📙 How to Read a Book
Author: Charles Van Doren, Mortimer J. Adler
Full Title: How to Read a Book
The first thing to do when you have amassed your bibliography is to inspect all of the books on your list.
STEP 1 IN SYNTOPICAL READING: FINDING THE RELEVANT PASSAGES.
remember that your task is not so much to achieve an overall understanding of the particular book before you as to find out how it can be useful to you in a connection that may be very far from the author’s own purpose in writing it.
STEP 2 IN SYNTOPICAL READING: BRINGING THE AUTHORS TO TERMS.
Thus it is you who must establish the terms, and bring your authors to them rather than the other way around.
What it really comes down to is forcing an author to use your language, rather than using his. All of our normal reading habits are opposed to this.
Not only must we resolutely refuse to accept the terminology of any one author; we must also be willing to face the possibility that no author’s terminology will be useful to us.
Syntopical reading, in short, is to a large extent an exercise in translation. We do not have to translate from one natural language to another, as from French to English. But we do impose a common terminology on a number of authors who, whatever natural language they may have shared in common, may not have been specifically concerned with the problem we are trying to solve, and therefore may not have created the ideal terminology for dealing with it.
STEP 3 IN SYNTOPICAL READING: GETTING THE QUESTIONS CLEAR.
STEP 4 IN SYNTOPICAL READING: DEFINING THE ISSUES.
STEP 5 IN SYNTOPICAL READING: ANALYZING THE DISCUSSION.
The truth, then, insofar as it can be found—the solution to the problem, insofar as that is available to us—consists rather in the ordered discussion itself than in any set of propositions or assertions about it.
This is another way of saying that the aim of a project of syntopical reading is not final answers to the questions that are developed in the course of it, or the final solution of the problem with which the project began.
the conscientious syntopical reader may resort to one obvious device and use it as much as possible. That is, he must constantly refer back to the actual text of his authors,
To me, a book is a thing I can use however I want. I've found that if I try to insist on reading books linearly, I just get frustrated and bored. Instead my book-reading process is asynchronous, demand-driven, and stochastic, which seems to free up my mental resources and make the whole thing more generative and fun. My approach is vaguely similar to that of 📙 How to Read a Book but less systematic and serious.