How to Read a Hard Book

Dec 18, 2019

Here are a few ideas. Let me know if they help or distract you:

First, you must lower your standards. It is not possible to achieve as much as you could with an easy book when it comes to scoring well on a test or developing the bad reading habits that endeavor forms in you if you want to read something more challenging. You won't remember as much. You won't understand as much. You won't be able to imitate as easily.

But you'll remember more that is worth remembering, you'll understand life and yourself better, and you'll be more humble before the masters. 

Second, a hard book will humble you and that is good. If you run to twaddle, it won't. 

Third, you must not read for the sake of academic performance. Read the book for what it is. If it is a dialogue, read it like a dialogue. If it is a novel, read it like a novel. If an essay....

Fourth, Get what you can out of it. That will be more than you can get out of a lesser work, even if it doesn't feel like much. 

Fifth, form opinions - but hold them with an eager looseness. Test them against the author and the characters and the story itself. Let the author poke holds in your opinions. Don't let your fear of being corrected compel you to be neutral.  If you do, you won't move at all because you wont' be moved. You'll be lukewarm. 

Sixth, let the author teach you how to read his works. He is playing games with you and wants you to play with him. He'll show you how if you let him, but he is very skilled at this game. You'll learn by playing with him, but you'll drop plenty of balls along the way. It's okay. That's how we learn. 

Seven: DO NOT READ LIKE IT IS A SCHOOL ASSIGNMENT. 

The end. 

Andrew  Kern

Andrew Kern

Andrew Kern is the founder and president of The CiRCE Institute and the co-author of the book, Classical Education: the Movement Sweeping America

The opinions and arguments of our contributing writers do not necessarily reflect those of the Institute or its leadership.

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