How to Read and Discuss Great Books


Solitary reading will enable a man to stuff himself with information; but without conversation his mind will become like a pond without an outlet — a mass of unhealthy stagnature. It is not enough to harvest knowledge by study; the wind of talk must winnow it, and blow away the chaff; then will the clear, bright grains of wisdom be garnered for our own use or that of others.
— William Mathews, “Literary Clubs” (1874)

Good reading is hard work. Moreover, “good reading” almost always entails “good re-reading” facilitated by “good discussion” of the initial reading. By synthesizing the highlights of Mortimer Adler’s well-known reading methodology with my own insights from over 30 years of reading and teaching classics, this short module will introduce a time-tested approach to effectively engaging great books dealing with profound ideas. Because reading in a skill and, as with other skills, knowledge improves practice.

  • Adler and Van Doren, How to Read a Book
  • Adler, “To the Average Reader”
  • Adler, “How to Mark a Book”
  • Rose, “Group Therapy with Great Books” [Extract]
  • Yusuf, “How to Read a Book” [Part 1, Part 2]
  • 3-Year-Old Child Learning to Read [Online]