Sunday Morning Muse with Speed Reading

I read entirely too fast. I’ve done this all of my life, with novels, finishing book after book in short order. I bring 5 or 6 novels with me for a week at the beach, and often buy another 1-2 while I am there. Reading fast is not always a good thing, it is costly for one thing and has left me almost buried in books wherever I live. In school I was always able to cram the night before for tests, but not always able to deeply engage with what I was reading.

My work life also enforces the habit. Working in medicine, I have to read pages and pages of other providers’ medical notes, lab reports, images, and whatnot, without much time to do more than get the gist of what is being conveyed, so I can be knowledgable enough to do my part for the patient. In a 20 minute visit. And then go on to the next patient. I am all too aware that the speed-reading approach to medicine is not good for provider or patient. We make mistakes when we don’t have enough time to think and read carefully. To listen carefully and ask questions before making decisions that affect others.

When the pressure of too-much-to-read spills over onto a Sunday, I tend to scan emails rather than reading them carefully. And I make some very dumb mistakes. For example, I fulfill orders for my press, and this week, while at work, I responded to a customer’s problem with her order, by sending an apology to a different customer, creating considerable confusion for both of us. Or when someone refers to a conversation I should remember, but actually don’t. Stupidly, instead of back-tracking or asking for clarification, I jump in with assumptions that often create discord or confusion.

A significant exception to my speed reading habit is when it comes to poetry and particularly reviewing a book of poems. When I review a book, I read slowly and carefully. I make notes. I re-read. Reviewing is teaching me the absolutete value of close reading. A lesson I sorely need to learn. To practice.

I just want to say, when it comes to everything else, I’m going to try to do better.

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4 Responses to Sunday Morning Muse with Speed Reading

  1. Martha Rosen says:

    One of the great things about being retired – in my experience – is that I have not only time to read things I want to read (as opposed to those things I have to read) but also time to read thoughtfully. I now know a great deal more than I did 4 years ago about what is important to me in the books I read.

  2. sbunch@ku.edu says:

    For me, one of the tests of poetry is whether I’m drawn to read and re-read the poem. A good book of poems will take days, even weeks, to read. And of course I return year after year to some of those books. And yes, retirement (and knee surgery) has opened up more time for thoughtful reading.

  3. Thanks Steve, I hope retirement will slow me down a bit too. But not too much! Hope the knee is meding!

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