Read closely. Close reading is a skill necessary for understanding any text. In close reading we look at the text on the smallest level in order to understand clearly what the author is saying. Looking closely at a text we can begin to see deeper meanings, allusions, and connotations that might elude a casual reading, and all of these things become the building blocks for a deeper understanding of the text as a whole.
Think deeply. Thinking deeply about a text means giving it the time it deserves; it means looking at it from different angles, questioning and entering into a dialogue with it. It means paying attention to subtle hints that help us peel back layers of meaning so that great books become companions we can return to again and again. Thinking deeply means understanding a text in its own context well enough that it becomes relevant to us in our context. Thinking deeply helps us to find patterns, see connections, and make associations that cause a book to become part of us.
Apply ideas. Classics are books that continue to speak to us years, centuries, perhaps even millennia after they were written and a true classic is a book that an individual can return to again and again over the course of his or her life. An important part of a great books education (and this is the part that is often missing from a more academic education) is finding personal meaning in a text and having one’s life enriched through prolonged contact with the world’s greatest minds.