Skim, Sample, Savor – What’s Your Pleasure?

March 5, 2012

Woody Allen used to quip: “I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.”
As someone who has trudged dutifully through the first half of the Brothers Karamazov about three times, eventually getting as mired down as Napoleon’s troops advancing toward Moscow, I can certainly relate to the modern multitasker’s hope to apply a fast food approach to gourmet literature.  But the reason Allen’s joke hits home is that deep down we know some works deserve a lot more than a cursory eye-dart, or we might as well not bother at all.  Others might lend themselves quite well to a distractable hypertext approach.  The trick is to make this distinction in the less obvious cases.
Speed reading can be an excellent professional tool if applied well. We know we don’t have time to drink in hundreds of titles at leisure.  Sampling for mood, writing style, and basic plot can be effective, but mysteries with intricate, interwoven plots seem to demand all or nothing attention.  Personally I think skimming and sampling can help where thorough reading would become a chore. We need a taste to appreciate others’ tastes, but reading that much more of what we really like, then sharing enthusiastically with readers with quite different tastes, probably gets us further than choking down a disliked genre, topic, author, or style. What reading methods do you all use?

Hm…

My savor title: The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale – click image for catalog entry
Cover image
My skim title: Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America by Leslie Knope (aka Amy Poehler) – click image for catalog entry
        Cover image
posted by Darren
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2 Responses to “Skim, Sample, Savor – What’s Your Pleasure?”

  1. Jeanne Says:

    Interestingly enough, the first reader review I saw for Pawnee said “Savoring this book was out of the question. The only answer was to eat up each page voraciously and then feel sorry for myself when I reached the end …”

    Neither you nor this reviewer think you would savor this book, but for obviously different reasons…

    Personally, I savor rather than skim. But my problem is that I don’t have a good enough memory to be able to share savory details about a title with anyone. So anyone listening to me describe a book could easily assume I had just skimmed it. Sigh…

  2. David Says:

    Then there’s this recent problem noted in the New York Times:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/05/business/media/e-books-on-tablets-fight-digital-distractions.html?_r=1

    Too many distractions available on non-dedicated e-readers!


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