Books that Helped Me Read the Bible: #2, How to Read a Book

Yesterday I mentioned that I'll be listing a few books that have personally helped me become a better reader of the Bible that are specifically not designed for specialist in the study of biblical literature and/or theology. In other words, these books are accessible, yet still very informative and insightful.

My first recommendation was a book that helped me develop a "posture" toward the Bible (if you will). This second one is a book that helped me to carefully engage the Bible and it has the most ridiculously boring title: How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren. This was a textbook for my first hermeneutics class as a new seminary student in 2006. When I saw the title on the syllabus I thought that the professor was being ridiculous. I had a BA already. I presume I couldn't have made it to graduate school without knowing how to read a book, nor could I read a book about reading books without knowing how to read a book! But I was wrong. The book, while ridged, was insightful. Most importantly, it helped me manage my reading time well, learning how to look-out for what it was that I wanted to read. Since the Bible is a mini-library these skills came in handy.

Now there are parts of this book that may be irrelevant to reading the Bible, e.g., chapter 17, "How to Read Science and Mathmatics", but overall it is very useful. Here is the blurb:

With half a million copies in print, How to Read a Book is the best and most successful guide to reading comprehension for the general reader, completely rewritten and updated with new material.

Originally published in 1940, this book is a rare phenomenon, a living classic that introduces and elucidates the various levels of reading and how to achieve them—from elementary reading, through systematic skimming and inspectional reading, to speed reading. Readers will learn when and how to “judge a book by its cover,” and also how to X-ray it, read critically, and extract the author’s message from the text.

Also included is instruction in the different techniques that work best for reading particular genres, such as practical books, imaginative literature, plays, poetry, history, science and mathematics, philosophy and social science works.

Finally, the authors offer a recommended reading list and supply reading tests you can use measure your own progress in reading skills, comprehension, and speed.