How to boost reading stamina without a formal speed-reading course?
January 24, 2014 10:49 AM   Subscribe

Hi, I'd be interested in any e-books or websites which can put me in a frame of mind where I can read more easily. I'm not really interested in learning formal speed-reading at the moment but it would be good if someone could teach me a quick way to stop subvocalising for instance?

I'd also be interested in any pep talks which could boost my intellectual curiousity in order to make me a voracious reader. Finally, I'd be interested in any good techniques for defragging my brain after a reading session so I can get back to reading sooner without mental fatigue.

Thanks for any advice.
posted by Musashi Daryl to Education (6 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not a trained speed reader, but I've noticed my reading speed double or triple over the last few years as I have read more and more on screens.

I think the main thing is to get to the point where you are looking at sentences or even paragraphs rather than individual words.

Kind of hard to explain how this works. It's almost like doing a Magic Eye poster. Once you figure out how to do it, you will always be able to.

So for example, at your question, I look at the block of text for about 1 - 2 seconds. The main words that jump out at me are "e-books," "websites", "speed reading", "without subvocalising." I now understand the gist of your question without having to do look at little linking words.

If I feel like I get a non-comprehension fail, it only takes another second to carefully read one sentence out of the paragraph. This works great for most online reading because most people fill their writing with unnecessary words and embellishments which I strip out as I read.

However, if I'm reading E.B. White or Thoreau I'm much more likely to read every word, because the pleasure of writers liking that is savoring every nuance.

TL;DR: train yourself to scan each paragraph for nouns and verbs only and you'll effectively be a speed reader.
posted by meadowlark lime at 11:01 AM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Here's a link on how to speedread:
posted by xammerboy at 11:09 AM on January 24, 2014

Re. defragging your mind after reading, I would write down a summary of what you read. I find if I barf it all out on paper I can sort of disengage from it and be more able to start on a new section.

Also, for reasons unknown I tend to be able to read faster if I am chewing gum. YMMV
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:09 AM on January 24, 2014

The ability of the body/mind to seize upon patterns (i.e. habituation) is way more powerful than we realize.

I practice yoga. And I once saw a more advanced student timing her headstand with a kitchen timer. It seemed incredibly un-yogic and almost military to set enforced limits. I asked her why she didn't just let it happen naturally. She replied that if you don't use the timer, you will unavoidably fall into a pattern of always doing the same length of headstand. As you reinforce that via repetition, it will become harder and harder to hold for even a second longer, because the body has learned the hold time it thinks you want, and will tenaciously adhere to it and resist change.

That's how 90% of human limitation works. You allow a pattern of limitation to develop, and that limitation reinforces until it self-defends. You feel as if the limitation is working against you, when, really, it's just your body/mind trying to give you what you want.

That's philosophical, but it's totally driving what you (and lots of other people with darty attention in this digital media age) are experiencing. You'll notice that your feeling of fatigue and jitteriness always occur at around the same point. Figure out what that point is, and then gradually retrain. Use a timer, and stretch longer by a few minutes each week. And expect (as with the last few weight lifting repetitions, or the last few cookies not eaten) for it to not be real pleasant past a certain point; it'll feel like fighting a headwind.

But know that the headwind is nothing but your body/mind trying to give you what you want. It assumes you WANT to stop reading after X minutes, because that's what you've taught it. So: teach it something else!

BTW - you'll also find that the jittery fatigue point is about the length of the average article length you read on the Web. Again, it's just patterning.
posted by Quisp Lover at 11:30 AM on January 24, 2014 [9 favorites]

I have found that I can read fastest if 1) I read it on my Kindle 2) I set the kindle background to black and the text to white. After reading a string of books that way I hate to read a real book the old fashioned way. Since I got a Kindle, the number of books I read has increased at least 4 times.

After watching an excellent documentary on J.D. Salinger (on Netflix), I had to read Catcher in the Rye, but it isn't available on ebooks.

When you mention "intellectual" then you might want to read slow, stop and mentally chew on the information before moving on.
posted by nogero at 6:59 PM on January 24, 2014

There's an app for that.

I have not tried the apps mentioned on Lifehacker myself (yet), but I came upon the article today and immediately thought of this thread.
posted by merejane at 5:38 AM on January 26, 2014

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