Useful Tips

How to learn to read books correctly


This article is co-written by Megan Morgan, PhD. Megan Morgan is a consultant and academic advisor at the University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs. She received her PhD in English from the University of Georgia in 2015.

The number of sources used in this article is 27. You will find a list of them at the bottom of the page.

In training sessions, teachers often give the task to read a complex and voluminous book. You may need help reading a work of art for a literature lesson or a real biography for a history lesson. For thoughtful and effective reading, you will need an orderly strategy that will help you understand, remember, and enjoy the book.

Reading methods

Before moving on to tips on how to learn reading, you need to pay a little attention to how to do this. There are 4 types of them. All of them were described by M. Adler in 1940 in his research work. He identified the following methods:

  1. Elementary.
    The simplest way, involving the use of those skills that are acquired in school lessons. With it, a person simply reads a text, understands the meaning, traces a certain plot.
  2. Inspection.
    This method is also called "across the sheet." Following it, the reader first looks at the beginning of the sheet, and then goes to the end, while quickly trying to “tear out” the main points, realizing the meaning. This option is extremely useful and is often used in conditions of lack of time when working with a large amount of educational or working material.
  3. Analytical.
    With the analytical method, it is necessary to immerse yourself in the text, which makes a really effective reading of books. Slow attentive progress on the page, individual written notes, the search for an explanation of incomprehensible words, the use of author’s links are the main components of the analytical method. His goal is a complete understanding of what is read with the complete assimilation of all author's thoughts.
  4. Research.
    Popular among writers and creative or scientific workers. It requires reading several books of the same topic at once in order to confirm or refute any theories. This option is not well suited for fiction, if we consider it in terms of pleasure, not work.

For an ordinary person who wants to find the answer to the question of how to read books effectively, the most profitable will be 2 or 3 methods. They will allow you to get both pleasure and learn important information. However, it makes no sense to consider them in detail, since you need to read correctly in general, and not push yourself into the framework of one method. Let's move on to the tips.

Have a goal

Never read without purpose, as most people do. No need to try to score free time with superficial reading, hoping to get foggy benefits. Try to set a goal first to solve a specific problem or find an answer to a question. If it comes to scientific literature, then decide in advance what you need to know in it.


There is no guarantee that after the first reading the whole text will be learned. It often happens that during the second or third reading, people discover new pieces of the plot, and the novel has a completely different meaning. This advice is especially relevant for work with scientific works, even in the form of popularized literature. Do not be afraid to train and repeat, otherwise how else to learn something, if not to study the material.

Try different reading methods.

The methods described at the beginning of the article appeared there for a reason. Despite the large number of tips that will teach you how to read books, you should use the methods described. As mentioned above, an inspection or analytical one is effective for the average person. After trying each of them, you need to choose one, try to hone it, and then repeat with the second. You can alternate or even apply on the same novel, which is very effective.

Take several books at once

This advice only affects the case when you need to work with serious non-fiction literature. For example, when studying the traditions of the country. It is necessary to use many books to get a complete picture of the issue being studied, to eliminate the risk of receiving false or incorrectly interpreted information. Also, do not forget to compare what you read with existing knowledge. And if the work is presented in several parts, then they should be read strictly in chronological order.

Look for information

If during the reading process you come across an unusual word, a description of an interesting event or subject, then you should not miss this, since you need to read with understanding. Take advantage of modern technology and find the necessary information. Firstly, it will expand your knowledge. Secondly, it will allow a much better understanding of what is read.

Take notes

Always carry a pencil, as well as a few small bookmarks or a notebook. It is important to highlight significant points so that later you can briefly review them and remember or see what used to seem hidden. Especially, this applies to educational or working literature, as learning something serious without notes will never succeed. In the process of acquaintance with a work of art, you can also make notes in a notebook about your thoughts on the further development of the plot.


Some people read even 5 hours a day, but at the same time they constantly lose focus, falling into themselves, they have detached thoughts. Since you need to read correctly so as not to waste time in vain, such moments should not be in your life. Try not to be distracted and imbued with the work. If with all efforts to concentrate, cozy atmosphere, well-being, such a problem remains, then this indicates the absence of the goal, which was mentioned in the first tip. Try to ask yourself: “Why am I doing this?”

Look on behalf of the hero

The reader sometimes seeks correspondence and involuntarily compares the environment in the novel to the real world. Comparing, he moves away from the target. Stick to the gaze of the hero, look for the right point from which the whole process of exploring the novel will go. This will allow you to be in the described world, which will play into your hands.

Remember the subtext

Modern readers really do not know how to read books. The proof is the fact that most perceive novels and everything described in them is literal. It is important to always remember the subtext left by the author. This can turn the idea of ​​the plot upside down, as well as open up new facets and hidden meanings not seen before.

The subtext is hidden in the following:

  • weather, time of year - weather conditions often express the feelings of heroes, and the seasons can have a huge symbol of the purpose of writing a novel or partially express a hidden meaning,
  • actions of heroes - the author can thus show the real world, drawing a parallel, for example, with politics,
  • violence - in many works carries a social or cultural meaning,
  • geography - it can play a peculiar role, revealing a whole separate topic, denoting a symbol, or show the influence of the environment on the characters,
  • hero’s salvation - many authors show the hero’s rebirth or a sharp change in his views through salvation from death, for example, falling into the river and saving, and sometimes the hero is killed, which also says a lot.
  • stigma of characters - physical disabilities can express symbols of human moral or psychological problems.

Always try to see the subtext.

Take the story to the background

All famous writers write not for the sake of readers' amusement, but to convey any thoughts. The plot here plays far from the main role - it acts as a means, and not an end in itself. That is why some works do not have a clear story at all, but contain many useful thoughts. The same applies to heroes - they are a means of expressing thoughts. Read to understand the author’s thoughts, not plot knowledge. This is a crucial point in how to learn how to read.

Check out the book in advance

When wondering how to read efficiently, start from the cover. Before the first reading, try to get to know the book as close as possible. Try to delve into the name if something important is hidden in it. Study the cover as Images can say a lot about the meaning of the novel. Pay attention to the names of the chapters, read the first pages - this will help not only to determine how difficult and interesting the text is written, but also to learn about the main message of the author. About him (about the author), you should also read a little, if there is such an opportunity, familiarize yourself with other works. It will not be superfluous to read a few reviews of the work.

Summarize, analyze

After reading, give yourself a little time to read what you read on the shelves in your head. Then make a kind of report that describes the most important:

  • What have you read about?
  • What happened What are the reasons?
  • Are the events described instructive and interesting?
  • Do you agree with the author?
  • What conclusions can be drawn?

This approach will allow you to get the most out of the book, which is the goal of how to learn the most effective reading. Additionally, you can write your personal reviews of what you read or discuss everything with friends.

Take more time

You need to study regularly, and not once a month - you most likely already knew that. Learning the effectiveness of reading skills is no exception. You need to allocate a sufficient amount of time at least once every couple of days. One hour will be enough, but subject to the correct approach and use of advice.

Mix genres

Having genre favorites, you should not go deep solely into their representatives. A glut of any genre is not useful, especially if there is a desire to achieve such a goal as learning to read with efficiency. Change genres, moving from one to another, with each novel. This will not only accelerate learning, but also expand your horizons.

Effective reading skills are a useful thing for a person, anyone who wants to benefit from books and succeed must learn it. If you follow the tips described, then the result will come in a few weeks of training. The main thing is not to forget about regularity and quality.