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A book is a literary compass that has the potential to direct our thoughts and actions:

"Everything we read stimulates our mind to think, and what we think determines what we desire, and desires are the seedbed of our actions. Given this iron law of human nature--from reading to thinking, to desiring, to acting--we are shaping our destiny by the ideas we choose to have enter our minds through print." - Fr. John Hardon, S.J., The Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan

Welcome to my own personal exploration of life through reading the great books of the world.

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"Every soul that uplifts itself uplifts the world." --Elisabeth Leseur

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Are you a Horizontal Reader or a Vertical Reader?

No, I'm not talking about your body's position when you read, I'm talking about the way you read.

I was thinking about my reading habits the other day while working on another book, and it occured to me that there are two ways to approach reading:
  • Horizontal reading: this is an approach where you try to read as many books as possible; the idea here is that the more you read the more you know. Horizontal readers voraciously devour books day after day, week after week.
  • Vertical reading: vertical readers are deep readers, spending more time with their books and reading them more in-depth. Their philosophy is to get as much as they can out of one book before moving on to another.
What kind of reader are you? If you're like me, you probably go through periods of time when you do more horizontal reading (for me it's summer time, when I read book after book), and other times when you savor your books, marking in them, outlining them, discussing them with a reading group. I can also be a genre "binge reader," where I go on a binge reading a bunch of mysteries or Catholic-themed novels, or classics, for instance. Last summer I went on binge with books about great teaching. Last fall I went on a Mortimer Adler binge.

Is it better to be a horizontal reader or a vertical reader? I don't know. I suppose they're both necessary. Most of the practical skills I've learned have come from horizontal reading. Most of my philosophical and religious views have come from vertical reading.

What's your opinion?

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posted by Nick Senger at 5:47 AM

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