Mortimer Adler Can Show You How To Skim A Book Better


If you have been a reader of this blog for anytime, you know how much I value and enjoy reading. I believe it to be one of the most important habits we can develop and that the books we read shape who we become.

As a result of the incredibly high regard in which I hold reading, I spend a great deal of time thinking about the topic and seeking to sharpen my reading skills and habits. As a guy with this much of a love for reading, I am an incredibly slow reader.

Enter, Mortimer Adler.   

In his modern classic, How To Read A Book: The Classic Guide To Intelligent Reading, Adler offers up helpful rules for reading, including skimming a book. Like so much of what I learn, I wish I'd learned what Adler shares on skimming sooner. Oh how it could have transformed my college career! How much time could better book skimming skills have saved you in college? If you're anything like me, it amounts to hours and hours of time.

Not only will Adler's suggestions for skimming save you time, they will help you extract and retain more of what you read. If you follow the six steps below you will be able to separate the wheat from the chaff and discern the author's main points quickly.   

Adler's Suggestions for Skimming a Book

1. Look at the title page and if the book has one, at its preface.

2. Study the table of contents.

3. Check the index, if the book has one. Make a quick estimate of the range of topics covered and of the kinds of books and authors referred to. When you see terms listed that seem crucial, look up at least some of the passages cited.

4. Read the publisher's blurb.

5. Look now at the chapters that seem to be pivotal to its argument. If these chapters have summary statements in their opening or closing pages, as they often do, read these statements carefully.

6. Finally, turn the pages, dipping in here and there, reading a paragraph or two, sometimes several pages in sequence never more than that...Above all, do not fail to read the last two or three pages, or, if these are an epilogue, the last few pages of the main part of the book.