Always read the conclusion first: More about how to speed read
I’ve learned a few more things about speed reading since I first started. In addition to what I already posted here, here are a few more methods I’ve found to be effective. I have always thought of myself as a slow reader and serial book non-finisher. If I can do these things, just about any other reader can. The below observations have come with further practice.
I read the conclusion before I read the book. I wrote before, “I glance through the entire book I’m about to read before diving in.” I’ve fine-tuned this process a bit. I still look at the table of contents and try to find the thesis of the book (if there is one) in the introduction and first chapter. Now–spoiler alerts be danged–I also read the conclusion or last chapter before reading the book. This way I know where the author is trying to go, and I can better evaluate along the way how he or she is doing in getting there. This is particularly useful for writing book reviews.
Along similar lines, I read the beginning and end of each chapter before I read that chapter. This works especially well for well-written books. I can then head into a chapter with a better idea of its thesis and conclusion. This applies only to non-fiction, which is all I’ve been reading as of late. Of course it would be a bad way to read a mystery novel!
I especially push myself to read faster with familiar subject content. Speed reading is all about consistently pushing oneself to read faster than is comfortable. I seek to really take advantage of this when I’m already familiar with the subject a book treats. For example, I can read a book on ethnic identity much faster than I could read a book on how to repair a car.
I read the first and last line of a given paragraph the most slowly. This presupposes good writing, but who of us is going to deliberately read a poorly written book? I slow down just a bit at the beginning and end of each paragraph to make sure I’m tracking well with the author.
I read chunks of words, not single words at a time. I actually saw one Website refer to this as “chunking.” (No, I thought, chunking is what my baby daughter does on my shoulder when I burp her.) HT to Brian Davidson for his comment in my last post about this. This goes along with the idea I mentioned earlier of “silencing the inner narrator’s voice” you may hear as you read. One thing I’m working on now–which may prove impossible–is reading whole clauses at a time. This is difficult to do when reading something for the first time (identifying what constitutes a clause takes a little work). But reading at least three or four words at a time helps speed things along.
In speed reading, “practice makes perfect” applies. Or, in this case, practice makes faster.