Deep Reading

The books that help you most are those which make you think the most. The hardest way of learning is that of easy reading; but a great book that comes from a great thinker is a ship of thought, deep freighted with truth and beauty.  – Theodore Parker

Learning to read deeply requires patience and practice.  Mortimer Adler and  Charles van Doren wrote the classic How to Read A Book to teach us how.

Students today seem to focus on speed as the ultimate reading skill.   We all bathe in huge, cresting seas of information.  But how much of it do we really process?  How much of it makes us really think?   How much is “deep freighted with truth and beauty?”  Are we avoiding reading anything we think is over our heads?

Here’s what Mortimer Adler himself has to say about that:

If you never ask yourself any questions about the meaning of a passage, you cannot expect the book to give you any insight you do not already possess.  – Mortimer Adler

See Mortimer Adler speak on this topic here (highly recommended)

My goal is to help teach students the skills to elevate their minds with what’s over their heads.

The Process

  • First, we start by slowing down and looking closely at sentences, using the Grammar tools that make up Part One of the Trivium.
  • Once we figure out the meanings of the nouns, the relationships implied by the verbs, etcetera, we move on to looking at the logic of the thoughts in sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and entire works.
  • Finally, we analyze using Part Three of the Trivium, the Rhetoric. in search of elegance and persuasive power.

Waving iron near iron won’t sharpen it.  We must bring our minds into close, friction-heated contact with greater minds to be sharpened.   This work happens with greater ease and predictability when a tutor (that’s me) is close at hand making sure no one gets cut in the sharpening process.