There are multiple styles of reading. You might read a comic magazine while passing time on the toilet, you might read a fiction book in your sparetime, or you might read a scientific article that has usage in your professional life or study. All require different reading styles and different degrees of concentration. I rarely read anything else than either scientific articles or non-fiction books. Unlike my dad whom have read every crime fiction story known to man, I’ve never read more than maybe a handful. I don’t enjoy them. I would rather watch a good fictional story than I would read one I guess. The featured picture is from my Instagram profile matkjeldsen, and as you can see all books are either non-fiction or biographies.
Skimming – or gist reading – is something all of us do. It enables the reader to get a gist of what the content contains at the most rudimentary level, and is a technique often used while either reading magazines at the hairdresser or newspapers on the train. I used to do this quite a lot when riding the train to work, since the trains in Denmark always contains a magazine – I would read the headlines, see the pictures and read through the articles jumping from phrase to phrase just to get a quick glance at what the article dealt with. It would often enable me to paraphrase the article over lunch for my colleagues and often gave me something to talk about.
Overall it is nothing fancy, and when skimming magazines and articles like this you won’t be able to get a comprehensive understanding of the content, why your understanding will never go beyond superficial. This is now how you pass courses on your studies.
If you want to pass courses on your studies, you need to read your curriculum intensively. This requires you to have a clear aim in mind when you start your reading, i.e. consciously thinking about what you need to get out of the paper/article, before you start reading. If your professor is sweet or if the book is student friendly, he, she or it might have listed a bunch of questions that you should be able to answer after having read the chapter. They basically cleared away the fuzz and gave you the aims of the reading. I’ve never been able to undertake proper intensive reading while on the train or on the go in general – I need to be locked up in either my apartment or in the library, with the phone hidden and Facebook closed. Intensive reading is demanding and generally fries your brain within a couple of hours. Don’t think otherwise. You might post pictures on Instagram bragging that you’ve been studying for 8 hour straight, but you haven’t. You went for coffee, had a smoke, went to the toilet, snapchatted your friends, had lunch, scrolled through Instagram, scrolled through Facebook and ‘zoned out’ numerous times throughout those 8 hours. It would be much more beneficial to knew your limitations and would be honest with yourself. I would never book myself in a library for more than 3-4 hours. Could I endure that I would be more than satisfied – and I knew that whatever “studying” I did afterwards would be rubbish. Often times it wouldn’t even surpass 2 hours.
And don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t good at this to begin with. I sucked. I didn’t know my limitations, and I would be one of the fools sitting in the library for a whole day not getting anything done for 8 hours and then feel good about my self. Nevertheless, I did conquer the skill in the end of my bachelor’s and maintained it throughout my Master’s – and it is easily visable on my report card. Never have I gotten so many A’s.
Reading for pleasure has been coined extensive reading. Often times, while conducting extensive reading, an element of enjoyment is present, meaning that you appreciate and value the content that you read. Don’t fool yourself – you won’t always enjoy and appreciate reading a scientific article. You might welcome the new knowledge and feel good about gaining access to new scientific material, but you would never go through your whole emotional register while reading a scientific article about the new regulations concerning international transport law. There is a big difference. Reading for pleasure often engages different emotions in your body – if you read fiction you might feel happy for the character when he does something good, and frightened when he experiences a scary situation. When you read non-fiction your emotions might not be tapped into to the same extent as when you read fiction, but it still holds the element of enjoyment. Due to this aspect, it is unlikely that you would finish a book that you find no pleasure in. Reading for pleasure doesn’t require you to answer a bunch of questions afterwards, and the content will not be in a test later on. You don’t need to take notes on your reading (though you are allowed to), and you don’t need to be able to cite the text later on. You’re not forced to write small notes besides a phrase and rehearse the sentence again and again to get it to stick. I once started reading Nietzsche, and soon realized that I had no where near the decoding skills necessary to comprehend his texts. So I just closed it again and found another book. Still passed my exams.
It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.
– Oscar Wilde