Yes, if you learn just one thing from reading a book, that one…thing can help you become a better reader and a more effective human being.
How is that? Let’s look at just a few examples:
How To Read A Book by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren. First published in 1940, it has terrific information throughout. But there is one lesson; one thing above all that I remember and that has helped me immeasurably throughout the years in reading other books. And, that is the idea that very early in the book, typically within the preface or introduction, the author will come right out and share the main idea and purpose they desire to get across. I find this to be very helpful as, by doing that, the author is also revealing the premise upon which he or she is basing their work.
Scientology: A New Slant on Life by L. Ron Hubbard. No, I’m not a Scientologist. But about 20 or so years ago I’d begun hearing so much about it and about the author that I wanted to at least know what all the fuss was about. Actually, though I don’t remember much about the book itself, I do remember thinking that, while a bit dogmatic, he was certainly a brilliant man and deep thinker. I remember highlighting plenty.
After all these years, I recall just one thing about the book. However, this one thing has made a huge difference for me. He admonished the reader to “be very certain you never go past a word that you do not fully understand.” Great idea! If you’re not certain you understand a word, then look it up before continuing to read. After all, if you misunderstand a word, then everything you learn after that (regarding that word) is very likely based on a false premise. Wow!
Speaking of false premises…more accurately, speaking of why premises should always be checked to make sure they are correct and not false (a familiar theme to followers of this blog, I’m sure), 🙂 I owe that understanding mainly to the following:
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Brilliant? Indeed. “Atlas”, a futuristic novel that introduced the world to Objectivism, was first published in 1957. Through the book, Rand has correctly forecast pretty much everything that is now happening in the U.S. both politically and financially. However, that is not the point.
For me, that one thing; the key takeaway was to always, always “check my premises.” Question why I think a certain thing. What is my premise based on? Who said it? What makes me assume it must be true? As Rand explained (paraphrased), even the best logic, if based on a false premise, will always result in a faulty conclusion. WOWEE WOW!
“Anything” by Randy Gage. No, “Anything” is not the title of any of his books (though he has written several). It’s just that in everything he writes, including his blog, there is always this one thing; this main point; how very important it is to — when reading a book (or, for that matter, when watching a television show, a film, an article, or listening to someone speak), listen critically for “lack thinking” that is embedded by way of what he calls “memes” or mind viruses. In fact, listen to this interview I did with Randy and you’ll probably never watch a movie the same way ever again.
Those are just four examples. I’d love to hear yours!