Speed Reading.

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on February 22, 2012 in Personal |

I am constantly amazed by those people who claim, despite having a full working day, to be able to read – and hopefully enjoy – a book in a very short space of time. I can only assume that they have nothing else to do, nothing else to fill their time, and are not subject to the same disruptions and disturbances which plague the rest of us. I know that some people are able to put all their concentration into one small task, be it reading or anything else, but even so; reading an entire book in one day, even two?

John Locke wrote that reading is one of the best ways to learn, but not the only. If a person doesn’t have the time, or the ability, to think about what they have read it is wasted time. Unless, and this is probably a problem not quite so evident back in the seventeenth century, the person happens to be reading a cheap romance (penny dreadful?) bought at a railway kiosk and happily cast into the trash when the journey is over. A modern John Locke (same name, different time and place!) seems to have much the same idea.

I am also somewhat sceptical, to put it mildly, when I hear that people have got hundreds or even thousands of books in their homes, and that they’ve read them all. Especially when it is someone who wouldn’t normally be considered old. An older person, fine, plenty of time through their lives to amass a good collection of books, but thousands?

I will admit, I do know someone like that. Over fifty and with books bought back in the early seventies on the bookshelves, I can believe that each one has been read. Not only read, but also appreciated and, when the time comes, ready to hand in case someone asks for a reference or if a particular sentence, a thought, an idea needs to be found again.

I have about sixty books here – more at home in the States – which I will admit to having read through carefully and, in most cases, enjoyed. Some of them have even influenced me in one way or another. Not all of them are ones which would necessarily bring me back to them in a few years time, and I am sure that I will discard several before too long, but the bulk are worth the space in my apartment.

A house isn’t a home, someone else said, unless it has books. Fine, there are a few other things which go to make up a home too, but I can see what is meant. What I cannot see is the advantage of Speed Reading. Or perhaps the advantages but not the benefits. You read through a text book quickly to pick out the information needed for a set piece of work, or through a biography to find the interesting times. You skim through a novel when the boring patches appear, or when it is clear what is happening, what is going to happen – I mean, who reads a twenty page description of a blow job? And, no, I have not read this book, but I do know that it exists!

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have a house full to overflowing with good books, and to live long enough to have read, enjoyed and thought about them all. Who, in their right mind, wouldn’t?

That is, perhaps, a slightly unfair comment or question, simply because there are enough people ‘in their right mind’ who have other interests apart from literature or reading. Each to their own. I would be just as impressed by a house full of beautiful works of art, of porcelain figures, rarities and so on, providing that the person appreciates them, lives them, and doesn’t just have them there for show.

For me, though, a book is about inspiration, about leaving the world I am in for a while and reappearing in the world laid out on those pages. It is the thoughts which literature, regardless of the genre, brings with it which inspire me. The mere possession is a sideline, good, but not always necessary. I like to take my time, even if I am reading several books at the same time, in different places to keep the ideas separated. Speed reading is fine, if you want, but give me the thinking, the inspiration, the depth any day.

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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  • Francois Demers says:

    An older person, fine, plenty of time through their lives to amass a good collection of books, but thousands?

    I suddenly feel very, very old (and I guess I deserved it today).

    Not counting the e-books, 2 000+ in a warehouse in my hometown, about five hundred here in Kyiv. All read, many re-read for pleasure. It helps that I do not watch TV and sleep less than most.

    My school conducted an experiment in teaching speed reading when I was in the eighth and ninth grades. After, I could easily read 2 000 words per minute. Decades and, decades, and decades, and decades, and glasses later, only 1 500. It is very difficult for someone who has learned to speed read to slow themselves down to a nice 250 – 300 words per minute.

    Twenty pages, really? Whomever wrote that needs less theory and more practice.

    • viki says:

      I was very careful not to say how old … but I can see that someone who does not have a television and who spends their evenings, and the free moments during the day, or who is professionally involved with books, can have many. For me it is more to do with the idea of books, their contents, bringing thoughts, ideas, and not just taking up shelf space.

  • Francois Demers says:

    Same here. The only books I prominently display are those I do not mind the International Brotherhood of Books Borrowers having. The ones I care about are in the dungeon. Currently on display, Stieg Larsson (gift from a misguided friend who confuses ink on paper with a Book). Not waiting for Volume IV.

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