The world of literature is ever-changing and many different improvements, for the better or for the worse, change the landscape of reading. Today we talk about a growing movement in the way we read. Yes, we have finally come to a point where people are telling us how to read. Mind you, not the logistics of reading: How to pronounce words or even recognize them on paper, but a certain method or strategy to reading a book.
Enter: Speed Reading.
People who do this claim that they retain more information quicker, and find it very enjoyable still. People against this state that one should just relax and focus on the book you are reading, taking in the smallest and minute details.
And then there are those who just don't give a 💩.
Well, today I'm giving my opinion on whether I think this is a good idea and further backing one side of the argument.
First off, I want to get a few things out of the way: I do NOT believe speed reading should be used for fiction. People do this, but I prefer to take my time. Even though I'm a fast reader, it's preferable just to admire the time and dedication the author put into the work. Writing is just like anything else in life, whether it be basketball, art, or cooking. The more time and the more effort you put into something, and the more hours you spend working on your craft, the better the output will be. The output in this case is masterfully crafted books. Sure, not all books are good, in fact, I have read a lot of books that are garbage. But taking time to understand the book and truly immerse yourself in this tale that the author has created can not be done quickly. Humans are storytellers at heart. It's in our blood. Values, advice, rumors, tales, all these were passed down from generation to generation, whether it be orally or written out. This is not a process you can speed up.
On the flip side, I can see why you could speed read non-fiction. Don't get me wrong, non-fiction has no less value than fiction, and I enjoy this genre and its sub-genres. But these books are written to inform you above all else. Non-fiction is what is happening in the real world; it's what is around us. If you do not have time but still want to retain core values and information from that book in the author's own words, not a YouTube summary video, then this may be a solution. With speed reading, you get most of the meat of the book, the facts, the author's viewpoints, stats, and the overarching message, idea, or outline.
Sounds pretty good, right?
But how effective are so-called "speed readers"? Well, there are many different ways that speed reading is taught, and they all claim to be the most efficient and effective. But I have a problem with each of them. For example, a lot of speed readers get rid of sub-vocalization. Almost everyone does this when they are reading. Basically, it's the internal voice that you use when you read and sound out the words. This is the natural way of reading, and it's hard to change it. So it takes a long time to get used to reading without sub-vocalization. Plus, there is a reason why we do this, and it's to help with memory and understanding. So getting rid of it does not make sense.
Another trick speed readers use is to stare at the middle of the page, and let your peripheral vision (Your vision out of the corner of your eye) read the words around you. But not everyone has good peripheral vision, and this also takes a while to master. Speed readers also say to just look out for italicized words, key phrases, and central ideas. But it's hard to scope out these important ideas, and anyway, these ideas are nothing without the writing that supports it.
Which speed readers ignore.
It seems as though speed reading is not that effective, and numerous studies and data back this up. Sure, there are studies that have found that speed reading is beneficial, but a majority of studies have concluded that speed reader's claims are not backed up. For example, after conducting research on the issue, the Association for Psychological Science published an article in 2016 on their findings. It states: "Ultimately, there is no one ability or strategy that will enable us to zip through a novel in one sitting or process an inbox full of emails over the course of a lunch break."
While there may be hidden benefits to speed reading, the truth is that it's not a proper way to enjoy a book, let alone retain and understand the information correctly. It goes against our natural reading process and has little evidence to show for its big claims of changing your life and productivity. In conclusion, speed reading is only to be taken seriously if you are committed to spending a huge amount of time learning how to re-read, which is just not worth it for me.
That is all for our post today, and I hope you walk away from this learning something new. Goodbye for now, and make sure to look out for our next posts with some guest authors, and also an exclusive on Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.