Friday, August 28, 2015

Reading Speeds and Skimming

Last year, I was in a book club during a weekly read period at my school (We read The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, in case you're interested). I sat with one of my good friends, and when we had some time to read during the club, she was shocked at how fast I was reading. "She's read thirty pages in the same time it took me to read ten!" Or something of that sort. In a forty-five minute read period, I usually read about seventy pages. That's about 1.5 pages a minute (if I'm doing the math right!).

I don't know that this classifies me as a speed reader exactly, but I do know that I tend to read more quickly than some people I know. Here's the secret: I do read very fast, but I also tend to skim passages. Not a lot, and not enough that I miss essential details, but sometimes I have to go back to remember a character's name--"Okay, who's talking now?" Maybe when things go so fast, it's easier for things to slip through my grasp.

My question is, does this count? If I skim, did I read it? I think I get the main ideas, and I certainly enjoy the books. However, I have been noticing lately that as I rate a book on Goodreads, I'll mark it, then look at some of the reviews, and take away one of the stars I gave it. It seems skimming makes it easier for me to overlook flaws in the narrative or characterization. Or maybe that's the speed (or at least quick) reading--If you go really fast, you don't have to dwell on mistakes, do you?

(Note: That last sentence really only works in the context of reading. Don't try that while driving.)

I like to read fast, because I get to read more. I think it does count as reading, since I've found some of my favorite books this way. And maybe if I overlook some problems, that's a good thing. It gives things a kind of rosy glow. While I try to avoid this, it sure does make things look nice.

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