How to Read a Book

June 13, 2008

As I was surfing around the blogosphere today, I came across a link that pointed me here: A blog post on how to read a book.

Have you ever thought about that before? Just how should you read a book? The author of this post, citing the author of How to Read a Book, states that marking through a book is the best way to interact with it. Reading should not merely be passive. It should be a conversation with the author. Here are seven ways to interact with what you are reading:

1. Underlining – of major points; of important or forceful statements.

2. Vertical Lines at the Margin – to emphasize a statement already underlined or to point to a passage too long to be underlined.

3. Star, Asterisk, or Other Symbol at the Margin – to be used sparingly, to emphasize the ten or dozen at most important statements or passages in the book.

4. Numbers in the Margin – to indicate a sequence points made by the author in developing an argument.

5. Numbers of Other Pages in the Margin – to indicate where else in the book the author makes the same points, or points relevant to or in contradiction of those here marked; to tie up ideas in a book, which though separated by many pages, belong together (e.g., use “cf.” for “compare” or “refer to.”)

6. Circling of Key Words or Phrases – similar to underlining.

7. Writing in the Margin, or at the Top or Bottom of the Page
– to record questions (and perhaps answers), which a passage raises in your mind; to reduce a complicated argument to a simple statement; to record the sequence of major points right through the book. One can also use the end pages at the back of the book for this as well.

After reading this list I must admit that I have frequently used all of these techniques, although underlining is easily the most used.

Part of our growth in Christ as redeemed and new creations is to grow our minds, thoughts, and decision-making abilities. In our society, where thinking with a purpose is often aborted or seriously delayed, interacting with books is an extremely important spiritual discipline that we should be active in performing as well as teaching our children to do the same. Remember, our children learn most from us by imitating – a fact that should both encourage and warn us of how we live our lives.

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One Response to “How to Read a Book”


  1. Hi thanks for the link. If you go to the blog you’ll find I have been reviewing other means to reading a book as well. Hope all is well.


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