Dear Book Lover: Skimming vs. Reading

The Gist. Reading levels of the five hypothesized by Ronald P. Carver, a professor of educational psychology

  • Skimming is reading quickly, about 450 words a minute for a proficient reader
  • scanning—the way we read dictionaries or telephone directories—is done at about 600 words a minute
  • “rauding,” is the level at which we read literary fiction, or letters or long magazine stories. To oversimplify his theory, when we raud we are not only reading every word but comprehending their meaning in the context of sentences and paragraphs
  • reading to learn—studying—at about 200 words a minute
  • reading to memorize, 138 words a minute

Mortimer Adler, author of “How to Read a Book,” recommends skimming as “the first sublevel of inspectional reading. Your main aim is to discover whether the book requires a more careful reading.”

In “How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read,” Pierre Bayard, a professor of literature, makes a case for skimming as a way to maintain “a reasonable distance” from a book. “Skimming books without actually reading them does not in any way prevent you from commenting on them,” Mr. Bayard wrote. “It’s even possible that this is the most efficient way to absorb books, respecting their inherent depth and richness without getting lost in the details.”The

Article. Dear Book Lover: Skimming vs. Reading: Is skimming the best way to absorb a book? Cynthia Crossen on reading fast and slow.

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