Monday, June 9, 2014

Slow Reading in a Hurried Age

David Mikics, Slow Reading in a Hurried Age. Harvard University Press, 2013. 320 pages. ISBN 978-0-674-72472-3.

I remember several years back when speed reading was a craze. There were all kinds of books, workshops, and courses how to increase the reader's speed. We now have several authors telling us to slow down our speed of reading. Which advice is correct? It depends. It depends on what you are reading. Mortimer Adler and Charles Doren's How to Read a Book taught me that the speed of reading depended on the purposes of reading. For example, you would not read a novel for entertainment at the same speed as you would read a non-fiction book analytically.

David Mikics sees a need for readers to slow down too. His major concern is that in the digital age we are developing certain habits that creates poor readers. His book can be divided into three parts. The first two chapters discuss the negative affects of the digital age and how to respond to it. Chapter three describes fourteen rules to make us a better reader. The last five chapters applies these rules to the reading of different genres: short stories, novels, poetry, drama, and essays.

These are the fourteen rules described by Mikics:
1. Be Patient
2. Ask the Right Questions
3. Identify the Voice
4. Get a Sense of Style
5. Notice Beginnings and Endings
6. Identify Signposts
7. Use the Dictionary
8. Track Key Words
9. Find the Author's Basic Thought
10. Be Suspicious
11. Find the Parts
12. Write it Down
13. Explore Different Paths
14. Find Another Book

These rules are helpful in helping the reader to be better readers. The first two chapters does present some dangers to deep reading in the digital age. For example, the author notes, "This book will teach any interested person how to be a good and careful reader, a slow reader, even in the age of the Internet. The Internet fosters light reading: we scan and graze, searching for tidbits" (3). I think there is truth in what Mikics is saying. In some sense, the digital age creates different kinds of readers. Reading a good book is an education in itself. One good book leads to other good books.

I still think Adler and Doren's How to Read a Book is still essential. It is a book I will read again. Two other books I like on reading is by two Christian authors: Lit!:A Christian Guide to Reading Books by Tony Reinke, and How to Read Slowly: Reading for Comprehension by James W. Sire. All three of these books I highly recommend. Adler's book mainly covers reading Non-fiction books. Reinke and Sire cover both fiction and non-fiction. Sire does a good job in teaching the reader how to read poetry.

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