Sunday, July 12, 2009

How to read a book

How to Read a Book How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book promotes reading as an active art. Its goal ought to be more than increased knowledge; rather, it strives for increased understanding. Thus the authors can talk about reading as a form of research, elevating the task of reading far above its stereotype of passivity.

The authors describe four ascending levels of reading: (1) Elementary; (2) Inspectional; (3) Analytical; and (4) Syntopical. The levels are cumulative in the sense that, if you are to read at say level 3, you will have to be simultaneously engaged at levels 1 and 2. The analytical level receives the most attention by far, elementary the least (for those wanting help increasing reading speeds, look elsewhere).

One of the signs of good thinking is careful distinctions. This book introduced me to helpful distinctions between knowledge and understanding, aided and un-aided research, terms and words, practical and theoretical books, good and great books, and many more.

For years I have attempted to read book somewhat “analytically”, but often grew frustrated at the difficulty in outlining certain books. So I cheered when the authors suggested that sometimes that’s because the book isn’t worth reading at any level, never mind analytically.

This quote from p.166 gives the flavor of the book well: “A person who has read widely but not well deserves to be pitied rather than praised. As Thomas Hobbes said, ‘If I read as many books as most men do, I would be as dull-witted as they are.’”

View all my reviews.

Hunting Eichmann

Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World'sMost Notorious Nazi Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World'sMost Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
An intense tale of the quest to bring Adolf Eichmann, the operational manager of the Final Solution, to justice.

Made me think of what a great thing it is that Christ will bring the world to justice. All oppressors will be justly dealt with; all innocent suffers will be vindicated.

Contains a powerful quote from Robert Jackson, the lead American prosecutor at the Nuremberg trial. In his opening statement he said:

The privilege of opening the first trial in history for crimes against the peace of the world imposes a grave responsibility. The wrongs, which we seek to condemn and punish, have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated. That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury, stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that power has ever paid to reason.

View all my reviews.