Top critical review
172 people found this helpful
on 26 July 2003
I have to confess that I did not complete this book and the course it laid out to improve my speed reading skills. However, I can claim that by following the advice in the first few instructional chapters I did manage to increase my reading speed by 50% using very basic techniques that require little training. However, I found that the huge leaps the book made in the subsequent chapters were daunting and perhaps only attainable by those with a real conviction to improve their reading speed (my conquest, on the other hand, was based more on curiousity than self-improvement).
What follows is a brief description of the organisation and layout of the book. If you are after a final conclusion please skip to the end : )
It starts off with a bit of background on speed reading and affirms that anybody can easily master 1000 words per minute. In various chapters it introduces various bits on psychology and the science behind speed reading that are interesting on their own and are presumeably there to make you believe that increased speeds are simply a product of knowing how to access, understand and use these parts of your brain/mind.
There is also a brief section on famous speed readers that the author obviously intends to inspire you with: Tony makes out that we can all have a photographic memories like Magliabechi, an assumption I find difficult to quantify.
As far as the actual advice goes, instructions are laid out clearly and following each section and a brief practice, there is a test designed to analyse your reading speed, the progress of which you can track on a graph in the back of the book. However, the greatest misconception regarding high reading speeds is that any increase in speed is associated with a drop in the level of comprehension. For this reason, each speed test is accompanied by a multiple choice test to gauge your understanding of the text. Whilst this is the simplest way of assessing comprehension in the form of a book that can be easily followed in another graph in the back, I don't believe this to be a scientifically valid way to measure knowledge since the options help stir memories and hence it is a lot easier to remember specific facts.
In reality, even after following the advice in the book, I still find myself having to read a line several times to remember a key fact or more frequently, pausing to write it down (since for me, this usually involves remembering several dates of different statutes or specific chains of events). In other words I am tempted to disagree that at higher reading speeds comprehension is increased (since mine remained consistently above 90% over the different reading tests in both preliminary tests and those following the advice given in the book).
Another complaint I have to make is that in the later stages of the book (the parts that put me off) you are asked to practise the new, more difficult skills in a book you will set aside specifically for practising your skills. However, the author makes no mention of the type of book you should read: fiction/non-fiction, size of book/text, should you have previously read it or not? There are all number of points in the book saying why each of the above may have a profound effect on reading speed so to skip this crucial advice seems a major mistake and partly why I stopped (that, and my own inability to rarely complete anything I start for myself).
Skipping past the more advanced reading skills and on to the end of the book, there are a number of more useful chapters with instructions on how to appreciate literature and poetry whilst reading at quicker speeds, how to read newspapers and magazines quicker and other sundry skills sich as reviewing, skimming and scanning which again require a lot of practice to master and whose definitions are not particularly clear themselves!
In conclusion, despite my somewhat negative review, there are workable and easy to understand principles that everyone can employ and many more that perhaps the more determined speed reader or self improvement fanatic can pursue (although I cannot give testemony to the quality of the latter) with enough psychological discussion to entertain and forge the belief that you can improve.