Sunday, September 23, 2012

Do I have Anything to Discuss? Speed Reading

A while back I was interested in calculating my reading speed, so I looked into some online applications, as well as "the old fashioned" way with a stopwatch. But these calculations really didn't tell me much.

I got to thinking about how I read--when I read fast, or slow, or skim or re-read. There are certain times I do all of these things. What results for me, I hope, after many years of reading is a very fast reading pace, that still allows maximum comprehension.

I think whenever you begin reading something new, you naturally read slower. Once I'm into the rhythm and familiar with the characters and setting, I can speed up considerably. I often go back and re-read the first couple pages of a book after I've "settled in," particularly if it's a complex book with much introduced at the beginning. I always think I might have missed something important if I felt confused at the beginning. And it's OK for a book to be confusing at the beginning.

I do skim sometimes. If I get into a really descriptive passage that I feel isn't going to add much to the atmosphere or plot, I skim. Sometimes the pictures on the wall, the color of her lipstick, or the color of the carpet really aren't important. I've rarely been "burned" by doing this. In extremely rare occasions I have had to go back and find some detail I missed while skimming because it was something important. But I can probably count those instances on one hand. I never skim dialog; it's usually too important.

But, there are times when the descriptions are a big part of the book. I recently read Stephen King's 11/22/63 and I read every word of it (all 849 pages.) I read that book in detail, because King is such a great writer, you really don't want to miss a thing. I think Barbara Kingsolver is another one that I enjoy every word.

I must admit, most of the books I slow down and read carefully are adult books. I find I can read YA books (in general) more quickly. I'm sure there are exceptions, but I can't think of any right now.

The vocabulary and sentence construction definitely make a difference, and that's why more "literary" novels usually require a more deliberate pace. I really LIKE to read fast, so these types of books need to be really riveting, or I will lose patience!

And, speaking of riveting, if a book is tense and exciting, I find myself reading faster and faster to find out what happens. These are the times when I skim too much, and have to tell myself, "Now, slow down and go back and read that stuff you just missed." I consider it a good thing if a book forces me to read at a breakneck pace. I NEVER skip ahead to the ending. It just isn't done.

So, I don't know how accurate those tests of reading speeds are. It really depends so much on what I am reading. I read for enjoyment. Sometimes I enjoy flying through a book to find out what's going to happen. Sometimes I enjoy the journey of reading every word on every page.

How do you feel about reading fast? Is it something you work at? Do you read different books differently? I'm interested to hear what you think...

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  1. No, I don't work at reading fast, like you I read at different speeds at different times. Favourite books and classics I tend to read slowly and genre fiction a bit faster. I have been known to skim the odd descriptive passage! :P

  2. I think you're right about reading diff speeds in different instances.

  3. I totally agree with you, it all depends on what you are reading. I am generally slower when reading Adult books compared to YA which I mostly can read quite fast. If I am in a really exciting book I read faster to know what happens, but I don't skim it.
    I also warm up into books, reading faster as i get more involved.
    If I am bored with a book, feel it is going on too long I will majorly skim - sometimes I will just pick out the dialogue to read and skip everything else, but that has to be a really bad book for me to do that. It's one step away from giving up.

    I have only ever skipped to the end a couple of times, I tend not to as it ruins the story. I like to go on a journey with the characters and discover the ending along with them.

    I tend to find a rhythm with each book and settle into it, meaning I can read it faster.

    Great post

  4. I do read different books at different speeds. I normally catch myself skimming action or gory fight scenes the most because I get the gist of them and I want to see if someone will survive or die but I don't need all the details. Other than that I normally read fast but throughly.

    It also depends on what kind of mood i'm in. If im in the mood for romance I tend to read extra slow the romantic parts of the books.

    Great post!

    Michelle @ Book Briefs


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