The best way to read is highly contextual

How a book should best be read depends a great deal on the book, the reader, and the context. You’ll read some texts essentially just for entertainment; some you’ll skip around and mine for gems (Skillful reading is often non-linear); others you’ll want to deeply internalize (e.g. Write about what you read to internalize texts deeply). Some of this variance is explained by the work itself, but much depends on your motivations and feelings as the reader.

As Adler and van Doren put it: “Every book should be read no more slowly than it deserves, and no more quickly than you can read it with satisfaction and comprehension.” (p. 43) I find this incredibly difficult to do in practice! It requires active monitoring and self-control to adjust the speed according to my interest and comprehension in the moment.

Digital reading experiences often fail to recognize this variability and instead reinforce the implicit default of linear, completionist reading.

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.

—Francis Bacon


How to Read a Book - Adler and van Doren

Last updated 2023-07-13.