Structure of the books
It is worth looking at the structure of The Nature of Order. As Alexander is concerned with structure and geometry, he presumably put a lot of effort into the arrangement of the content across parts and chapters. The books are structured in several layers:
- Books (4 volumes across about 2000 pages total)
- Parts (each book has between 2-6 parts, plus prefaces, conclusions, and appendices)
- Chapters (each part has between 2-12 chapters)
- Sections (on average, each chapter has ~10 sections; sections have their own titles)
- Text (on average, sections are thus short and only span a few pages)
It might seem strange to look at the books’ structure like this, but a lot can be learned from reading the chapter and section titles alone. It does help with unfolding The Nature of Order itself.
Is this by design?
In one of his earlier books, The Timeless Way of Building, Alexander explicitly states in the preface that he structured that book with a quicker reading method in mind where you can read only sections printed in italics, which make about a third of that book, to get a broad understanding of the content, and then come back for more detail later.
While I couldn’t find any specific statement about The Nature of Order, it seems apparent to me that he at least wanted to make the books navigable by providing additional structure.