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Old 09-16-2011, 10:46 AM   #1
kiwidude
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Speed reading - does it add or detract for fiction reading?

I've got a big wish list of books to read, some of which has come from many of the kind folks here - all good but for the fact that it it is going to take a darn long time before I will get to experience some of those books!

Every now and then you see someone mention "speed reading", such as a thread in the reading recommendations forum currently (which I am trying not to hijack with my question).

It is something that has long intrigued me - but under the belief that nothing comes for free in terms of the quality of the reading experience I have never tried it myself or now how it "works".

I can understand if as part of your job or whatever you have a huge amount of "stuff" that you have to "skim" through then it would be very useful.

However when it comes to reading good quality fiction, where the author/editor have slaved away carefully constructing sentences and paragraphs - does it not defeat the point somewhat to skim through it? I understand the "well I can still get the gist of it from a comprehension" perspective argument - if that is all you want from reading fiction then fair play to you. But when I think about the total immersion I can get from some books where every word draws you deeper in, or how the most subtle black humour comments bring a huge grin to my face - does speed reading not reduce the experience by missing out on that subtlety?

Please note this is merely a question based on ignorance on my part. Do those of you who use speed reading techniques apply them to your fiction reading, and if so do you recommend it or not?

After all with so many books I want to read and not unlimited time, then being able to experience more authors/books sounds a good thing. But is the "cost" worth it, and does it just "average out" the enjoyment of the books read?
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Old 09-16-2011, 11:11 AM   #2
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I read fiction books fast. I did take a speed reading class in high school & college. I don't think I'm skimming as I read though. And I thoroughly enjoy a well written book & the sentences that are beautifully constructed. I also have no difficulty retaining what I read.

Now is there a benefit in being able to read a lot of books fast & enjoy them? I can't say. My husband is a slow reader & thoroughly enjoys reading at his pace.

And don't forget, you can read at a slower pace if you desire. I have been known to do that when I do get immersed in a book. But not all books catch my interest that way & I speed read through those that don't.
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Old 09-16-2011, 11:34 AM   #3
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There's a world of difference between speed reading and reading fast.

Speed reading is stuffing down a gourmet dinner so you can get back to folding laundry.
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Old 09-16-2011, 11:45 AM   #4
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I've always been a fast reader--and that's why I read a lot of books multiple times. Inevitably, I miss things as I’m flying through. The good thing about it is that I naturally don’t spend a lot of time on a book that I don’t like. I’m also completely goal-oriented so I enjoy getting to the end. I don’t like surprises, either. So the second (third, fourth) time I read a book I enjoy it a lot more knowing what the author is leading up to.
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Old 09-16-2011, 01:26 PM   #5
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Hi Kiwidude:
I found your question in my Google Alerts for Speed Reading. I am a speed reading expert and author and would love to share my fiction reading thoughts with you.

I believe that everyone has 5 proverbial reading gears with gear one being slow up to gear five which is overdrive. Most readers are stuck in 1st or 2nd gear because they don't know HOW to get into gears three, four or five. BUT once they learn how, they have the CHOICE of what gear to read in.

Which brings me to your post. Reading speed should always be a choice. No one can or should everything fast OR slow. Modulation based on many factors needs to be considered like what you personally want from the material, how much time you have, what you might use the material for in the future, how you are feeling, where you sitting, etc. So if you choose to savor your fiction reading by reading slowly and deliberately, go ahead! It's your choice. Enjoy!!
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Old 09-16-2011, 01:30 PM   #6
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My son has a friend who reads fiction incredibly fast. I couldn't believe he was getting everything from his reading I was getting, so I tested him. I gave him a 700-page novel, which he read in one evening, then I quizzed him. I asked questions about content--e.g. "Who was the character that X?" or "Why did so-and-so do such-and-such?" I also asked him which characters he most sympathized with, which were most complex, etc. I asked questions meant to see if he was engaging in the thinking I thought the author intended. I was impressed that this young man (17 years old) got at least as much out of his reading as I had.

Me, I "speed read" textbooks and required reading, but I "savor" my pleasure reading. If a book is an enjoyable read, why not experience that pleasure for 8 hours instead of 6? On the other hand, a good author has me always wanting to know what happens next, next, next.
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Old 09-16-2011, 02:39 PM   #7
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Speed reading is not skimming. It is various techniques to use your eyes and brain more efficiently.

I have taken several speed reading courses, and was a fast reader to start.

The ONLY downside is, you read faster, so you spend more on books.
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Old 09-16-2011, 02:41 PM   #8
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Here is a good speed reading test. It measures both reading speed and then comprehension, and it has a better comprehension test than similar sites.

I am a VERY slow reader, just 180wpm, but I also have a VERY high level of comprehension 90%.

I've tried speed reading and just don't enjoy it. My comprehension also goes way down, but the websites all claim better comprehension or at least no loss in comprehension .
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Old 09-16-2011, 03:31 PM   #9
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Thanks all, an interesting range of responses!

I had seen some comments on a Goodreads thread a while ago where at least one person regretted knowing how to speed read as it was affecting their enjoyment. When you read something like that it rather puts you off taking a "well I'll give it a go" approach to find out more about it. I've also read (like most things) that it takes a fair amount of practise and effort to work on it and maintain a higher reading speed. Now like many people reading is something I do mostly for pleasure, so the whole "is it worth trying" I find intriguing.

I'm not exactly a tortoise when it comes to reading books. But like anything it never hurts to find out if there is something which could add to the experience. Being able to read more books in the same time to find more of the authors and styles I like appeals (I've already spent the money Pinecone!). I am also one of those people that feels compelled to finish each book I have started (no matter how rubbish it is) in case it improves so less time "suffering" sounds good as well.

Intriguing...
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Old 09-16-2011, 03:33 PM   #10
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Thanks for the speed reading test, that's interesting. But the article they have for you to read is boring. I think I read faster when it's fiction and something I'm interested in.
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Old 09-16-2011, 04:07 PM   #11
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My experience is it detracts from good fiction. You lose admiration for lyrical turns of phrase and can easily miss subtleties. "Speed reading" is reading for content and tends to gloss over the form. When I was in college I taught speed reading, among other topics, at a private reading institute (their method). I am normally a fast reader but I make an effort to slow myself down with favorite authors to better savor their words.
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Old 09-16-2011, 04:51 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BoiseShan View Post
I've always been a fast reader--and that's why I read a lot of books multiple times.
Then you are probably skimming. The people I now that reads much faster than me do not miss anything in the book and remember the book much better than me. So I have always thought that a good memory is an indication of high reading speed.
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Old 09-16-2011, 04:58 PM   #13
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If anyone is interested I found a pretty good site on speed reading that is for free.
Here's a link to the site. He's got a few videos and a free book. Unfortunately the book is not in ePub or mobi format, although it has a Creative Commons license if someone wants to convert it (I don't think it would be an easy conversion though).
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Old 09-16-2011, 05:25 PM   #14
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I discovered I always read fast from early teenage years - until I realised it, I just thought it was normal !
As I got older, I found I could read slower if I wanted to, and developed a sort of half-way house, but it's true, you can speed up if needed. I never noticed any appreciable comprehension loss at speed - apart from math's, which I wasn't fond of anyway.
I've never done any courses, or tests, come to that - it just happened I s'pose.
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Old 09-17-2011, 03:25 PM   #15
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Your reading speed will be different for different types of material. But if you double your reading speed, you will pretty much double it for all forms of reading, but double the speed you read the same material before.

And I find the best practice for retaining reading speed is to read.
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