How do you read?

Seems to me there are two types of book readers out there. ThatOneWife is a voracious reader. She reads in concepts, and consumes books as if they were Twinkies. I wish I was like her in that regard, along with a whole host of other regards, while we're at it.

She, I believe, has read more than 15 books this summer. She reads in paragraphs, and quickly distills the main point, and moves on to the next. People like this MAKE ME CRAZY. They read unbelievably fast.

And on the other hand, I read, in my mind, as if the text is taking place before my mind's eye. Conversation, or parts of the text that are "spoken" are read in my mind how they would be spoken, with whatever accent is required by the character, at the pace the character would actually be saying the words. This makes for a VERY long "screen-play" playing out in my head, and I view a book as a "movie for the mind."

I picked up four or five books to read over the summer - I've gotten through one of them, and have started two others - one of which I will finish, one I probably won't, at least for now. The one I finished, "The Brief History of the Dead," was pretty good, but I could have come up with a different ending, a better one. But it was pretty good.

While I CAN read the other way, it takes way too much concentration for me to do it, and I rarely get through a page or two before I start imagining the character, what he looks like, where he is, what he is thinking instead of saying, silently speaking his text into the movie playing in my noggin.

I guess that makes me a visual learner. That is something I knew about myself a VERY long time ago. I had trouble in school (in the olden days) because teachers didn't know how to deal with me, and I sometimes got left behind in non-visual things - like math - it was my worst subject, and I took only enough of it to get me through the requirements for whatever education I was pursuing at the time. Since then though, I have developed a sharp mind for numbers. I guess that's a good thing, since I work in a numbers-related field now.

Oddly though, my earlier career pursuits were all in the "visual" realm: Music, art, graphic design, etc. But I decided relatively late that making a living in this type of arena is a difficult process. It is true that 90% of the money to be made there is made by 10% of the people doing it. To be part of that 10% requires sacrifices I was unwilling to make. I decided that trying to have a steady income, raise a family, etc., was difficult when your success is determined by a subjective opinion (often by morons) of whether they like what you did.

Success is easier when it is either black or white. The results of a numbers calculation either work or they don't - there's no subjectivity involved. Since I've come to that realization, my life has been better, and I have had success.

I've also come to the realization that you don't necessarily HAVE to do your PASSION for your career. I have musical passions that are fed by my HOBBIES, not by my 9-5 work day. And for me, that is satisfying. There are those who repeat the old adage that I am hiding my talent under a basket. To them I say, "sniff my bicycle seat."

My talents bring me great joy, appreciation, happiness, passion. And what I choose to do with them satisfies me, and that's good enough for me. Sure, I'd love to be a professional musician, or an artist, or an author. But YOU try doing that, and raising a large family, making the mortgage payment, meeting all your other obligations, and still being able to spend TIME with your family. There's a reason they're called "starving musicians and artists."

So, that's not necessarily where this post was originally headed, but I'm just sayin'.


Dillhole said...

I totally agree with you on the reading thing. We of the X-gen (or W-gen if there could be such a thing) were all schooled that if you don't read EACH WORD of a book, you haven't read it. That is of course incorrect. After MUCH re-training, it is possible to teach yourself to scan a paragraph and get the jist of it.

Remember that freak on TV years ago that could read a 50 page section of a book in less than a minute? He'd make two or three fairly quick passes across and down each page with his hand as he read, remember? He could tell you what happened in those pages just fine. He definitely did not read every single word on every single page.

It's tough to let go of the voice reading to you inside your head, but it's worth it.

I mostly read technical manuals for pleasure and therefore I need to see every word, so it's even tougher to switch modes when I decide it's time to de-geek myself for a while.


for what it's worth said...

I read like ThatOneWife. I have always been reaaly quick at reading, even orally. That's what the kids used to love at school...when they could find me a book with lots of language 'twists' to see if they could mess me up.
I can scan an very quickly intepret the information as thus too. Perhaps it was because my mother taught me how to read, not the school. And she always read by scanning and had 100% comprehension.

That One Guy said...

Frankly, although I wish I could read more books faster, I do quite enjoy the way I read... visually.

goes back to my visual learning platform - it's the way I'm wired.

Reach Upward said...

Is the difference in reading styles a gender-related issue?

My lovely wife consumes books by the stack, while I labor over each word. But my long-term memory of what I read seems to be better. Like TOG, I see a movie being played out in my head as I read, and it requires the reading of nearly every word to deeply and richly flesh out the whole experience. I'm almost afraid to miss something -- some nuance or detail that impacts the experience.

I have received formal training in speed reading, but I have never been able to catch on. When I use the techniques I've learned, I feel out of control and stressed. It's not an enjoyable experience.

I, too, was lousy at math in school. And then I had a career as an accountant and became quite sharp at applied math. Nowadays I regularly write fairly complex algorithms in my computer programs. But if I want a dose of humility, all I have to do is sit down to help my 8th grader with his math, and suddenly I'm stupid in junior high all over again. I still can't get the theoretical math thing very well.