Last week we wrote about How to Fill the Information Gap and this post is a follow up to that one. Let’s say that you have to master a subject, or perhaps for your own pleasure, you’d like to learn more about a topic because you are seeking inspiration. And let’s also say that you are not sure of how to approach the task. In How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren, the authors discuss three reasons for reading a book and four levels of reading.
Three Reasons for Reading
- To further knowledge
Four Levels of Reading
How to Master a Topic of Interest
To master a topic of interest requires reading to further knowledge, and if you are interested in the topic for your personal interest, you would be reading for information. But to learn as much as possible about a subject, whether it be for information or to further your knowledge, Adler and Van Doren recommend that you read syntopically, which is reading several books at the same time about a specific topic, and looking at them in relationship to each other.
Many of us have learned about the Greek myths in school, but perhaps we have forgotten about many of them. It is important to refresh our memory because in last week’s review of A Brief History of the World by J. Milnor Dorey, we learned that Alexander the Great spread Greek culture across the ancient world. That suggests that Greek culture, which is an ancient one, including its literature has had great impact and influence, even on the modern world.
We are not looking to obtain a Masters in Fine Arts with a major in Greek mythology, but we want to sound knowledgeable in conversations. And we want to recognize those stories when they are disguised in other stories. As Thomas C. Foster wrote in his excellent book How to Read Literature Like a Professor, we want to be able to say, “Where have I seen that before?”
Suzanne Collins who wrote The Hunger Games trilogy was first influenced by Greek myth. According to Wikipedia, “Collins says that the idea for The Hunger Games came from channel surfing on television. On one channel she observed people competing on a reality show and on another she saw footage of the Iraq War. The two blended together and the idea for the book was formed. The Greek myth of Theseus also served as inspiration for the book, with Collins describing Katniss as a futuristic Theseus.”
What if by virtue of reading the Greek stories again, a burst of inspiration wraps its loving arms around you and seeps deep into your soul? What if that’s where your big break comes from?
I decided that I would read the Greek myths again. For whatever subject that you want to learn, I recommend that you take baby steps. I started off the process by reading a short book, Greek Gods and Heroes by Robert Grave that I picked up in a yard sale. I have been doing that a lot lately. A small and short book, Greek Gods and Heroes was a great primer on learning the basics about Greek mythology, and it covered the most important stories.
Next I read A Wonder Book by Nathaniel Hawthorne (author of the literary classic The Scarlett Letter), which takes the most important Greek myth and retell them in an engaging way to captivate children. Well written children’s books are both informative and written in a clear manner, which makes it easy for anyone to learn even the dullest and most difficult topic.
I followed up with Stories from Greek Drama by Winifred Mulley and Selections from Greek and Roman Historians. I am expanding my knowledge and doing it in an interesting way to keep me interested in the topic. I will finish off my topic of interest, Greek mythology, by reading Euripides: Alcestes, Hippolytus, Iphigenia in Taurus, which are three great Greek plays. The interesting thing about Euripides is that he was an innovative and free thinker who broke the status quo even in the fifth century. Even though I haven’t read the plays yet, I learned about Euripides from one of the books I read and I already know the basic Greek stories about Alcestes, Hippolytus, and Iphigenia. Reading Euripides: Alcestes, Hippolytus, Iphigenia, will both expand as well as round out my knowledge on the three characters.
To master your topic of interest, invest the time to discover which books will give you most of the knowledge that you need. As you learn more about the topic, the faster you’ll read because the information is now familiar to you. This is one of the ways to fill the information gap, or the “perceived” information gap.
How can you use this information? What do you have to add to the conversation? Let’s keep the conversation flowing, please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. Many readers read this blog from other sites, so why don’t you pop over to The Invisible Mentor and subscribe (top on the right hand side) by email or RSS Feed.
Book links are affiliate links.