I don't really review the books I read, but I decided to write a short blurb about the oft-recommended "How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading" by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren. I've originally posted it on Goodreads, but I'm publishing it here, too, for good measure:
There's a lot to not like about this book: the slightly hermetic style, the occasional sexist slur, the subtly condescending tone, its exclusive--and, grantedly, somewhat apologetic--orientation to the "Western" literary canon, and the fact that the "recommended reading list" includes a single non-male author.
Keeping in mind that it was written in the 1940s, and despite these non-negligible shortcomings, I still find the book thoroughly insightful and valuable for what it is: a manual for analytical and comparative reading of "difficult" books, for whatever definition of "difficult" the reader might choose. It's a deeply practical book, sometimes to a fault, and many of its takeaways might seem obvious. Yet, when outlined in a systematic and formal way, with plenty of examples and illustrations, I believe they give a good framework for approaching demanding literature.
Most importantly, the book forces you to think critically about the act of reading, and this might be its greatest contribution of all: it has certainly made me think about the way I approach books, and it has given me a few new tools to do so.