Seven years ago, I was convinced that my eyes were becoming superhuman. The pencil told my eyes where to focus, like a strict director’s baton. The mind made sure that no words were actually uttered – focusing instead on the text, and on moving my eyes in a frog-like fashion from one place on the text to another. Page after page. It felt good. It felt like progress. Apparently, it wasn’t worth all that much. Now that the sound of the Great Speed Reading Debunk echoes across the internetz, what can you do instead? Try these with me.
0. Wait, why is speed reading dead again?
Read this from Scott H. Young (who used to be big on speed reads, like the rest of us).
Then read this from Melissa Dahl.
And this from Simon Oxenham.
The science is there, and none of it speaks in favour of long-term gains from speed reading.
1. More reading
This is my favourite. Just read more! Never be without a book. Get friendly with apps like Pocket for long reads and commutes. If you want, invest in an e-reader (I’m not big on Amazon, so here’s what I’m waiting for.
However you choose to do it, read more. You do not need to do anything else to become braver, smarter, get more vocabulary (more bilingual skills, too!). That’s really the best way to start.
2. Deep reading
Oh, I like this one too. You know the books you read, then read again – with lots of notes and scribbles this time – and then go to talk to your friends about it, and then read once more because they mention something new about the book?
Or maybe the books you read, and they change something, so you go back to other books to see what exactly changed, and before you know it, you end up with one Big Idea across three or four books, which you’re so happy you discovered?
Or maybe – a book that’s really telling you many things at once, and tells different things to your friends?
That’s all deep reading. That’s more than just reading to make sure you got another book off you list. That’s reading to find something more – to connect this book with the books you read, or the ones you’re about to write.
3. Purposeful reading
This one you will probably recognize in every library. It comes with pencils, notebooks, post-its, highlighters, and those strange puzzled looks on readers’ faces.
You’re capable of it, too. Even if you left college long ago, or never went. You are able to read and find things out – the same way you use Google to get answers, or the way you sit down with a friend to really talk about things.
People who tell you that you need a special set of skills to read books are (sometimes) people who want to sell you those skills for a price. Start with what you have, and learn to enjoy this first. Your purpose will make for purposeful reading!
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