Competitive Reading and Other Sad Things :(

How many books do you read in a week?

Have you tried speed reading? This year I'm going to read a new book each week... maybe even two books.

I came to love reading very late in my life. Later for me, that is. Which is to say... recently. Okay, five or six years ago, in my early thirties. I never got into reading fiction. I read a decent amount of non-fiction. And it's not like I hated reading or books. It was just that I never really got into it. Other things held my interests.

My kids really enjoy reading, and it's about that time when I really got into it. Reading with them, reading whilst they are playing (happily), reading whilst I wait in the car outside of school for them to come out. They've always seen my wife and I read. So, I guess they've picked it up from that. (We never told them they need to read, they just copy).

My wife reads at a ridiculous speed! In comparrison to me. She can cover-to-cover a 250 page novel in a couple of evenings. It would take me over a week.

So, naturally, being the competitive couple that we are, I decided to look into increasing my reading speed.

It's On!

But, what I found has really saddened me -- as is often my wont. There are people that take this to an extreme level.

I came across #AuthorTube or #WriterTube content in which they set ridiculous yearly goals for reading. The goals seem to be based on sheer quantity of books. Bragging rights over who can read the most in a given time period.

The usual scam artists offering courses on speed reading. Conflating their portraid success with the speed at which they 'read' (which is to say, they skim headings and opening sentences and conclude that they've 'read it').

Having looked into this a little deeper, it seems that people's comprehension goes way down as they try to push their speed way up. I know! Shocking revelation, isn't it?

This is where it gets sad for me.

They are extolling the vertues of what ammounts to doing a drive-by of an art gallery.

"I look at 100 pieces of artwork every day," they say as the run through another art gallery. "This is what keeps me inspired and successful. I take in all this culture and emotion and point of view. And then I -"

No! No you don't.

For me, in the books that I choose to read, there is more in there than the words or the sequence of events. There is the unwritten content that comes from 'being there' and experiencing what the writer was creating out of nothing.

I've had books make me jump. They've made me cry. They've made me question my opinions and thrown me into absolute turmoil over things that I was sure about. Some, I still can't reconcile what I think I know.

I'm not sure that I would have been able to extract that level of connection from gliding over the words on the page. I think I'd need to get down and dirty and wade through: sifting through them looking for the things that are hidden.

There will be, without a doubt, some books that can be read this way. I'm thinking the kind of self-help books push this kind of thinking in the first place. Possibly some articles (like this one) and maybe some fiction. But, I would question this: if the content is simple enough in its concepts and ideas that it can be read at speed without the need for full comprehension, the does it contain anything of substance? Is it just common sense?

Art needs to be experienced. Absorbed. Internalised.

I've found that I can increase my speed considerably, but I think that I will use it sparingly. For certain types of content. But, there will always be a place for me hunkering down in my reading chair, pulling up the blanket and strolling through the pages of a great piece of fiction.