... I never could.
I can read the first and last sentence of every paragraph in a book and pick up capital letters and key words, so that I get the gist of a thing, and, like everyone else, I do skim for research purposes, but I find it deeply unsatisfying, and, dare I say it, soul destroying.
For those of you who still get the reference, I wouldn’t listen to a 33rpm vinyl record played at 45, except perhaps for the comedy value, and I wouldn’t watch a movie on fast forward. I don’t watch and skip, either, so why would I speed read a book? And why on Earth would I read a book that way and say I was doing it for pleasure?
Of course, some books are pretty quick to read, generally because the writing style is simple, making the reading effortless, and that’s OK, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t read every word.
It is possible to read some books quickly, certainly more quickly than it would be possible for someone to read a book aloud, annunciating every word, but there are books that give of their best when read at a pace similar to that of reading aloud.
There are those of you that are thinking, about now, that I am probably insane, that there aren’t enough hours in the day or days in the week, but that’s like saying there was no point building Stone Henge or the Pyramids.
Even if it took twice as long to read the average novel, you might go from an eight hour read to a sixteen hour read, but if it’s a good book, that’s double the pleasure and twice the value for money.
I don’t want to just grab at a plot. I don’t want to just know what happened. I want to feel the writer’s intentions, I want to start to get into his or her rhythm, I want to start to know where the thing is going and how the next paragraph is likely to unravel. I don’t want to just understand the characters; there’s more to it than that.
The vast majority of us are readers in a way that we are not, for example, artists or musicians; more of us are potential experts in the written word than in any other art form, and I think we take it far too much for granted. I think the fact that we take it far too much for granted means that we sell it short, and expect too little from it.
Read more, read more thoroughly, read more deeply, and it should mean that you get more from your read. I hope that you will. If you don’t get more from your read, and that doesn’t bother you, go back to rattling through heaps of trashy paperbacks, and I wish you joy of them, but if you don’t get more from your read, and that does bother you... Well, that opens up another whole can of worms, doesn’t it?