Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Speed Reading - Part VI


We are still at the Inspectional Reading Stage focusing on ‘What is the Book about?’ Inspectional Reading itself comprises of two stages:

1. Systematic Skimming; and
2. Superficial Reading.

Systematic skimming has already been covered in my earlier post. This post will cover the second stage, namely Superficial Reading.

The purpose of Superficial Reading is to enable us to read through the book continuously, so that we can grasp the flow and general thrust of the book. By doing so, we can understand the major points highlighted by the author and follow his line of reasoning.

There are three main steps to Superficial Reading:

1. Continuous Reading
In Superficial Reading, especially when reading a difficult book, read through without ever stopping to look up or ponder on the things we do not understand right away. Just pay attention to what we understand and read past the points that we find difficult to grasp. Continue with the ‘flow ‘of the book and ignore any potential stumbling blocks in our way. Even if we understand less than half the book, we will have grasped the overall thrust of the book. This will help us when we reread the areas we did not understand earlier.

2. Do not consult Extraneous Materials
Never consult a dictionary at this stage! For most of us, English is not our native language. As such, we have a tendency to refer to the dictionary for every word we don’t understand. DON’T DO THIS! Do not consult any dictionary, encyclopedia, footnotes, scholarly commentaries and other extraneous materials at this stage. JUST KEEP ON READING!

3. Look at the Forest, not the Trees!
At this stage, imagine that we are eagles soaring high above the sky. Our aim is to obtain a bird’s eye view of the forest. We want to see the BIG PICTURE and understand what the whole book is about and enjoy ourselves.

How many times have we picked up a book, only to interrupt our reading by consulting the dictionary? We then jot down the meaning of the word on the book and try to continue reading. Suddenly, we find that we’ve forgotten what we read earlier and have to start all over again.

If you do this, it is very likely that you will NEVER finish reading the book. Most likely, you’ll stop at page 10 and that’s the last you’ll ever see of the book. So, avoid this temptation! I promise you, if you read continuously as suggested, your reading skills will improve!

My future post will cover the Third Stage of Reading, Analytical Reading. This stage of reading is intensive, so stay tuned, if you are interested in learning about Analytical Reading.



Speed reading is a must for everyone now. I'm visiting about 600 sites a day and speed reading really helps me out. Without it, I might spend 12 hours a day to visit all 600 sites.


Dear Atniz,

Wow, you visit 600 sites a DAY? Phew, that's pretty amazing to me.

Thanks for dropping by and commenting. Hope you found my posts useful.


Maverick SM

This should have been taught in the school; but I had never learnt it there; and this blog is the place that gave me this knowledge on reading. Thanks and I hope you will write more on this subject.

Personally, I read books without knowing these processes and methods. I just keep reading until someday I understand the book and the philosophy.

Ya, I do practice systematic skimming and superficial reading accidentally and unconsciously all these years; and from then we master the skills of reading and enjoying.

One thing that I may not fully agree is about the dictionary thing; I always check the meanings as I read so as to profoundly understand the use of the word and why that word was used - mostly likely to impress on a certain point and a given view.

Though it will slow down my reading but as you starts to understand most of the vocabulary you reading pleasure improves and we start to learn to apply those words to imprint it into the thought system.


Dear Maverick,

What a pleasure to have your insightful comments on my blog. I was beginning to think that no one was reading my posts on Speed Reading!

I understand your point on using the dictionary. However, I presume your vocabulary is quite extensive. In such a case, you would most likely refer to the dictionary infrequently.

The case that I envisage is that some readers have quite a weak vocabulary. Here, they refer to a dictionary probably at least ten times on each page.

This will interrupt the flow of thinking and generally discourage them from reading.

Yes, strangely enough, our schools don't teach these topics. I'll try to cover the topic of mnemonics and memory improvement once I'm done with speed reading.

Thanks for the insightful comments and do drop by when you're free.



The Tao Te Ching needs to be read in one sitting and read dozens of times in order to understand its mystery and meaning. I been reading it page by page and never had the patience to read it all the way through except this one time. I definitely need to reread again in one sitting to better learn the wonders.


Dear MarketingDeviant,

I hope you gain new insights after reading it in one sitting. Please do share any new insights in your site for posterity :)



Dear Avatar,

Intresting points about reading through without being distracted by words or things you might not fully understand to get a 'feel' of a book or even of a document.

I always stop and try to understand everything before I move on, no wonder I always feel that I'm moving 2 steps forward 3 steps back.



Dear Anonymous,

I think it's quite normal and understandable for us to re-read what we didn't understand.

Unlike a lecture, the material is right there so it's quite tempting to 'take two step forwards and one step back'.

Reading through a book and resisting the temptation to re-read was quite helpful to me. Hope it does the same for you.

Thanks for dropping by and please do share with us your experience in trying Speed Reading.


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