Today, I read the book, “How to read better and faster” (author: Norman Lewis) in one sitting, within almost one and half hours. I have always believed that I am a slow reader and I need to increase my reading speed. This book caught my eye at my college library. Today was a peaceful day with almost entire college taking off. So, decided to have a go at it, today.
The comfort of my lab and a purpose to read gave me the initial fuel necessary for speed reading. I looked for central ideas on speed reading. I felt that I sync’ed up with author’s style of writing very quickly, perhaps in the first chapter itself. Thankfully, the author kept to the same writing style and used very lucid vocabulary. The beginning of each chapter summarized the earlier chapters and gave hints at what to expect in that chapter. Clear titles and sub-titles made the speed reading easier. I picked up the concept of “no regression” from this book. This refers to the practice of not going back to re-read something that I believe to have missed. Further, I picked up the concept of “varying the pace” of my reading. I read the initial summary a little slower than the middle of the book. I saw the author cajoling, threatening and providing lots of evidences whenever he made some point. I was least interested in this part. So, I skimmed through the middle of chapters and slowed down in areas where some concepts were emphasized.
When my purpose was clear, I noticed that I did not perform “lip movements” or “hearing the words“, that the author claims as deterrent habits of speed reading. Whenever I felt that I have lost the author, I saw this happening. In this book, there very hardly one or two occasions in which I had such problems. But, it is not uncommon for me, with other books (novels, etc). Perhaps, the point is, as soon as we can sync up with the author’s writing style, vocabulary and get a basic idea of the topic, we should be good to read better and faster. If I feel that I do too much of lip movements and hearing of words, I should just stop and think, what’s wrong or missing in my understanding instead of forcing myself to complete the reading.
A key point that the author emphasized was on comprehension. There is no point in wasting our time on reading something that does not add any value to us or that which cannot extend our knowledge. To this context, it is important to mix the above techniques appropriately. Always read with a purpose. Decide what to gain and what to leave. Know if you are reading for pleasure or business.
Author also emphasized on practice. From my experience, I know that I am a slow learner. I always take time to learn. I excel in my second attempt. In my undergrad days, I used to wonder how my brilliant class-mates could understand the material in first attempt! Now, I realize, it is just my nature. I must skim first, get the idea. I should read again and again to master the thoughts. However, I understand that it takes fewer iterations for me to get the real mastery over the subject. My comprehension came a long way to help me with my current study/research rigor of PhD. I realize that what matters is not how much we can learn in a short while, rather, how much can we retain for a long while! Iterations of learning help much better than read-forget cycle, which unfortunately is heavily supported by our educational system in schools.
For someone of my kind, whose daily life includes massive amount of reading, it is important to structure the reading behavior. Time is of course, limited and we want to ensure that we make the most of every minute spent reading. I will strongly recommend anyone who feels that their reading habits are not efficient, to read this book titled “How to read better and faster”. Happy reading!