!
- Syntopical Reading. In this type of reading the reader not only compares what he is reading to other books but may also come up with a new analysis of the subject. Needless to say, this is the toughest type of reading and since Adler doesn't deal with it for another 250 pages—you'll have to wait to find out more about this—or buy How to Read a Book yourself!!