My ex read crazy fast and learned a lot of his vocabulary from reading -- and mispronounced a lot of stuff, couldn't remember details, etc.
I was in gifted classes in school. I have always read slower than most of the people around me, like the ex, my sister, my kids, my high school classmates. But, yes, I remember details, etc.
Before age and boatloads of prescription drugs stole my memory, I could, at times, nearly quote some paragraphs for a few weeks afterwards in some cases -- especially if I wrote it or if I read through it more than once for some reason.
Haha, this is like me reading
"Philologie nämlich ist jene ehrwürdige Kunst, welche von ihrem Verehrer vor allem eins heischt, beiseite gehn, sich Zeit lassen, still werden, langsam werden –, als eine Goldschmiedekunst und -kennerschaft des Wortes, die lauter feine vorsichtige Arbeit abzutun hat und nichts erreicht, wenn sie es nicht lento erreicht. Gerade damit aber ist sie heute nötiger als je, gerade dadurch zieht sie und bezaubert sie uns am stärksten, mitten in einem Zeitalter der »Arbeit«, will sagen: der Hast, der unanständigen und schwitzenden Eilfertigkeit, das mit allem gleich »fertig werden« will, auch mit jedem alten und neuen Buche: – sie selbst wird nicht so leicht irgend womit fertig, sie lehrt gut lesen, das heißt langsam, tief, rück- und vorsichtig, mit Hintergedanken mit offengelassenen Türen, mit zarten Fingern und Augen lesen... Meine geduldigen Freunde, dies Buch wünscht sich nur vollkommne Leser und Philologen: lernt mich gut lesen!"
"Philology is that venerable art which demands of its votaries one thing above all: to go aside, to take time, to become still, to become slow – it is a goldsmith's art and connoisseurship of the word which has nothing but delicate, cautious work to do and achieves nothing if it does not achieve it lento. But for precisely this reason it is more necessary than ever today, by precisely this means does it entice and enchant us the most, in the midst of an age of 'work', that is to say, of hurry, of indecent and perspiring haste, which wants to 'get everything done' at once, including every old or new book: this art does not so easily get anything done, it teaches to read well, that is to say, to read slowly, deeply, looking cautiously before and aft, with reservations, with doors left open, with delicate eyes and fingers . . . My patient friends, this book desires for itself only perfect readers and philologists: learn to read me well!"
I think of reading as a process of tuning between the mind of the writer and the reader.. like a dialogue, you can modulate the speed until you both feel comfortable with ..
I always make sure to leave some relaxing music on before diving into my favorite piece of text/book. Practicing 'mindful reading' has greatly enhanced my reading experience and it goes hand-in-hand with slow reading. 
Are you just scanning or reading for hobby/light interest, maybe hoping to encounter something interesting? Read a bit faster and slow down when needed.
I find that there are so many weird misconceptions about "how you are supposed to read a book". Just read however you like, reading comprehension and regulating your speed based on the content is a skill, something you might want to practice. But you definitely don't have to speed-read or slow-read everything once you've learned how to do that.
Knowing how to modulate is an important skill in programming and mathematics as well.
I've seen the two extremes of "failure to modulate" with programs, especially with new programmers (students/interns). Some will speed read through the program, never slowing down to pay attention to critical pieces that may help them discover how to fix a bug or implement a missing feature. Others will slowly and methodically read every line, wasting away days on what should take hours or minutes by performing a depth-first search through each stack at each program point.
I've also seen this failure to modulate in mathematics. Students who get to chapter 5 of a dense text before realizing they have no intuitive or even formal understanding of the definitions on page 1. And students who spend their entire week interrogating unimportant definitions or lemmas because they do not get a sense for the overall structure of the chapter before diving into details.
Reading is such an important skill, and we as a society do a fairly good job at teaching how to read non-technical material. But reading skills are probably the most important thing that's (not) taught in math and CS.
At both speeds, it’s still deliberate reading.
Maybe you know more techniques which are better?
Quickly reading from beginning to end is useful, but only if you know why you're doing that and what you should be looking for. Examples:
- "this lemma gets used over and over in the proofs";
- "this theorem seems to be the main result of the text";
- "this function is where all the action is";
- "the application is organized around this framework"; etc.)
The only really effective technique I know is guided practice. From a teaching perspective, you can spend a lecture on "technical reading skills" like this:
1. assign a reading and make it very clear that this reading is non-optional, that the whole point of the next lecture is to talk about technical reading skills, and explain how huge an advantage students have in life if they know how to read technical content well.
2. hold a quiz that checks for comprehension (e.g., a proof that's a trivial result of a key theorem; a program that's a trivial modification of a key algorithm; etc. Basically, something that's trivial if you did the reading and understood the "main point" but hard enough that you're not going to be able to do it otherwise).
You can peer grade the quiz on the spot, or not, but at some point make sure you grade the quiz so that students who did poorly know that they need to work on reading.
3. Walk through the text on the projector, pointing out "oh look that idea from the algorithm got used here and here and here" or "and we're using that lemma again and again", etc.
You do this once or a couple of times and then invite struggling students to office hours for individual practice.
Reinforce this the rest of the semester. Force students to practice reading by holding (fiar and easy) quizzes on the assigned reading prior to covering the material in lecture. Respect students by going beyond the assigned reading in lecture. Help students improve by doing a good job at grading the quizzes, or by doing little exercises on the board that focus on trivial extensions of the "main idea" of the assigned reading.
Good examples of CS topics this works for are the pumping lemma and dynamic programming. Simple enough that there's a relatively short reading on the topic, but complicated enough that you can really test technical reading skills.
I personally feel there are multiple "levels" or "layers" to understanding a book. It's a bit loose, but I'd say technical books have "structure", "content", "detail" and "cohesion".
The structure of the book is how chapters, section, subsections and the index are related to each other.
You can learn about the structure by taking a look at the index, reading chapter intros/outros/summaries, and you will get a better feeling for it while reading the book as well.
The content is basically just everything in the book except any meta-content, such as headings, the index and references, etc... So graphs, text, chapters, blablalba
The details of the book are the most relevant, precise, thought-out content, you could alternatively call these "topics". Consider a given chapter of any book, it usually introduces a topic, gives some examples, counterexamples, might tell a story about it, it could add a debate, show a graph, and it might describe sub-topics. The whole chapter is mostly about that topic as a whole anyway. That's the detail.
Lastly, the "cohesion" is how the book's topics are interrelated on a detailed level. For example, what implications does the content introduced in chapter 5 have on chapter 6? And on chapter 4? Some concepts take multiple chapters (or books!) to comprehend as a whole. Sometimes a book needs to introduce some concepts before the bigger picture can be explained.
This cohesion, in my mind, is related to the "larger than the sum of its parts" idea.
I guess the idea of cohesion can also be extended to how the book's content and ideas relate to what you already know, or other books you may or may not have read. Again; it's how the topics interrelate.
Different reading styles, writing exercises and re-readings of a book will give expand your understanding in those 4 layers.
For example, skimming (30 min, skip through entire book) will give you a vague but helpful foundational feeling for the structure and cohesion of the book. Likewise, speed-reading will give a reasonable foundational feeling for the content and detail of the book. Writing a mind-map of a chapter, asking questions about paragraphs, summarizing chapters will improve your understanding of the content and topics.
I personally feel that I often don't completely "understand" a book, I believe that if I take the time to work on those 4 layers of understanding on every level of the book, I would.
I strongly strongly strongly recommend taking a look at the book "how to read a book", the concepts I just stated are my own, but the book helped me completely rethink about how I approach reading in general. I used to be afraid of tacking huge books, I feel like I can actually read them with some confidence
See, I’ve been focusing on reading this year, more specifically to find out what my style and interests are, and how I can develop them further. For me it’s unrealistic to “just read away” - there are many different types of books and courtesy to our digital world/ genes/ whatever, my brain is definitely re-wired so that it’s very difficult to maintain focus for long. So naturally I’m interested in reading techniques (and other types of acquisition) and what others’ experiences are like.
But the deeper I go into this project, I am also beginning to wonder that perhaps, even self-proclaimed bookworms may not actually be reading as effectively as they think they are. By “effective”, I mean getting the same-ish level of clarity that the author had when writing it. And so I think you’re right about books having layers of meaning. Which this alone has powerful implications: it means a reading list should not be a ticking box exercise, as so many of us think, but a reference library - you have the freedom to read and revisit however you like, depending on your current intellectual needs. And it also means that books are actually very dynamic and so you shouldn’t really take them too seriously - it’s OK to get an understanding to a limited level only.
It’s interesting, let’s see how this reading project goes.
Anyway back to chomping dense technical books. This is definitely a big weakness of mine - no matter how interesting a book is, I just cannot stay motivated for long. But it may be because I’m approaching it the wrong way. I generally like to dip in and out, and be very selective about what to savour in. So I am probably treating technical books wrongly - taking it too lightly when each should be an individual project, really. I think another factor is confidence - it’s easy to get intimidated but I find that the more I become familiar with the concepts and basics, the tome gets easier. Which means it’s necessary to have a “learning pathway” of books e.g. Sal Khan’s circuit videos and “Electronica for Dummies” before the granddaddy “The Art of Electronics”.
– Arthur Schopenhauer
I’ve always been struck by this quote, because I think Schopenhauer is fundamentally right. Information is only useful when you master it inside and out.
> When we read, another person thinks for us: we merely repeat his mental process. It is the same as the pupil, in learning to write, following with his pen the lines that have been pencilled by the teacher. Accordingly, in reading, the work of thinking is, for the greater part, done for us. This is why we are consciously relieved when we turn to reading after being occupied with our own thoughts. But, in reading, our head is, however, really only the arena of some one else’s thoughts. And so it happens that the person who reads a great deal — that is to say, almost the whole day, and recreates himself by spending the intervals in thoughtless diversion, gradually loses the ability to think for himself; just as a man who is always riding at last forgets how to walk.
> gradually loses the ability to think for himself
If you read a lot of these “worldviewed” writings without actively seeking what you personally think, and if you stay in a bubble as well, then maybe I can agree with Schopenhauer. But the pros outweigh the cons by a massive leap. Reading is a real unfair advantage as there is no way that a single lifetime can discover what has been discovered over millennia.
Having said that, reinventing the wheel (discovering valuable insights on your own) is not wasteful at all - that will always feel more real and precious than the most poignant writing. And I personally dislike speed reading - pace is something that is highly personal and variable, and no one should feel bad about it.
Sometimes the way thoughts pop into my head I think brains are more like hash tables than arrays.
Of course, extreme over simplification :D
If the lookup time was O(1) then it's not a large messy library, it's a large neat library.
Besides, the "neatness" of your mind is an metaphor for your ability understand a piece of knowledge in the context of the whole. This is not a literal organizational issue, but a conceptual understanding of how different ideas "fit" together. It takes time and effort to deeply understand and connect a single piece of knowledge to the whole.
This quote is not about your ability to quickly recall X, but your ability to relate X to A, B, and C.
Only tangentially related: When it came out and became a bestseller, another book came out kind of making fun of the title. It was called "How to Read Two Books."
Necessary break in the irony of a book telling you how to read books.
Maybe had they just assigned a single book and encouraged us to read it slowly and carefully, we could have enjoyed reading more and actually absorbed the text.
I used to read really slow and take down meticulous notes.
Just starting a book meant I had predefined ideas of "ok, you're in this for the long haul, you know how much effort it will take to consume this material". That in itself is a reading deterrent.
If your goal of reading is to learn something new and improve yourself, then you're way better off seeing if you can learn the important bits of the book (80 / 20 rule), and then repeat this process for 10 different books in a similar subject.
The difference between fully slow reading and taking notes on a book could be on the order of 15 dedicated "real" hours vs 30 minutes of skimming and reading specific things that highly relate to what you're doing now.
If you only read a book carefully once, then chances are you're going to forget most of what you read anyways. Might as well make the best use of your time and devour as much as you can to get you going and then spend a majority of your time doing the thing that you were trying to improve from reading in the first place.
Basically treat books as something you'll reference / skim many times over instead of being a super thorough "only once" event where you treat it as if someone is going to give you a graded test when you're done.
I found training on not backtracking and understanding eye movements allowed me to understand better ...
The eye has two types of movement: the one you use to move from one object to another; and then the one that follows an object. He recommends the latter when speed reading, using a pen or pointy thing as an aid, your eyes following the tip as you sweep it across the page. You can move it from side to side, or down the middle, or zig-zagging, etc.
You accompany this with a metronome, to move the pen in regular movements.
I think in time the idea is that you can abandon the pen and metronome once you've got used to reading this way.
Note: I am the founder
In general, I’d say that speed reading is handy when you’re hunting for relevant information, and slow reading could be handy once you’re reasonably sure that you’ve found it. But up until that point, slow reading would be a waste of time (I.e. spending too much time on irrelevant information).
I don't normally choose to read like this, but it's a quick way to find something to stick and pause on. The only thing that made me stick and pause was the use of italics. The typography of the blog and line spacing is super comfortable, a sure assistance to speed reading.
A novel, creative writing, a requirements document, analysis paper, no. Because every word has to have been carefully chosen. I enjoy that coz it's not writing for information distribution for the sake of it.
I load an ebook to calibre and go from there. 28px, about 12-20 words per line, usually works for a phone at arm's length or a laptop at desk length.
I never learnt via any hand techniques, just picked it up on paper, a half-day (less than that as.. lunch) and good pointers. I think hand-blocking would have restricted speed. Your hand is not as fast as our eyes.
Speed reading means you could factually proof you could read extremely fast and retain most of the facts of the text.
From my experience, there is people out there that could do that (after extensive training). The main problem is that you need a standardized way of displaying the text so the mind could understand it super fast.
I have met speed readers personally in Spain, France and Germany.
For example HN does not let you speed read because of the format with long lines.
On a practical way way most text is not formatted for speed reading, it should be preprocessed first, which is illegal because of copyright in most countries.
My girlfriend has double the reading speed.
I have to read every word for itself :/
I can get to 100 pages per hour, but only if I identify filler paragraphs early on and skip them.
Imagine watching all seasons of black mirror in one day...
Speed reading was desirable when lots of new exciting things were emerging in the late nineties. Note that simply "reading fast" didn't prevent the dot com bust.
Now, we have lots of new things, but they aren't exciting to us. In fact the prevailing wind is that of fatigue and overload. So now, going slow is perhaps perferable, whatever difference it might actually make.
In an economic sense, slow downs are viewed by go-getters as a reason to panic. "Oh no! I won't get my lunch at noon!" is how best to interpret that panic.
We actually have a lot of cool new things that magically appeared over the past thirty years, and as someone who has lived through it all, I feel like treadmill processes such as dependency hell and relentless up-versioning to bigger numbers robbed me of opportunities to deeply explore promising technologies.
But speed reading wasn't what was going to fix past problems, so why should slow reading fix current problems. It does seem to point to other facts though, if one chooses to look with those eyes.