Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Speed Reading – Part X

Analytical Reading: Classification Stage (Part 3 of 4)

We are currently at the Analytical Reading stage of Speed Reading. For a bird's eye view of Analytical Reading, please click
here. We have discussed Part 1 and Part 2 of the Classification Stage earlier.

Why the need to differentiate between Practical & Theoretical Books?
Before we seek out to differentiate between these two types of books, a pertinent question would be: ‘Why is this significant?’ Now, this is a good question indeed.

By categorizing books into these two categories, you will be a more effective reader. Your mindset when approaching practical books will be to understand and gauge the effectiveness of the authors’ recommendations. For theoretical books, a different and more contemplative mindset is required to mull over the author’s ideas.

What are Practical Books?
Put simply, practical books teach you ‘HOW’ to do something that you want to or believe you should do. Any guidebook or one that tells you what you should do or how to do it is a practical book. This includes all expositions of arts to be learned, engineering, cooking, medical and other practice manuals.

What are Theoretical Books?
Conversely, Theoretical Books teach you ‘THAT’ something is the case. Theoretical books usually touch on subjects such as science, history and philosophy.

Vary Your Approach
For Practical Books, you have a clear objective. You wish to do something and the author has proposed to you that by following his instructions, you will achieve your goals. Practical books often uses words such as ‘should’, ‘ought’, ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘ends’ and ‘means’. The author will attempt to convince the reader that something should be done or that this is the right way of doing something or that such a means should be chosen. In reading such books, you must remain skeptical at all times and consider whether the author’s observations are valid. Otherwise, it is easy for one to follow blindly what the author has written.

In contrast, Theoretical Books keeps saying something ‘IS’, not ‘should’ or ‘ought’. They are more dogmatic in the sense that they present their ideas as facts rooted in reality. We will discuss more on how to approach Theoretical Books later.

We have completed the Part 3 of 4 of the Classification Stage in Analytical Reading. Questions or comments are most welcome.



Thank you for defining the difference between practical and theoritical books to us. Most helpful indeed.



Dear TashaBud,

Thanks for the encouragement. I appreciate it :)

I wonder whether anyone else finds it helpful or otherwise.


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