For the Sake of Shakespeare, Cross Speedreading out of Your Resolution

Anyone who has tried to build their reading habit has had this one thought, “What if I can read it faster?” and then your mind launches into this dreamy fantasy of you breezing through War and Peace as if it were a boring celebrity magazine with a huge library of books that you’ve finished in the recent years.

It certainly is a sweet fantasy because to be completely honest, reading takes time, a lot of time, the same time that can be spent sleeping, earning money, or hanging out with your family at your back porch.
But should you entertain this fantasy? Should you want to read faster?

I think not. I mean, some things should be sped up for the sake of your sanity, i.e., reading assigned textbooks that were actually written by your professors, but meaningful activities should not be sped up! Do you wish to be at the end of your life, and say with a self-satisfied smile, “Phew, now that’s a quick life. I’m glad I got that over.”

If you have the urge to speed read through your current book, then either you’re reading the wrong way, or the wrong book. It takes time to dig depth and forge intimacy. It doesn’t matter how soon you can breeze through a book, it’s the impact of the book upon your life that counts. Books are not trophy for you to hang upon the wall.

“But I can actually remember the essential information from the book I’ve speed read, so speed reading is not that bad” you said. Well, does that matter? Information can be looked up pretty easily in this age. Books are supposed to make you think, to make you evaluate your life, to see things in a new light. Information gained from books might be enough for you to survive final exams, but to add flavors to your life? That requires more than a few simple hours of leafing through pages. It demands digestion, comparison, and explanation. It demands that you should have an intimate dialogue with the author through the work and ask questions, life-changing questions to your assumptions. And that simply cannot be achieved through speed reading.


Don’t fall into your ego’s trap and try to surf your way through reading just to increase the amount on your “read” list. And if you’re halfway through the trap already, well, ask yourself, of all the hundred books you’ve boasted of having read, how many can you really recall? How many still emits a warmth in your heart just by thinking about it? Because great books? Great books that you’ve thoroughly read on the pages and between the lines? They stay with you. They might not always float through your consciousness, but just like a beautiful childhood memory, they will visit you from time to time and leave a trail of perfume scents on its wake.

“But.. but, this book is too long. It’s 700 pages! How can I possibly enjoy reading it slowly?” you ask. Well, if it’s a great book, you will have to bear it. Great lives have boring period and great books have boring sections. Would you rather read 3 mediocre, plot-driven books that you are likely to forget 2 months from now instead? That’s like wishing to have 3 acquaintances whose names you will only remember for a week instead of a close friend who knows all your woes and happiness. A deep friendship takes lots of time and struggle to form but once it’s established, it adds so much more value to your life than three acquaintances whom you occasionally party with. Books are the same. If you really wish to gain wisdom from the compacted thought of a person in the form of a book, to savor the enjoyment of pacing a new world, then I’d suggest you to not speed read. Take your time. Look at the cover. Spend time with the characters. Study their motives. Imagine yourself in their shoes. Appreciate the author’s way of constructing a new world through a dozen squiggles on the page. Soak in the sunshine of metaphors. Now, even if you’re not big on fiction, you can do the same with non-fictions. Don’t just pace through the book. Read it and spend some time turning the concept over. Prod it from several different angles. Draw your own examples. I assure you, reading is much more satisfying and helpful in the long run that way.

The irony here is that, as you spend more time soaking up books in the appropriate pace for you to comprehend, you will actually increase your reading skills and be able to read faster. Don’t believe me? Read a few of these blog posts about the flaws of speed reading techniques and do your own research!

Prep Yourself for College- Part II: What to Do

Yesterday, I’ve posted the first article of the Prep Yourself for College series by listing what you should have before you start your freshman days (read it here), now onto the second one which is just basically a list of general tips.

Bear in mind that here are what I’ve personally learnt during my college days. Feel free to try them out, or not (it’s up to you; you’re legally an adult now).

  1. Read a lot: yes, read. And no, don’t just read those boring assigned books you’ve done in the past, I mean read! Read odd topics such as the history of war, or pho origin or female prostitute-turn-powerful-pirate, or stars, or whatever.
    Expand your mind! College is a pause for breath before you dive into the workforce, so why not spend this time exploring as many topics as you can? Don’t graduate an uncultured swine (I love you if you get this reference).
    You can get a membership (costs 3 USD in average) in many small libraries. My favorite ones are:
  • Hun Sen Library in Royal University of Phnom Penh (check it out here)
  • Toshu Fukami Library in the University of Cambodia (check it out here)
  • RUPP’s Department of Media and Communication Library (check it out here)If you want to own a book instead, check out these bookstores (they are my heavens):
  • Monument Book (check it out here)
  • D’s Books (check it out here): I actually like hanging out in D’s, just strolling or sitting in its café. Very relaxing music, and quite many books to choose from!
  • Bohr’s Books (check it out here): very different selections from D’s, yet beautiful all the same.If you’re like me, who are quite frustrated at not being able to find a particular book in Cambodia, these free e-book sites are e-heavens for you:
  • (heaven, I tell ya!)
  • (an even bigger heaven)If you do not like the uncomfortable feelings caused by starting at your mobile devices while reading, I sincerely urge you to consider buying yourself a Kindle. Investing a couple of hundred dollars for a life-long path to heaven. I’d say that’s fair enough.
  1. Volunteer: you’ve probably heard of how volunteerism helps you. Yes, it does help your resume. Yes, it does help you make friends, and yes, it does help with experience. But most importantly, volunteer because you genuinely care. There are many (and I mean MANY) aspects of our society that needs improving, and more than ever, youths play an important part in that process. You need experience, and they need a helping hand. Win-win. And please, please do not just go for the sake of appearing to help. Think long and hard before engaging in any volunteer project. Make sure that you are really passionate about the cause before applying because once you are in, you will need to put efforts in driving the cause forward. Please don’t just show up, snap a selfie, and leave. You won’t learn anything, and it actually damages your credit!
  2. Make new friends: it’s very rare for high school friends to stay close in college. I really applaud those who can, but most of the time, people drift away because they are no longer heading to the same direction. College is a place where you can make new friends! You don’t need to immediately make close friends and post pictures with the hashtag #bff; it’s fun to just have acquaintances from all walks of life. Do not expect everyone to want to be close with you. The goal is just to explore and learn. Talk to new people, and learn from them!
  3. Apply for exchange programs: and not just to boast to your friends that you are capable of being selected either. Apply for exchange programs because by doing so, you can open your eyes to the differences and similarities between your country and others. Expand your mind (without fee too, I might add). You can check pages such as WEduShare (here), Youth Development Center (here), Ahladang(here), and Youthop (here) for any exchange and volunteer opportunities that might arise.

I’m sure you can now sense the underlying theme behind all these tips.

It’s to explore! Do not worry about getting your life together yet. Hell, just a few months ago, you needed to ask permission to pee! Now, you’re expected to make life decisions?

College is essentially a playground for you. Develop your own sense of right and wrong, explore, and learn from whatever means you can- people, volunteering, exchange programs or books. The most intelligent of brains can do nothing if it does not have any material to rearrange. Feed your mind!

Remember that you are shaping your life right now. Make sure you have enough food upon which your mind feeds.

Read the third, and final article of the Prep for College series on how to study effectively here!

Complementary article on why should you read literature and the third