Ever since startup Spritz released a tool that let’s you finish a 233-page novel in 77 minutes, speed reading has become a hot topic.
But is it really a magical efficiency booster?
“What’s important is what you think about after you read, what you conclude, what you do with what you read,” he told Business Insider.
Leveen, who has a Ph.D in sociology from Cornell, compares speed-reading to the ability to run quickly during a tennis match. “Yeah, running fast is good, but it’s only one part, and not even the biggest part, of the game,” he said.
In fact, speed reading gained widespread appeal back in the 60s. Schools even started teaching the skill, but its popularity has declined since then. Apparently, it wasn’t that useful.
“Step back for a second and say, ‘Well, what’s the purpose of reading in the first place?’ The purpose is to learn more about the world, learn about subjects you’re interested in, and then act upon what you learn, right? Live your life in a virtuous circle of reading and doing,” Leveen said.
So while speed reading can help you understand what a book says, only you can take the time to determine what a book means.
The most valuable part of reading may be those a-ha moments, where readers stare into space and process new information. “At these moments, your reading speed slows to zero, but your understanding soars,” Leveen wrote in his book.
While speed reading has its uses, so do other strategies, like simple preparation.
“There are all these ways you can sort of preview the book and prime yourself to get the most of it,” he said. In the age of information, we can watch a TED Talk, scan a copy of a book on Google, or even listen to an audio version.
And most importantly, we should know when to quit.”So many people are still suffering from the ‘clean your plate mentality.’ They feel compelled to finish it,” Leveen said. He abides by the 50-page rule — if you don’t like the content after 50 pages, move on.
“Put it on a special shelf called ‘maybe later,'” Leveen said.
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