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Mortimer J. Adler (1902–2001)

Author of How to Read a Book, Revised and Updated Edition

310+ Works 21,017 Members 169 Reviews 23 Favorited

About the Author

Born in New York, Mortimer Adler was educated at Columbia University. Later as a philosophy instructor there, he taught in a program focused on the intellectual foundations of Western civilization. Called to the University of Chicago in 1927 by President Robert Maynard Hutchins, Adler played a show more major role in renovating the undergraduate curriculum to center on the "great books." His philosophical interests committed to the dialectical method crystallized in a defense of neo-Thomism, but he never strayed far from concerns with education and other vital public issues. From 1942 to 1945, Adler was director of the Institute for Philosophical Research, based in San Francisco, California. Beginning in 1945 he served as associate editor of Great Books of the Western World series, and in 1952 he published Syntopicon, an analytic index of the great ideas in the great books. In 1966 he became director of the editorial planning for the fifteen edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and in 1974, chairman of its editorial board. Adler has been devoted in recent years to expounding his interpretations of selected great ideas and to advocating his Paideia Proposal. That proposal would require that all students receive the same quantity and quality of education, which would concentrate on the study of the great ideas expressed in the great books, a study conducted by means of the dialectical method. Mortimer J. Adler died June 28, 2001 at his home in San Mateo, California at the age of 98. (Bowker Author Biography) show less


Works by Mortimer J. Adler

How to Read a Book, Revised and Updated Edition (1972) — Author — 7,652 copies
Ten Philosophical Mistakes (1985) 1,020 copies
How to Speak How to Listen (1983) 660 copies
Six Great Ideas (1981) 593 copies
How to Read a Book {original} (1940) — Author — 364 copies
Gateway to the Great Books (1962) — Editor — 208 copies
Truth in Religion (1990) 204 copies
Angels and Us (1982) 144 copies
Intellect: Mind over Matter (1990) 110 copies
Vision of the Future (1984) 59 copies
The Idea of Freedom (1958) 49 copies
The Great Ideas Today 1966 (1961) 37 copies
The Great Ideas Today 1967 (1967) 35 copies
The Great Ideas Today 1968 (1968) 34 copies
The Great Ideas Today 1963 (1963) — Editor — 32 copies
The Great Ideas Today 1962 (1962) 28 copies
The Capitalist Manifesto (1958) 28 copies
The Great Ideas Today 1965 (1965) 27 copies
The Great Ideas Today 1964 (1964) 25 copies
The Great Ideas Today 1961 (1961) 21 copies
The Great Ideas Today 1976 (1976) 20 copies
The Great Ideas Today 1981 (1981) 18 copies
The Great Ideas Today 1987 (1987) 17 copies
The Great Ideas Today 1991 (1991) 16 copies
What Man Has Made Of Man (1937) 16 copies
The Great Ideas Today 1993 (1993) 15 copies
The Great Ideas Today 1988 (1988) 15 copies
The Great Ideas Today 1978 (1978) 15 copies
The Great Ideas Today 1977 (1977) 15 copies
The Great Ideas Today 1980 (1980) 14 copies
The Great Ideas Today 1984 (1984) 14 copies
The Great Ideas Today 1989 (1787) 14 copies
The Great Ideas Today 1986 (1986) 14 copies
The Great Ideas Today 1990 (1990) 14 copies
The Great Ideas Today 1985 (1985) 14 copies
The Great Ideas Today 1992 (1992) 13 copies
The Great Ideas Today 1994 (1994) 13 copies
The Great Ideas Today 1995 (1996) 12 copies
The Great Ideas Today 1982 (1982) 12 copies
The Great Ideas Today 1997 (1998) 12 copies
Dialectic (2000) 10 copies
The Great Ideas Today 1983 (1983) 10 copies
How to Read a Book {video} — Author — 8 copies
Poetry and politics, (1965) 4 copies
Revolution in Education (1958) 4 copies

Associated Works

Moby Dick (2014) — Editor, some editions — 35,555 copies
Don Quixote (1605) — Editor, some editions — 30,613 copies
War and Peace (1869) — Editor, some editions — 28,964 copies
The Wealth of Nations (1776) — Editor, some editions — 6,133 copies
The Iliad / The Odyssey (0008) — Editor, some editions — 5,826 copies
Democracy in America (1835) — Editor, some editions — 5,793 copies
The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791) — Editor, some editions — 3,910 copies
Plutarch's Lives (0100) — Editor, some editions — 2,444 copies
The Annals / The Histories (0098) — Editor, some editions — 830 copies
Britannica Great Books: Milton (1644) — Editor, some editions — 405 copies
Britannica Great Books: Hippocrates and Galen (1952) — Editor, some editions — 374 copies
Britannica Great Books: Locke, Berkeley, Hume (1689) — Editor, some editions — 365 copies
Britannica Great Books: Aquinas II (1952) — Editor, some editions — 354 copies
Britannica Great Books: Pascal (1670) — some editions — 352 copies
Britannica Great Books: Lucretius, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius (1952) — Editor, some editions — 333 copies
Britannica Great Books: Aristotle I (1952) — Editor, some editions — 333 copies
Britannica Great Books: Gilbert, Galileo, Harvey (1600) — Editor, some editions — 330 copies
Britannica Great Books: Newton and Huygens (1687) — Editor, some editions — 301 copies
Britannica Great Books: Shakespeare I (1609) — Editor, some editions — 279 copies
Britannica Great Books: Shakespeare II (1609) — Editor, some editions — 270 copies
On the Firing Line: The Public Life of Our Public Figures (1989) — Contributor — 113 copies
Michel de Montaigne: Twenty-Nine Essays (1982) — Editor — 87 copies
The Range of Philosophy: Introductory Readings (1964) — Contributor — 53 copies
Britannica Great Books: Aristotle I and II (1952) — Editor, some editions — 34 copies
Britannica Great Books: Dante and Chaucer (1990) — Editor — 20 copies
Words, words, and words about dictionaries (1963) — Contributor — 8 copies
Apollonius of Perga, vol 11, Great Books of the Western World (1952) — Editor, some editions — 4 copies


17th century (496) 19th century (1,355) adventure (656) American (501) American literature (942) biography (1,327) classic (3,239) classic literature (514) classics (4,138) ebook (527) economics (916) education (525) fiction (9,394) Great Books (906) hardcover (508) historical fiction (697) history (1,809) Kindle (618) literature (3,982) non-fiction (1,835) novel (2,093) own (472) philosophy (2,508) poetry (386) politics (580) read (733) reading (641) reference (610) Russia (1,053) Russian (751) Russian literature (1,171) Spain (794) Spanish (828) Spanish literature (1,051) to-read (5,187) translation (419) unread (756) war (387) whales (471) whaling (541)

Common Knowledge



I only have 35, 31 and 41 from the expanded set.
Cansorge | 8 other reviews | Apr 17, 2024 |
Of all elements this book has, the most striking one is perhaps its title. A rather simple, descriptive title, yet, ironically, attractive enough to spark curiosity for some, including myself, leading into a question: why should someone read a book about reading a book?

The answer itself reveals that the said title is actually a bit misleading. What the author means by "read" is not its meaning in a general sense, but a specific kind of it, which, if I try to rename the title of this book, it would be: "How to learn something from an expository book (and make sure you really understand it)".

Some readers, who expecting a more general or leisure type of reading, would feel being deceived; but then, such readers are unlikely to have interest in a book titled "How to Read a Book" in the first place. This is a book for those who want to read seriously--readers who often read a book and after which felt that the book itself still have more to say; or those who struggles to understand a certain difficult read.

The book itself is divided into two main parts. In the first part, the author gives a set of general "rules" that the readers have to follow in order to meet the objective of "mastering" the reading skill. The second part goes into explaining different methods of reading specific kind of books, such as science and history.

The general rules itself are separated into 3 levels, in which the author wants the readers to follow in orderly manner. The first part is called "Inspectional Reading", which purpose is to make the readers know what to expect from a book before a "real" reading takes place. Then followed by the next step, called "Analytical Reding". This is where the "real" reading occurs. In this kind of reading, Adler thinks that the readers should treat the process like a discourse with the book's author. The last step is called "Syntopical Reading". Unlike the former two, this type of reading is a special case applied only when the a reader wants to know a certain topic or subject which requires several books to study.

Some people might get overwhelmed by these rules, even say that they are overly unecessary and ended up hating the activity of reading itself. However, Adler emphasized in this book that these rules aren't supposed to be applied to all kinds of books. Some aren't worth youer time and effort to apply all of these rules when reading them. This is a key point which I think should be noted for the readers of this book.

I find in the second part, where Adler categorizes different rules for specific books, are interesting. My favorites are the parts about Philosophy and Science. In each of these sections, He explain what makes certain kind of books requires different kind of reading. He also gave his perspective and little bit of historical contexts about each of these book types, and why these rules will helps us reads the book better. There are also chapter about novels and poetry where Charles van Doren, Adler's co-author takes his seat of giving his expertise.

In the Appendix of the book, the authors gave us a list of books that they thinks are essentials book to read, the books where the special reading skill are worth to be applied to. There are also exercises to test of what we've learned from this book. The test will gave the readers a test to reads, and requires us to apply the rules from this book to answer.

So far, my only critic is the book's writing style that feels outdated and rigid, especially for today's people. However, I think the book itself delivers its objective. Reading difficult books is hard, and sometimes we gave up halfway. So does the skills required to overcome it. Readers who have patience and diligence of following the rules this books taught will, in my opinion, have their time and effort being paid and rewarded in the end.
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arifrohman | 74 other reviews | Jan 23, 2024 |
There are some good essays in this volume, mixed in with some painfully dull, pointless reads that I'd recommend skimming. If you want a great way to be introduced to a lot of different classic authors, this is a good book to pick up.
JBarringer | 1 other review | Dec 15, 2023 |
truth, goodness, beauty, liberty, equality, justice
betty_s | 3 other reviews | Sep 27, 2023 |



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