I’ve always been a slow reader. Having aphantasia (which I’m sure will come up in other posts as I work through some of the more related books in my queue), I never really got much out of reading as a child, so it wasn’t something I did much. I didn’t read textbooks much because I tended to retain information from lectures and discussions extremely well, allowing me to do well on tests. I’ve really only read very much non-fiction, and heavily utilize rather dry reference materials. It has only been recently that I’ve been trying to increase the volume and breadth of reading I do, motivated by the many things I want to learn about and ways in which I would like to improve myself – largely stemming from my masonically motivated pursuits and interests.
While the 24 hours referenced in the title of this book might be a tad ambitious, I can say that the tools presented in this book have given some immediate improvements to my reading speed.
To be frank, the writing isn’t great. There are a lot of poorly supported statements, ideas that could be much more clearly and concisely worded, redundancy, and a lot of fluff that could have been omitted, making for an even faster read. That said, the book still had really good information and instruction.
Among the most important instruction in the book is that about HOW to read for different purposes. Do you want to get the actual language of what you’re reading, such as in poetry, are you reading to gain general ideas and concepts, or are you after just specific ideas relating to particular keywords. The book presents some great information and insights about how to read to efficiently accomplish these goals – something we’re not generally taught in school. Descriptions and techniques are presented for reading, skimming, and scanning, as well as other tools for finding just the portions of information relevant to your reason for reading.
There are also some good exercises for improving eye speed, peripheral vision (used in chunking – reading multiple words per fixation), and ways to relax your eyes when they’ve been strained.
There’s also other more tangential information about the history of speed reading, health and lifestyle considerations to maximize focus and retention, and applications for speed reading. These sections comprise most of the fluff and redundancy.
As with any useful skill, speed reading takes practice, and it is something I’m only just beginning to play with. I’m far from competent with any of the specialized tools presented, but even after a quick readthrough I find myself with some improvement in speed and some useful tools for reading effectively.
Masonic education doesn’t stop when we leave the lodge. We are to study our work and learn the ritual, we are to study the liberal arts and sciences, and we are to study in general. Lodge education should be a strong component of a good lodge meeting, but we must study ourselves in order to make use of masonic education to its fullest. The study of history, philosophy, language, religion, psychology and social sciences, and many other topics will help inform our understanding of masonic lessons, which will make it more rewarding an enriching for us, and will allow us to contribute to the education of our brothers.
The study of masonic texts themselves can also provide more direct masonic light than we could hope to get just from within lodge. Reading masonic books allows us to receive information from brothers from times past or from different places, and with different backgrounds and viewpoints, perhaps more divergent from our own than those of the brothers we sit in lodge with (another great reason for masonic travel as well, by the way). Learning in this way can give us insights worthy of sharing with our brothers as well, which is a nice opportunity to give back to the lodge.
The idea of this (Non-)Masonic Book Review series of posts is to take a look at books from all sorts of genres and see what can be extracted and applied to Freemasonry, or how the ideas can be coupled with those from Freemasonry for an enriched Masonic experience or personal development. In most cases the ideas in the books are extrapolated upon from my own personal experience in the craft. These reviews are not necessarily endorsements of the books (as tastes may vary), but are an attempt to extract value from them for a Masonic audience. This content is my own and is not endorsed by nor necessarily representative of my or any other Grand Lodge or other Masonic body.