Books Magazine

Bookish Pet Peeve #6: Speed Reading

By Robert Bruce @robertbruce76


Why in the name of all things holy would I want to speed read?

Okay, I understand if I’m researching for a paper and I want to skim through a large amount of text in a small amount of time. I understand if I want to find a specific quote or a specific source within a book.

From an academic standpoint, there are many reasons why speed reading makes sense.

But just as a general rule: What motivates one to speed read? To me, most books are like a nice wine, and you don’t chug wine. You savor it and enjoy it. You drink it slowly. You think about where the grapes grew and what the temperature must have been like and how annoying that guy from the Sideways movie is (okay, not really). But you take in a good wine.

Speed reading is like chugging wine at a frat party. At least when you chug, you get drunk. Probably not a good idea, but you at least understand the consequences.

But what do you get from speed reading? Like, if I’m a pretty good speed reader and I decide I want to speed read through The Sun Also Rises, what exactly do I accomplish? The ability to say I’ve read the book faster than another person? And at what price?

How does the reading comprehension of a speed reader compare to someone who just reads the book to enjoy the book, not to fly through it like a one-day tourist at the Grand Canyon?

And is this entire post going to be a serious of questions? (Perhaps?)

Part of me wants to buy in. Part of me thinks it might be nice to cut my reading time in half while still understanding (some/not much/maybe a little bit) of what I’ve read.

But most of me is just tired of the pressure of my fast-paced life. Got to be to work on time. Got to make that meeting on time. Got to check my email and Twitter and make sure nobody’s making death threats in my blog comments. Got to get home and get my workout or my jog done in 25 minutes. Got to be in bed by 11 so I can get up by 6. Got to do this and do that and do it all very quickly.

I just want to read, man.

When I read, I just want to sit down and read. I want to sip on that passage like a nice bourbon. If it takes me 30 minutes to read 5 pages, then so be it.

That’s why I never put some kind of timeframe on myself to finish reading the 101 Books. That might be a little more challenging and adventurous, but it wouldn’t be fun.

I want to enjoy the reading and let my pace ebb and flow with the busyness (or lack thereof) of my life.

Read 101 books in a year? Even two years? No thanks.

So where do you stand on speed reading? Would you like to tell me why speed reading is useful—in any way other than what I’ve stated above? I’m all ears.

(Image: Getty Images)

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