Read with more Speed

According to this page at the Virginia Tech Student Affairs website, "almost anyone can double his speed of reading while maintaining equal or even higher comprehension." Most adults are able to increase their rate of reading considerably and rather quickly without lowering comprehension. These same individuals seldom show an increase in comprehension when they reduce their rate. In other cases, comprehension is actually better at higher rates of speed. Such results, of course, are heavily dependent upon the method used to gain the increased rate. Simply reading more rapidly without actual improvement in basic reading habits usually results in lowered comprehension. A well planned program prepares for maximum increase in rate by establishing the necessary conditions. Four basic conditions include: 1) Have your eyes checked. 2) Eliminate the habit of pronouncing words as you read. 3) Avoid regressing (rereading). 4) Develop a wider eye-span. To check your own reading speed and comprehension, check out the nifty site (and $20 speed improvement software) at www.ReadingSoft.com

Visit the Virginia Tech Speed Reading Site

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Feature

Finding the Way to Your Well-Read Life

A conversation with Steve Leveen
So many books, so little time…

Most everyone agrees that the commodity they’d most like to have more of is TIME. For book lovers, any extra time gained would likely be spent reading. But imagine you did receive a gift of extra reading time. How would you compile your “dream list” of books to read? How would you avoid wasting your precious time on “unworthy” books?

Author Steve Leveen says the secret is to know how to fall -— and stay —- in “book love.” “That's easy to do, once you give yourself permission to read your way,” says the self-avowed book lover and CEO and co-founder of Levenger, the mail order source of “Tools for Serious Readers.” In The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life, slated for May ‘05 release, Leveen explains that a well-read life is much more than how many or even which books you read. Rather, it has everything to do with a life well-lived.

 "Do not set out to live a well-read life but rather to live your well-read life,” says Leveen. “No one can be well-read using someone else's reading list. Unless a book is good for you, you won't connect with it and gain from it. Just as no one can tell you how to lead your life, no one can tell you what to read for your life."

Books like superstar librarian Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust (Sasquatch 2004) and the upcoming More Book Lust, each with some 1,000 recommendations may be helpful starting points, especially for those with eclectic tastes to satisfy. Pearl includes book lists on 150 topics as diverse as Animal Love and Parenting.

But, says Leveen, it’s all about knowing how to find the books that speak to your interests, passions and desires. It’s about giving up on a book and moving on with no guilt. For many it’s about discovering the full power of audiobooks. But mainly it’s about learning how to become an active reader: becoming the athlete rather than the spectator.

”Being well read is all about being in book love today, tomorrow, next week and always,” he says. “It’s that state you find yourself in when you can’t wait to get back to the book you’re reading—those books that keep you up at night and nudge you awake in the morning.”

When confronted with complaints about the familiar barrier of time, and finding time to read, Leveen says you need to get motivated and find ways to make time.

“Think about what it’s like to be in romantic love and what happens to your schedule when you are. Book love is similar: it makes it easy to find the time, because that time finds you. In your heart, you know it’s the most important thing you’re doing.”

But what if they’re not really in love -- or even lust -— with books? How do readers find books they can fall in love with?

“The secret is to actively choose your books,” says Leveen. “Most people are rather passive in their book selection: they may have a handful of books to read, but it’s generally a haphazard collection. I advocate a fundamentally different approach, where you look into yourself and identify your interests and passions. Then you search out the best books to fuel those interests and passions.”

For example, Leveen recommends that readers keep a List of Candidates rather than a reading list. Why? Because a reading list carries a sense of obligation, like lists assigned to students, whereas a List of Candidates carries this important difference: you have the freedom of never having to read the book.

“We should have scores—better yet, hundreds—of candidates on our lists, connected to our interests and passions,” he says. “Otherwise, we risk being caught in a devolving reading experience, where the books aren’t that great and our reading languishes. I was caught in this stage for many years. When you make a List of Candidates that you’re excited about, your reading life and your whole life zoom up to a higher level.”

At Levenger reading workshops, participants receive a list of permissions (see end of article), one of which is to give yourself permission to give up on books that don’t speak to you. Leveen finds it ironic that we often give up on people faster than we’ll give up on a book!

“Think of being at a cocktail party,” he says. “If the first person you talk to strikes you as a bore, do you keep talking to them for the whole party because you started with them? Why should it be any different with books?”

Conversely, Leveen is adamant about sharing book experiences with others, making and taking book recommendations with friends, and generally sharing and connecting with other people. He suggests joining book discussion groups, believing in the capacity a group has to stretch the individual, and in how a great dialogue can elevate a book to a new level for the reader. He started his own group, consisting of a dozen guys who call themselves The World of Mules Book Group, after that Ogden Nash couplet: “In the world of mules, there are no rules.” The men meet once every other month at a restaurant, and so far have discussed non-fiction books only.

Leveen worries that some people deny themselves the pleasures of reading in order to accomplish other goals. In fact, he had done this himself, while building his company. Ironically, he’d been a “purveyor of tools for serious readers” for 18 years but didn’t really consider himself a serious reader until a couple of years ago. What caused the breakthrough?

“I can answer that in one word: audiobooks. I suddenly found myself having the means to read serious books during otherwise uni-task time -— when I was driving or washing the dishes. I started with novels by Frederick Forsyth and then found David McCullough. I was hooked—addicted—in head-over-heels book love.”

Some may ask: Can listening to audiobooks really be considered reading? An emphatic YES, says Leveen.

“We tend to view reading as a silent, visual activity, so listening feels as if we’re cheating,” he says. “And audiobooks seem like modern interlopers into the classic world of books. Yet storytelling predates printed books. The first stories were spoken, not written, and the first books were designed to be read aloud. Once you listen to a book, you realize you can grasp inflections and nuances that escape you in print and can sometimes absorb much more of what the author had in mind.”

Leveen is also an advocate of reading more than one book at a time, explaining that people have more than one mood or interest in a given time period. Some books may take you more than a year to read, but so what? In his book he includes tips for previewing books, not only to determine their worthiness, but to increase comprehension by creating places to put the facts and ideas to come. Retention is also increased by spending time with the book after you’ve read it, thinking about it and letting its effects percolate through your mind. “Savoring them in a deliberate way is the secret for getting far more out of your books and retaining the information for long periods. It’s bringing out the colors and fixing them as in an oil painting, rather than letting them wash away like colored chalk on a sidewalk.”

“All across America there are millions of smart, capable people living in the shadow of books. I was one. My life changed from black and white to color when I seized my well-read life. And you can accomplish this with some simple techniques. It’s like driving a car -— it’s a mystery until you do it a few times. I’m hoping that this book will help by offering practical techniques for people to reach a higher level in their lives, more quickly and with more confidence.”

“I have great respect for people’s ability to seize the lives they know in their bones is available to them. They just need an invitation to the dance, a hug, and a bit of friendly advice. I want to share what I’ve learned so that others can become the readers they want to be, and live their larger lives.”

* * * * *

The Little Guide To Your Well-Read Life
by Steve Leveen
Levenger Press, ISBN: 1929154178
May, 2005; 132 pgs; $17.50 Hardcover Five Nearly Foolproof Ways to Read More of the Books that Bring the Most Pleasure

1. Apply the 50-page rule and know when to fold them. Don’t finish books that don’t hold your interest by page 50. Fold them shut and move on.

2. Treat book like wine and taste lots of them. The more you sample and know what books you enjoy the more likely you are to find time to enjoy them.

3. Don’t keep a reading list (surprise!). Do keep a List of Candidates. First identify the many categories of interest in your life, both personal and professional. Then seek out the books that can help you learn and enjoy more about those various interests. Now you’re using reading to help fulfill goals that you have. And you’ll have a much broader list of candidate books to read as a result.

4. Get a reading on a book before you commit to reading it. You test-drive a car before you buy it; preview a book before you read it. Peruse the table of contents to see how the subject matter is presented. Read the author’s bio to get a sense of who will be speaking to you. Scan the index, if there is one, to get an idea of the topics covered. Skim the introduction, and then the opening paragraphs of each chapter. Once you’ve kicked the tires, you’ll know better whether to continue the drive.

5. Read with your ears. Audiobooks are one of the best ways to read more books in the same amount of time. Most audiophiles risten (an amalgam of read and listen) to at least one book a month. That means you can easily read 12 more books a year.

And one more…

Recognize that if you love to read, you live to read. Reading is as essential to your well-being as food and exercise. Your well-read life is your pathway to a life well lived.

* * * * *

Practicing Permission-Based Reading: Lose the Guilt, Gain More Lasting Enjoyment

A well-read life as presented in The Little Guide is based on giving yourself permission to read in ways that will satisfy your desire for having more books and getting more from them.

The first 10 permissions

1. Permission to love, or not love, any book whatsoever.
2. Permission to read only books that you love.
3. Permission to give up on a book.
4. Permission to read more than one book at a time.
5. Permission to buy a book and never read it.
6. Permission to write in your books.
7. Permission to read with your ears as well as you eyes.
8. Permission to read a classic, for the first time, much later in life.
9. Permission to linger in a library even if you prefer to buy books.
10. Permission to spend as much on books as you do on other great passions of your life.

Permission is now granted for readers to add their won rules for how they wish to read

11. ____________________________________________

12. ____________________________________________

Etc. ___________________________________________

Adapted from The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life by Steve Leveen.


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