One-Minute Book Reviews

May 23, 2007

How Are Reading and Writing Related? Quote of the Day #27

Filed under: Quotes of the Day,Writing — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:08 pm
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How does reading help your writing? Here’s an answer from Mortimer J. Adler’s classic How to Read a Book (discussed at more length in an earlier post today, May 23, 2007, on One-Minute Book Reviews):

“Writing and reading are reciprocal, as are teaching and being taught …

“Nevertheless, although the rules are reciprocal, they are not followed in the same way. The reader tries to uncover the skeleton that the book conceals. The author starts with the skeleton and tries to cover it up. His aim is to conceal the skeleton artistically or, in other words, to put flesh on the bare bones. If he is a good writer, he does not bury a puny skeleton under a mass of fat; on the other hand, neither should the flesh be too thin, so that the bones show through. If the flesh is thick enough, and if flabbiness is avoided, the joints will be detectible and the motion of parts will reveal articulation.”

From How to Read a Book: Revised and Updated Edition (Simon & Schuster, 1972). By Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren.

Comment by Janice Harayda:

All those of us who teach writing urge our students not just to write but to read — ideally, every day. This quote explains, as pithily as I’ve seen it explained, why both are important. One of the best ways to improve your writing if you can’t write every day is to read every day.

If you enjoy these quotes, please bookmark this site or subscribe to the RSS feed. The Quotes of the Day appear often but, most weeks, not every day. All of the quotes are intended to enhance your enjoyment of reading of the books reviewed on this site and elsewhere.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.


  1. I don’t think reading and writing are reciprocal for me although my opinion is based on my own personal experience. I believe that to hone your craft for writing requires that you write and if you can’t then you haven’t developed the habit of writing all the time. Malcolm Gladwell points out in his new book OUTLIERS his idea that to be really good at what you do you have to have put in 10,000 hours of practice. Mine was keeping a journal for 30 years. At some point along my life curve I got introduced to reading, which I hated in high school and when I began I read like a maniac. I loved reading these books, but in no way was it associated with writing then or today. In fact finding out that books were so enjoyable to me the idea eventually occurred to me that I was or must be a writer because I write too.

    Then once I believed I could be a writer a book came to me and a first draft was written in 6 weeks. A second book came to me right after and it was done in 8 weeks. I now have 10 books which were written between the period 1999-2001 and all unpublished. And that’s alright because I love to write period.

    But I have not read much these last few years and I was feeling very sad that I was not published. So I went after that and now have a book on the presidents desk of a prestigious publishing house in New York. No agent.

    But at the end of the day I realized that a writer wants to be read. So in this post reading to me is a way of saying thank you to writers who have written a great book and inspired me to become a write too. Now I read and write, but I still rear away from using reading to help my writing. I don’t know why. But this is the way it is for me and the way I see it.

    ps. I really enjoyed finding you today and love the way you encourage people who write to write. You seem so sincere and that I find admirable.

    Comment by Michael Pokocky — December 27, 2008 @ 1:34 pm | Reply

  2. Hi, Michael,
    Absolutely to hone your craft as a writer, you have to write. And although I’m not sure how Malcolm Gladwell got that 10,000 figure, I’d say that my experience supports it: I probably did spend tens of thousands of hours writing before I got an article published in a national magazine.

    Thanks so much for your comment, and good luck with your book.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — December 27, 2008 @ 2:03 pm | Reply

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