Day 4 in Which I Learned How to Read a Book

Picking up a heavy book and feeling the heft of it in my hands and thumbing through the pages and smelling slighty musty papery pages is bliss to me. Anyone else? #booknerdsunite

But, before beginning to read through each page, it’s good to have an idea of how to understand an author’s meaning. That is the aim of Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book.

 

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Mr. Adler does for the art of reading what Sun Tzu did for in The Art of War. He breaks reading a book, down to its most simplistic forms. Take understanding an author’s terms, for example. Adler helps create a reader who is able to mine the pages of a book for all they’re worth by first becoming sure of what an author means by using a specific word in a specific context.

Sound a little too detailed?

It is! But, deliciously so for those of us who adore letters strung together to form words, and words sewn together into sentences.

At 389 pages, this might not be the best beach read. But, with a list of “The Great Books” in the final chapter, it is worth every turn of every page.

Learning how to read a book thoroughly allowed me to see the truth of this quote, from Adler:

“…a good book can teach you about the world and about yourself. You learn more than how to read better; you also learn more about life.”

Yes and yes.

And what’s more, my writing journey began as a reader. It’s true! In fact, my favorite quote from How to Read a Book confirms this (although, I would add that this is true for any of us calling ourselves Writer or Author):

“The great authors were great readers, and one way to understand them is to read the books they read.” 

Ask any author how many books they’ve read. Almost all will say a TON! Maybe not in that exact terminology, but pretty close (and there are some authors for whom I would love to know what their favorite books are!).

So, to sum up:

If writer, then How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler.

If reader, then How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler.

Yes indeedy.

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Did you miss the first three books in my Write 31 Days Challenge? Click the button above, or click here and you can catch them all. Tomorrow, I’m in the pits.

I’d Edit Chapter Fourteen

If the years of a life were chapters, I’d edit chapter fourteen.

A bunch.

Anyone else?

The hair description, alone, could use major tweaking. I’d retract the braces.  Relationships would need some serious cleaning up. Social status could definitely use some embellishing, too. Angst and awkward would be prominent characters, throughout.

I think I covered some of that back here on day One.

“You think too much,” I heard on more than a hundred occasions. Followed most closely by, “You read too much.”  Both of these statements were directed at me by family, friends, and frenemies (although, we didn’t know to call them that, back in the day).

It wore my spirit down.

Ahab would tell me they were just jealous. That they didn’t have the strength of character to march to the beat of their own drum. And Lord knows that if I didn’t hear “She marches to the beat of her own drum,” at least once a week, then I’ve completely misremembered some of my most painful growing up experiences!

He did his best to soften the amount of awkward that I felt. But, at that tender age, negative words seemed to carry triple the weight that any encouraging ones did.

I can look back now, and see many instances where the ones complaining about my over-thinking or excessive reading were feeling just as lost as I was. Grace does that. It both softens the lens of reflection and provides an overlay of compassion for the very ones who caused some of my angst.

What grace also allows me to see, looking back, is that there were glittering truths about who I was created to be all around me. Some, even in the ugliness I felt like I wallowed in.

I can pick out entire paragraphs in that chapter that held expectancy and treasure. They are paragraphs that you couldn’t pay me enough Devil Dogs to edit out, now!

But, instead of parking my mind in the past, I’m skipping ahead to chapter forty-something. I’m taking a good look at the characters around me and focusing in on how I can contribute to their character development. Where can I liberally apply some of the patience, gentleness, and kindness that I desperately needed decades ago?

Grace is like an eraser. It softens the hard edges of a story angle and smudges the darkest spots.

Even better, it allows for rewrites in our hearts.

Oh, how it does!

Actually, I wouldn’t need to edit chapter fourteen all that much. Grace has already done that for me.

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This post is day 14 in the Write 31 Days challenge.