The art of reading


“To learn to read, you must first read very slowly and then you have to read very slowly and keep doing so, until the last book that will have the honour to be read by you, you should read it very slowly.  You should read slowly to enjoy a book as well as to learn something from it or to make a critique of it.

Flaubert used to say, “Ah, these men of the seventeenth century! How well they knew Latin! How slowly they read!” Even if you do not have the intention of writing yourself, you should read slowly, no matter what, always wondering whether you understood the passage well and always pondering over the question, does the author really want to convey this idea or does it spur from myself? ”

L'Art de Lire

L’Art de Lire

“Pour apprendre à lire, il faut d’abord lire très lentement et ensuite il faut lire très lentement et, toujours, jusqu’au dernier livre qui aura l’honneur d’être lu par vous, il faudra lire très lentement. Il faut lire aussi lentement un livre pour en jouir que pour s’instruire par lui ou le critiquer. Flaubert disait :”Ah, ces hommes du XVIIe siècle ! Comme ils savaient le latin ! Comme ils lisaient lentement !” Même sans dessein d’écrire soi-même, il faut lire avec lenteur, quoi que ce soit, en se demandant toujours si l’on a bien compris et si l’idée que vous venez de recevoir est bien celle de l’auteur et non la vôtre.”

extrait de L’art de lire par Emile Faguet, première publication en 1911, réédité par Armand Colin éditeur, Paris, 1992.

The Speed Reading Book

The Speed Reading Book

“When I was 14, my class was given a battery of tests to measure our mental skills.

Concealed among them was a speed reading test. A few weeks later we were given our results, and I found that I had scored an average of 213 words per minute (wpm). My first reaction was elation, because 213 sounded like a lot! However, my joy did not last long, for our teacher soon explained that 200 wpm was fairly average, and that the fastest student in the class had scored 314 wpm – just over 100 wpm faster than my average score.(…)

By learning about the miracle of my eyes and the extraordinary capacity of my brain, I not only increased my speed, comprehension and memory; I also found myself able to think faster and more creatively, to make better notes, to pass exams with relative ease, to study more successfully, and to save days, weeks and even months of my time.”

extract from The Speed Reading Book by Tony Buzan, first published in 1971, reprinted 2007 twice, London, by BBC Active.

Two different approaches and ultimately two different philosophies of reading. Pros and cons to either one? Do you practice one or the other? Which do you prefer?

Granted, the Art of Reading was first published in 1911 and The Speed Reading Book in 1971. In sixty years, much has changed. Granted. And yet… The former conveys reading as a deligthful, joyful process, as a process where you learn from, as a process where you grow from. The latter conveys a numerical, mechanical process. Numbers. Quantity. Not much quality.


Read slowly… In the rat race world we live in, I take delight and savour the joy that reading procures, only by reading this paragraph.

But is that enough to shun The Speed Reading Book and tuck it away in the bookshelf? Hmmm… not so quickly. I will choose a middle way type of answer and say it can be interesting and sometimes useful to master some speed reading techniques to read, say, technical books faster. However, generally speaking, you would rather see me sticking to the old school of thought. So much so that I read The Art of Reading with great pleasure whereas The Speed Reading Book is still lingering on my pile of books to be read…


Deux approches, deux philosophies différentes de la lecture. Y voyez-vous les avantages et les inconvénients de l’une et l’autre ? Pratiquez-vous l’une ou l’autre? Laquelle préférez-vous?

Certes, L‘art de la lecture a d’abord été publié en 1911 et The Speed Reading Book en 1971. En soixante ans, les choses ont changé. Soit. Et pourtant … Le premier évoque la lecture comme un processus joyeux, délectable, un processus où l’on apprend quelque chose, un processus d’où l’on sort grandi. Le dernier évoque des chiffres, la lecture semblant être un procédé purement mécanique. Des chiffres. De la quantité. Guère de qualité.


Lire lentement…  je me délecte et savoure le plaisir que la lecture procure à chacun, rien que par la lecture de ce paragraphe.

Mais est-ce suffisant pour regarder The Speed Reading Book de travers et vite le ranger dans la bibliothèque? Hmmm … pas si vite. Je me prononce pour le genre de réponse type voie du milieu et dirais qu’il peut être intéressant et parfois utile de maîtriser certaines techniques de lecture rapide pour lire plus vite, par exemple, des livres techniques. Cependant, en général, je m’en tiens à l’ancienne école. Tant et si bien que j’ai lu L’art de lire avec grand plaisir tandis que The Speed Reading Book traîne dans ma pile… des livres à lire.


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