Adler on DVD

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Last month, I came across this wonderful DVD with talk-style seminars by Mortimer Adler and Charles van Doren about how to read a book. This DVD was produced by Encyclopedia Britannica probably as a companion to How To Read A Book – the actual book by that title. But it got lost and found only in recent years.

How to Read A Book DVD

Walking while watching Mortimer Adler and Charles van Doren

You can watch a clip here or here so you get an idea what to expect. Mortimer Adler and Charles van Doren are sitting at a table discussing how to tackle books and why. If you read the book you should also get the DVD. If you have not read the book, you should get the DVD, especially if you are not 150% psyched about reading a book about how to read books. The DVD contains the same information as the book, but it reinforces it in conversational style.

The two men discuss the reasons for reading and explain how to read The Great Books – the best collections of ideas produced by Western civilization. They break down the types of reading a person can do: for pleasure, information, fun, entertainment, or for a challenge etc.

The books that are tough for you to read, those that are above your level, those that make you scratch your head – you should be happy when you find something like that. If you only read what you can grasp, how can you grow? How can you stretch and reach higher than where you are? This is a great point especially for home educators. Continue reading »

The DVD is almost three hours long and each section is about 15 minutes long. About. Watch it when you need to put your feet up for 10-15 minutes. Or, if you have a walking desk like I do, watch it while you walk on the treadmill, with the laptop on the treadmill desk and ear buds. The sound of the treadmill drowns out the two learned men and their civilized tones so ear phones are in order.

FYI, Charles van Doren is smoking cigars throughout the seminars – not continuously, but here and there. Just so you know and prepare your children ahead of time, if you plan on watching it with them. Of course, you can always pause the DVD and talk about the dangers of smoking briefly. You can tell this DVD was put together before the 70s, when we got a bit smarter about how deadly smoking actually is.

This is a DVD for adults and older children, at least middle school age and up. The price is $29.95 and, again, you can get it here. This is not an affiliate link, by the way. I just like the product and thought I should give you a brief description of it.

I received a free copy of it in exchange for my honest review. The opinion expressed here is my own. I am disclosing it in accordance with FTC regulations.


Tuesday Tome Week 1 – How to Read a Book

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Mortimer Adler is many things to many people. Or a nobody to some. He has become an important figure in my life because of his work in putting together a collection of the best works in Western literature. Then, I got to read his own work and learned some more.

What better way to start my Book of the Week Club than with a book about how to read books? I know of no better book that Mortimer Adler’s classic “How to Read a Book.”

Tuesday Tome Week 1

I read Adler’s book in about 10 days but it can totally be read in a week if you get one of those easier weeks without deadlines outside your normal homeschool routine. Translation: no canning projects or publishing deadlines and then it can be done in a week. Continue reading »

Mortimer Adler - How To Read A Book

The classic guide to intelligent reading, a book about how to read books

Adler posits that a book can be read on four different levels:

  1. At the most basic level, one must know how to read – the mechanics of putting letters into words that make sense, reading a full sentence, understanding, and moving on to the next. Repeat until you have reached the end of your reading goal for the day.
  2. A quick glance at a book should tell you if it is worth your time. Read the title, the name of the author and the reviews and text on the jacket of the book. If that does not intrigue you, you will probably not care to read it. Your next step would be to read the Introduction, usually done by the author, or, if there is such a section, the “How to Use this Book” section. It will give you so much information you can use to make your decision. All this can be done in less than 5 minutes, which can spare you hours and days in the long run.
  3. Once you decide a book is worth your time, level three reading starts. This is the most important way in which to read a book. I am not sure that every book you read should be approached this way, but you can read Adler’s suggestions and make your own version of his way. I usually like to read with a pen or highlighter nearby, so I can underline certain things I find important or beautiful.
  4. Synoptical reading goes beyond reading individual books. It’s when you read a series of books which all deal with the same subject. Let’s say you are teaching modern history to your child and now you must select titles for him to read about World War II. You come up with a list and you read them all – they have the same subject, treated in different ways. Some may be fiction, others nonfiction, some will be autobiographical, others will deal with only one particular battle etc. At the end of the reading, you will have accumulated a wealth of information about WWII from different sources and you can sit down and write about these books and how they tackle the topic.

As you can see, the most important way to read a book happens at Level 3. It would be hard to explain Adler’s technique of Level 3 reading in just a few sentences. So get the book from your local library or from Amazon and enjoy.

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