Booking Through Thursday: Go Speed Reader, Go!


Here’s this week’s Booking Through Thursday:

What do you think of speed-reading? Is it a good way to get through a lot of books, or does the speed-reader miss depth and nuance? Do you speed-read? Is some material better suited to speed-reading than others?

I don’t know enough about the techniques of speed reading to make a yay or nay statement about the various methods of speed reading and whether or not they’re reliable. But, that always reliable source Wikipedia lists skimming as one method of speed reading, and I do use skimming quite often, especially online.

I suspect if you’re out simply for information or cramming for an exam that requires you to spew back the information you’ve absorbed, then speed reading is perfect. Even then, if you are like me, using methods such as skimming has its flaws: When I skim something, I tend to forget what I’ve read fairly quickly. Which is OK if you’re reading something online and can bookmark the Web page or set up a new tab so you can refer back to it.

I also use skimming when trying to find a passage or section in a book or article I’ve already read.

I tend to read fairly quickly, which has its drawbacks. I’ve forgotten characters or major plot points, and I do miss subtle nuances of language. Of course if I really like a book, I’ll reread it at least once, and usually more often. Those second and third readings unveil the nuances: I catch things like extended metaphors, subtle character changes,  structural effects, etc.

I wish I had the time and patience to do a close reading of everything I read like those in Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer. I’ve done that type of reading, and sometimes I’ll do that type of reading with a particular passage or paragraph or section of a book.

Prose points out such subtleties as constant references to eyes and light and dark in Oedipus Rex that prepare readers for Oedipus’ literal blinding, subtleties you catch only if you slow down your reading.

My own experience of reading quickly leads me to think that speed readers do miss the nuances of writing.

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2 thoughts on “Booking Through Thursday: Go Speed Reader, Go!

  1. I just finished reading Prose’s book, and I agree with her ideas about reading when it comes to fiction or other constructed narratives. And no matter how fast (or slow) one reads, second readings are invaluable for unveiling more nuance…if only there were more time! I agree with you, though, that skimming works well for reading material online.

  2. I agree that slow is the way to go–with something worth reading or that speaks to you. I recently read Ragtime, slowly and with great pleasure, then read Doctorow’s previous, The Book of Daniel, fast, plus I skimmed a bit. It’s a great novel but I didn’t like it much personally. A book I love, I want to experience. If I read it fast because I’m excited, I must read it again to experience more than its plot, to see its structure and language.

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