Monday, March 23, 2015

I'm Alive and I Talk About Skim Reading

A Splash of Ink has experienced quite a lull this past month. If you follow me on Twitter, you'll have heard from me, but I haven't been posting. I've been writing, but not writing anything particularly fun. As any university student knows, the last month of the semester (i.e. November and March) are crazy. All the papers are due and all the tests are happening. So that's where I've been. I don't believe in apologizing about my blog, but I wanted to give you guys a bit of an explanation.

But thankfully, I'm back! Although, the posting might continue to be a bit spotty over the next few weeks.
Imagine this is your brain when you're skim reading
Today I want to share a few thoughts on skim reading -by skim reading I mean reading quickly through passages and skipping over others entirely. I'm writing a paper on it for one of my English classes, so I've been mulling it over.

Do you skim read?

I never ever skim read novels. Even if they're incredibly boring, I either quit or if I really must know the ending, I suffer till I get to the end. I have friends who can just skim over the boring parts, and I wish I could too, but I never can. I'm too afraid I'll miss a crucial part of the story.

However, with non-fiction, it's a completely different story (no pun intended, haha). A non-fiction book has to be really good for me to read every word. If you've been reading SOI for awhile, you'll know that I am a strong defender of reading non-fiction and every once and awhile write a post featuring some non-fic books. Here's a secret: with the exceptions of memoirs (or any other linear work), I rarely read the entire book. On average I read about 70-90% of a non-fiction book. I skim read.

And I wondered to myself why do I read so differently in fiction and non-fiction genres.

With fiction, I intend to get lost in the story. I certainly have expectations on what the story will be about, but I don't skip over parts that don't fit into my expectations. For example, if I want to read a romance novel, I don't skip over all the scenes with the best friend or the sidekick because they aren't romantic. That sounds utterly ridiculous. As a reader, I think I'm aware that all the scenes matter in creating the main character. How the MC behaves with the friend will add meaning to how they behave with the love interest. With fiction, I'm more aware of how all the parts build on each other to send a common message and create the story.

With non-fiction, I come to the text with an agenda to fill; I know what I want to get from the text. For example, if I pick up a how-to-write book I'm going to skip over the dialogue sections and go straight to description, because that's where I need instruction. I know what areas I want to read about and what I want to "learn" from the text. Sometimes this is a conscious act and other times it happens more organically as I read. I seem to value the building up of book as I do in fiction.

I don't think that skim reading is necessarily bad. In fact, when you have a lot of assigned reading and not enough time, sometimes you have to skim read for the main ideas. But it's important to acknowledge that skim reading doesn't give you the fullest reading of a text. In my experience, when I bring my own agenda to a text, I close myself off to the bigger and better ideas that a text could be offering; that is the danger of skim reading. 

How about you? Are you a skim reader? Do you support it? Have you been "forced" to skim read by reading obligations (ARC reviews, school, book club etc.)? I'm really interested to hear your experiences in the comments!

Reading: Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
Listening: Rusty Clanton
Watching: Gilmore Girls
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