I’m a relatively fast reader, whether of fiction or non-fiction. With fiction, I find that I generally skim ahead of where I’m scanning, since I usually see a page or so at a time while actually scanning line-by-line. *shrugs* It took me many years to realize I was doing it, but after the initial stumblings caused by becoming consciously aware of what I was doing, I eventually just fell back into doing it absent-mindedly again.
Stories really move along for me. . . except when the author throws a wrench in the works with some subliterate crap, completely stupid description, or idiotic idea that derails my suspension of disbelief. But that’s a “whole nother post” as it were. (Excuse my use of “nother” or don’t. I DGARA. No one’s paying me to write this, you know. *heh*)
With non-fiction, another mechanism slides into play. Along with the “skim ahead” mechanism, nearly 50 years ago I began integrating the “SQ3R” (Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review) technique into my non-fiction reading, and the technique has become almost second nature by now. It fits really well with my skimming facility and enhances recollection and understanding.
Add to that the lil thingy that I really enjoy doing (very) amateur word-sleuthing and “etymologizing,” and just flat know a lot of words (too much time as a youth spent reading dictionaries for fun)and can figure out most that I do not know based on familiarity with a few–mostly Romance, though one classical and a couple others–languages and the context in which a word has been used, and reading even otherwise dull tomes is fun for me. . . if they’re written by someone who is literate.
Still, even with a decent reading speed and comprehension, so very, very many books are being added daily to the potential reading list of books already written, that some winnowing skills are essential for any active reader. Here’s a rough outline of how I approach purchasing another book.
Does the subject matter, whether fiction or non-fiction, interest me. This isn’t really all that limiting, since my range of interests is pretty wide, but it does cut off some areas. Social sciences are mostly voodoo, so unless a book has a really good “hook,” I’ll give it a pass. Fiction? Oh, so-called “romance” crap is, urm, not for me. Otherwise, any genre except so-called “literary” crap will do. (I actively abhor typical “literary” works that have been shat out since somewhere around the turn of the 20th Century. Yes, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote crap. So did James Joyce. Pick any one of the other “lit-uh-rah-ree” writers of the 20th Century. Probably crap.)
So, does the subject matter interest me.
What are the first few pages like? How does page 50 read? If a book fails to come up to snuff in the first few pages, I’ll turn to page 50—just a page number I selected many years ago—and see if it’s any better. If not, buh-bye!
What are the reviews like? No, not how many raves or pans but what do the reviews actually say? If a book has many rave reviews but the reviews are hash written either by idiots who are “lit-rah-chure” snobs or illiterate boobs, I’m likely to give the book a pass. If the pans are written by either of those classes, I’m likely to give it a chance. Think about it.
Even given application that general, loose selection process, if I buy a book and try to read it but find myself unsold by anywhere from 25%-50% through, anymore I’ll just ashcan it. There’s not enough time to waste it on reading crap. Oh, if it’s BAD ENOUGH crap, I might finish it, but I’ll compile a list of the author’s sins along the way and might even post a scathing review of it, complete with mocking diatribe pointing out some of the author’s worst sins. So far, though, I have only written one review where I told the author to JUST STOP WRITING! In most reviews of badly-written books, I have stopped short of that and simply counseled those writers to enroll in remedial English courses immediately after beating any proofreaders or editors they had employed with a brickbat.
Really: I just don’t want to waste my time and energy on crappy books. I have too much else to do to pollute the 7-10 books a week I do finish with crap writing. (But when the train wreck’s horrific enough. . . heh)
Sidebar: BTW, I don’t consider myself to be really literate. No, my standard for that would be my paternal grandfather. Although he attained only a two-year college degree, his breadth and depth of reading was amazing. No, he had very, very little reading of 20th Century “serious lit-rah-chure” under his belt, but he could recite whole books of pre-20th Century poets’ works, as but one small example of his readings. And he remained, until into his 90s, an active devourer of significant works in subjects ranging from philosophy to various scientific inquiry to economic and more. (And put that knowledge to good use arranging his finances, for one thing.)
And he was also the best handyman/carpenter I have ever known. And until his late 70s, brought at least one deer to the freezer every year.