The Wrong Way to Read a Book

A recent New York Times article brought up the question of whether there is a right or wrong way to read a book. The two writers interviewed for this piece, Adam Kirsch and Anna Holmes, both came up with some good answers. Kirsch said that there is no right way and Holmes said that there is a right way.

The problem I had with the article is that they don’t really engage the question in a way I expected. Determining the right or wrong way to read a book can only be determined by what the reader wants from the book. The reader needs a goal before anything can be considered right or wrong.

If the reader wants to fully absorb the content and message of a book, there are specific things that need to be done to achieve that goal. If the reader only wants to know a few things about the book, then there are other things a reader can do.

Imagine a book is a gigantic painting, a painting so big that you can only look at one tiny part of it at a time. As a reader, or an art enthusiast, you have to see the image in its entirety if you want to be able to understand the piece. Why would you go to a museum to only look at parts of a painting?

There are two types of readers, those who seek to be entertained and those who seek to learn. If you are reading for entertainment, who cares how you read a book. You can read it upside down and nobody will be able to tell you that you’re wrong. But if you want to learn, if you want to increase your knowledge, you must read diligently, completely, and with an open mind. 


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