Reading Categories

Creating personal reading categories can be helpful in evaluating future reading material and determining where you want to invest your valuable time.

In How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler & Charles Van Doren identify two core categories that capture all nonfiction books: practical and theoretical. Practical books have to do with what works; theoretical books involve perceiving something with a higher understanding. Aristotle’s Ethics, a practical book, is an inquiry into the nature of happiness. Darwin’s The Origin of Species is a theoretical book that documents the variations of all living things.

You may also consider narrowing your reading categories further so you can prioritize your reading selections. Here are some examples of reading categories:

Challenge: If you want to stimulate your mind with the eloquence of the written word, you might create a category for challenging reading such as poetry and great literature masterpieces.

Personal Growth: Personal development has become the largest category in most bookstores. Any book that helps you become a better human being falls into this category.

Vocational: If you’re a marketer, you might have a category for business, marketing, leadership, sales and branding books.

Understanding: This category is for books that help deepen your understanding of the world including topics like psychology, science, nature, mythology and history.

Need-Based: Sometimes we read books to solve a particular problem like a dog-training manual to help us with our new puppy or a self-hypnosis book to lose weight.

Entertainment: If you enjoy reading a great novel that sweeps you away to a different time and place, this category will be important to you.

These categories are for illustrative purposes as there is a great deal of overlap between them. The idea is to determine what categories of reading are most important to you so that you most easily evaluate books based on your needs and interests.

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