Entries in reading (7)


Books Read in 2011

1. How to Write Like Chekhov

I’ve read a lot of “How-to-Write” books, and this was one of the best that I’ve read. There was an interview I read with Raymond Carver where he said the only instruction book he would recommend to his students was the collected letters of Chekhov. What’s great about this book is that it takes out all of the parts of Chekhov’s letters that do not directly deal with the craft of writing.

2. The Paris Review Interview Volume 1

This book is great for giving an insight into the way great authors created their great works. The best part of the Paris Review interviews is that they reprint a facsimile of the author’s manuscript page for the reader’s review. So many times I find myself believing that great authors create their great works without having to do any editing. But when you see the original manuscript pages, and the various scratched out words and passages, you realize their manuscript pages look just like yours.

3. The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays

I was not a fan of Camus until I read this book. I read “The Stranger” in high school and didn’t much care for it. Many of the essays deal with suicide and whether or not it is ever philosophically valid to end one’s life. Camus determines that every life is worth living until its end comes naturally. It’s also one of his most optimistic books, which may be why I liked it more than “The Stranger.”

4. On Becoming a Novelist

I’m still working my way through John Gardner’s “The Art of Fiction,” but this one was a much quicker read. It was a very informal and candid conversation with Gardner on what he believes makes an author. And while I remember disagreeing with some of his beliefs, it’s filled with sage wisdom that every writer should at least hear once. 

5. EPUB Straight to the Point

I’ve been working on a digital version for “Learn to Speed Read” since its release in 2009 and trying to figure out the most effective way to embed fonts into the EPUB format. This book showed me that the best way right now to write eBooks is to code them from scratch. It’s the only way you can insure that the formatting will come out correct. Needless to say, since reading this book I’ve begun to dive deeper into HTML and CSS coding. 

6. House of Leaves

Last year I read “Tree of Codes” by Jonathan Safran Froer and I was excited by the idea of creating an avant-garde novel. I told my friend about creating this novel composed of all these various parts with references where the reader has to shift through it all to find the story. To which my friend replied, “Oh, like ‘House of Leaves’?” I had never heard of the book before and my friend pulled it from his shelf and showed it to me. There it was. The book I was describing already in print and carried out in a much better fashion than I had in mind.

It was fascinating to read. It was fun and creepy and bizarre. More than anything, I think what made this book special to me was that I participated in the way the story unfolded. Usually the role of the reader is passive, but this book requires active participation in order decode the various sub-plots contained in the story.

7. Why I Write

One of Penguin’s short books, it was one of the most boring books I read this past year. I know many people are Orwell fans, but unfortunately I am still not. And this book did not help in my pursuit to enjoy his works.

8. Linchpin

I’ve been a longtime fan of Seth Godin. Many of the ways I’ve run this site, launched my books, handled copyright, etc. is due to his writing. I say this up front because I want you to understand how much respect I have for Godin, and like many others, I view him as a kind of demi-god of marketing and digital media.

I’d also like to tell a little story about when I worked as a film editor. The producer/director who oversaw my work gave me a great piece of advice I’ll never forget. He said, “Kris, every filmmaker has 36 bad movies in him. The key to being successful is making those 36 films before you make it big.”

So when I see a bad movie after the writer/director/etc. has had a long run of successful films, I think this must be one of those 36 bad movies. If you need an example, see “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” for reference.

With that said, I think the same can be said for writing and that every writer has 36 bad books in him or her. For me, this was one of Godin’s 36.  

9. Spunk and Bite

Why I’m compelled to read books about writing and grammar I have no idea. But this book was one of the most fun grammar books that I’ve read. Whereas other books encourage developing writers to use archaic phrasing and rules from the dawn of man, this book encourages its readers to take risks and shows how to write with a fresh and detailed style.   

10. The Manual of Detection

A fun mystery thriller; a mix of “Inception” with “The Maltese Falcon” it’s a surreal detective story in a mythological world that resembles a working dystopian society found in other Sci-Fi/alternate history novels. It’s a quick read and very enjoyable.

11. All My Sons

In college, I wrote a paper on “Death of a Salesman” probably every 6-8 months. And I regret to say that I wrote those papers from the various summarized pages of Cliff’s Notes and Spark Notes that I breezed through to get through those classes. And the result of my superficial skimming of Arthur Miller’s works was an indifference to his writing and a general feeling that his plays were interesting but not great.

Needless to say, I could not have been more wrong. This was the play that changed it for me. I cannot begin to tell you how much this play impacted me. For a long time, I felt (and wrongly so) that playwrights were only doing half the job of good novelist and therefore their writing didn’t need to be as good because it was going to be acted out and therefore the writing didn’t need to be that good. But after reading Arthur Miller, I no longer hold that viewpoint. Instead, I hope that someday I will be able to write one book that’s as good as any one of Miller’s plays, knowing full-well that day is far off and that it might take place long after my death.

12. Penguin 75

After publishing a book, I gained a new respect for book designers. If you are interested in book design, this is a great read and has become a reference book that I return to often.

13. Death of a Salesman

See my note on “All My Sons,” for which I can easily say the same for this play. 

14. The Prince

It’s “The Prince”; ‘nuff said.

15. Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

While reading Steve Jobs’ biography I was intrigued by the role that spirituality played in his life. Further research into books that influenced Jobs’ spirituality I came across this book, which was a great introduction to Zen meditation and Zen philosophy. If you’re a twenty-something interested in learning more about Zen meditation this is an excellent introduction.

16. Steve Jobs (Biography)

Amazon’s bestseller of 2011, it is the first biography I’ve read so quickly and enjoyed from start to finish. There are people in life that do things a certain way and create some of the most amazing things. Their methods, both wrong and right, will never be duplicated by any other human being and produce the same result; Jobs was one of those people. For better or worse, his methods were unique and will never be duplicated and his results were more than most of us will ever do.

17. Love is a Dog From Hell

Bukowski is always good for a laugh and his various poems on womanizing, drinking and gambling, make me smile because the truth of Bukowski’s life is so sad that you have to laugh or cry about his life. I choose to laugh.

18. How to Win Friends and Influence People

This was a book that was recommended to me by one of my friends. Having never been a salesman and having always believed strongly in the benefits of argument and debate, I found this book a fascinating read. And while some of its material is dated and some of its methods are no longer applicable, it has shown me that there are other ways to win an argument other than by debate. If want to know those methods, I suggest reading this book.

19. The Great Escape

My favorite film of all time is “The Great Escape.” It seems odd that I’ve waited so long to read the book that the movie was based on. It was a fun read because it gave a more in-depth look into the characters I have come to love and mythologize in my mind. It also made the people more real and less like their Hollywood god-like counterparts. The men’s flaws and mishaps only made their story that much stronger to me, because the people that pulled off the greatest escape from a POW camp were ordinary people put into an extraordinary situation and came out the other side as legends.

20. A Book of Five Rings

After reading Sun-Tzu’s “Art of War” this book landed on my reading list but it wasn’t until this year that I took the time to read it. Unfortunately, I did not find its information as transferrable as Sun-Tzu’s words of wisdom and did not enjoy reading this old volume on strategy.

21. Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea

One of the most fascinating books I read this past year. It is the biography of the number, or non-number, zero. It’s amazing how much zero affects our daily lives and our perception of various things, without ever realizing it. Towards the end of the book, the math went beyond my grasp but the explanations were so well done that I did not feel the need to prove the various theorems in the book in order to understand the gravity that this number has in our world.

22. Dispatches

I watched the behind the scenes of “Apocalypse Now!” and found out that Michael Herr wrote much of the narration for the film and that his book “Dispatches” was THE book on the Vietnam war. I’m not much of a war historian, nor do I find myself reading military journals and histories. This book was written almost like poetry, the way Herr phrases things is unique and beautiful, despite the fact that the things he is describing are awful and terrifying. After reading this book, I am thankful more than ever that I have not had to see war first-hand, because I know I would never have come out alive.

23. Economics in One Lesson

After watching “Moneyball” this year, I became interested (for the first time in my life) with the study of economics. I decided to read a book on the topic and found this book recommended as a great introduction to the subject matter. I finished the book recently and have yet to decide whether or not I agree with many of its assertions and statements; however, much of its writing is still swimming around in my mind and posing questions that I would never have asked if I had not read this book.

24. Jimi Hendrix Gear

Jimi Hendrix was the best guitar player of all time. And after spending years studying his music now, my conclusion that the music was in his hands and not in his gear is more concrete than ever; especially after seeing the kind of guitars that he played.

25. Who is Jake Ellis?

The only graphic novel I read this year. After Disney bought Marvel, and Hollywood decided to make every single comic book into a movie, I’ve been a jaded about reading comics. This quick little read renewed my faith in the medium and shows that the pairing of great writing and great artwork make for a beautiful vessel to communicate a story to a reader.

26. Armegeddon in Retrospect

A selection of Vonnegut’s shorter stories centering on Word War II and life in a POW camp. Some stories were better than others, most of which I found at the end of the book. It’s not one of his best collections, it’s not one of his worst, but it doesn’t really matter because if you like Vonnegut you’ll read it anyway.

My Reading Year 2010

Yesterday, I tallied up all the books I read in 2010 and came up with 25. For a kid who had only read 6 or 7 books (start to finish) by the age of 17, this was pleasant surprise to learn about myself. Here’s a list of what I read this past year:

1. The Iliad – Homer

2. Junky – William S. Burroughs

3. Notes from the Underground – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

4. The Iron Whim: A Fragmented History of Typewriting – Darren Wershler-Henry

5. Paradise Lost – John Milton

6. The Rape of the Lock – Alexander Pope

7. The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne

8. King Lear – William Shakespeare

9. Richard II – William Shakespeare

10. Design As Art – Bruno Munari

11. Dubliners – James Joyce

12. The Truth About An Author – Arnold Bennett

13. Bartleby the Scrivener – Herman Melville

14. Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell

15. The Outfit – Darwyn Cooke and Donald E. Westlake

16. The Now Habit – Neil Fiore

17. Poetics – Aristotle


18. Lyrical Ballads – William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge


19. Walden – Henry David Thoreau

20. Beowulf – Anonymous with Seamus Heaney


21. Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift


22. Inferno – Dante


23. Everyman – Anonymous


24. Three Theban Plays – Sophocles


25. Tree of Codes – Jonathan Safran Froer


Ray Bradbury - Story of a Writer

Ray Bradbury, known for his super-prolific writing habits and countless classic short stories, novellas, novels, etc. is highlighted in this TV piece from the past called "Story of A Writer". As I've said before, and will no doubt say many times after this, I love anything that gives a glimpse into the life of artists.

This 25 min. film is just that, a look behind scenes of what Ray Bradbury did as an author about forty years ago, and when you look at recent interviews it doesn't seem like much has changed for him. And when I say that, I mean it as the most sincere compliment, because his life has been, and continues to be, one of excellence in the pursuit of writing as art. Take a look and see what I mean.

(Note: If the video doesn't appear right away, it's because it's still converting over at Blip.TV, but will be up shortly)


10 Ways to Slow Your Reading Down and Eventually Stop It All Together

1. Read Every Word, Every Word

The best way to start slowing your reading down is by reading every word that’s presented. Make sure not to skip over the “the”s or the “a”s, because if you do, it’s only the beginning to increasing your reading speed. And that’s not what anybody wants. So, be sure to read every word that’s written, even if you think the author is repeating himself, you shouldn’t skip over those repetitions, because you will only be increasing reading speed. You read that right? Good, we’re off to a great start.

2. Re-read Every Word You Might Have Missed (And Re-read Every Word You Might Have Missed)

Did you miss anything in that first part, to be sure, you should probably go back and re-read it, and if you skipped over any words the first time, don’t do it this time. Remember, we’re trying to slow your reading down, and if you only read each word once then you’re only going to be reading that much faster in the long run. This will become easier over time, because more studies are showing that re-reading decreases comprehension making it easier to develop the habit of re-reading.

3. Don’t skip over the small words

This is a repetition of what was said in the first paragraph, and the author has been kind enough to repeat himself making it easier to read a small blog post in a longer amount of time. And in case you still have some of those bad habits lingering about, don’t forget to re-read this passage, and the passage before it, and don’t skip over the small words, or the things that are repeated, because you’ll only be increasing your reading speed. (See what I did? I repeated myself)

4. Don't Learn New Words

It’s great when you come to a big word in a text that you’ve never seen before, because it can serve as hours of distraction from reading the rest of the material. And if you took the time to look up the word, and learn what it meant, and how to say it properly, then the next time you saw the word it wouldn’t take you nearly as long to read, and then you’d be reading faster. Not good, not good at all. Instead pride yourself on the ignorance of words like “NEUMONO­ULTRA­MICRO­SCOPIC­SILICO­VOLCANO­CONIOSIS”. And don’t go looking it up, you only be able to say it faster the next time you see it.

5. Don't Grammar Learn

A little joke to illustrate my point that a firm grasp of English grammar leads to reading faster. Afterall, you don’t really need to know corrct spelling cuz peeple can under stand what ur saying even when u dont spell it rite and hoo needs periods or comas or thos silly squiggily lines and stuff its all just fluffff getting in the way of communcadoing with the world so toss em out i say toss em out.

6. When You Must Read, Turn On The TV

Sometimes we have to read to keep our jobs or for school, and so it’s best to read with the TV on with a show that’s much more engaging than your reading material. Something with explosions and music like “24”, it’s got plenty of action and suspense to keep you from really understanding what you have to read. This is perfect, because by constantly being distracted you’ll be forced to re-read, which will decrease your comprehension, causing you to re-read again and if you’re in luck there’ll be some big words in there to help you slow down.

7. Don’t Watch Films With Subtitles

I know I told you to watch TV, but be careful of what type of TV you watch because some it can have subtitles. And sometimes movies start out without subtitles only to be filled with them, later on, case in point: The Godfather, which switches over to subtitles while Pacino’s in Italy. There’s probably nothing worth seeing during those scenes anyway, and my advice is, if you can’t watch it dubbed then it isn’t worth watching.

8. Make Sure To Only Search for Videos and Images

When you must use the internet be careful only to use search engines that you can search for videos and images otherwise you’ll be reading and you’ll probably have to read a lot to find what you were looking for. Be careful.

9. In Fact, Just Stay Away From The Internet

The internet can seem like a place devoid of reading, with all the YouTubes and YouPorns and Flash Games and such, but it’s really only a disguise to get you to read more. Those videos and games can only be accessed or found through a series of queries and summaries, and the more you look, the more you’ll be reading, and then you’ll be reading faster. So just watch TV, it’s better because you don’t need to read to enjoy it.

10. To Be Safe, Just Stop Reading All Together

Every once in a while you may be tempted to read a book, or an article, or something, but I caution you DON’T. The more you read, the faster you read, it’s one of those weird facts of life that the more often you practice a skill the faster and more efficient you become at that skill. And in the case of reading, the more you read, the faster you’ll read, and that’s just going to make your life easier. And nobody wants that. God forbid, you might enjoy reading one book, you might read another, thereby doubling your reading speed, or more. And if you enjoyed reading, and read a lot, then who knows where that might lead.

I’m certain nothing good can come from knowing more than what you presently know, so there’s really no need to read anyway…



Leo Babauta, I love you dude, but your last post sucked.

A Little Backstory:

When I was younger, my group of friends and I developed our own brand of juvenile etiquette for disagreeing with one another. And so when you needed to tell your buddy something you didn't like about them you opened up the conversation with this phrase, "I love you dude, but…" then your criticism.


"I love you dude, but the peach-fuzz mustache is not cool, and it doesn’t look good."

If the comment was made in front of the group, an immediate voting on the criticism would ensue. The comment would either be ratified into fact, or vetoed, but most often it was ratified.


"Yeah man, the mustache needs to go. Everybody thinks so, that’s why we’re telling you."

Some may have seen these exchanges as insincere but within our group, opening up without with the line, "I love you dude" was a form of respect. Granted, it's not the most poetic term of endearment, but it allowed us to be honest with each other, without all the hurt feelings. And so you knew that your buddies were telling you something not because they hated you, but because they cared.

Now that we're caught up, there's something I'd like to say about Leo Babauta's post: "Why reading faster doesn't increase productivity".

"Leo, I love you dude; I'm a big fan of zen habits, read a lot of your articles, and I agree with many of your principles but... your last post sucked."


From Your Post:

"I think you should read slower, and focus on doing things slower. It increases your effectiveness, which is a different definition of productivity than 'doing things faster'."

If I understand you correctly, you're saying that focused slower reading increases a person's ability to effectively comprehend the text their reading.

I disagree. In terms of a person's reading rate, there's quite a lot of research that points to the opposite.


Lori Nunez's dissertation: An Analysis Of The Relationship Of Reading Fluency, Comprehension, And Word Recognition To Student Achievement (May 2009). Her dissertation looked at statewide elementary students in Texas and analyzed various methods for developing reading skills.

In the conclusion, Nunez wrote:

"Consistent with the findings of previous research (Allen, 1988; Buchanan, 2006; Flindt, 2007; Stroud & Henderson, 1943) and the National Reading Panel's identification of key reading components, the study confirmed that early development of reading fluency, comprehension, and word recognition do impact reading performance of students by the middle elementary grades. The results of the data analysis revealed that reading fluency, the number of words read per minute, had the strongest relationship with scores on the third grade reading TAKS. ...It would appear that fluency, the speed and accuracy of words read, contributed to comprehension and understanding of the material read, and ultimately to success on the reading assessment."


"In the study, the skill of reading fluency had the strongest relationship and made the greatest contribution to reading TAKS scale scores. The findings of the study supported Rasinski's (2001) argument that the rate a reader reads is significantly correlated to the standardized and informal measurements of comprehension and word recognition."


From Your Post:

"productivity isn't about speed, even if we've been led to believe it is. It's about being effective. It's about accomplishing things -- and that's about doing the most important things, not the most things."

I disagree.

"Productivity is from 1809 with meaning 'quality of being productive;' economic sense of 'rate of output per unit' is from 1899."

Reference:productivity. (n.d.). Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved December 02, 2009, from website:

The two words that stand out for me are the words "quality" and "rate", and the word "rate" is most definitely associated with speed.


From Your Post:

"When we speed through tasks and projects, we lose perspective. We forget what's important and just try to do things as fast as possible."

Your quote makes the assumption that when a person does something faster, they sacrifice their effectiveness.

 What about firefighters? Or paramedics? Or doctors?

The rate at which these people do their jobs can determine whether someone else lives or dies, or many people live or die. I think "speed" can have a lot to do with a person's "effectiveness" in the world around them. Firefighters don't rush into a burning building to try to save the most important people; they try to save everyone they possibly can in the time they have.

This not only pertains to the lives of people, but also in people's careers and the lives of companies, in which a person's speed can be determining factor in whether they get to keep their job.


From Your Post:

"If reading is important, focus on it, and do it slowly. It'll be that much more enjoyable, and so will the project. And when you absolutely love what you're doing, then productivity is a natural by-product."

If I follow your argument here correctly, you're saying, "If I want to read something that is important to me, the rate at which I read it corresponds to the level of enjoyment I’ll receive from reading it."

I agree that certain texts can be more enjoyable when read slowly, but I disagree that all of the texts that are important to us need to be read this way. I believe, and research shows, there are more factors in the process of translating text into meaning than just voicing the words on the page. The process of visual interpretation of text into meaning is an extremely fast process, and your statement concludes that this method, while fast, will lessen my enjoyment of reading the text.


Lastly, From Your Post:

"Slow down, don't speed up. Read slower -- you'll read less, but enjoy it more."

What I don't agree with in this statement, is the assumption that text should be read at one speed. A person can enjoy a fast paced action sequence in an old dime novel reading 400wpm, and then slow down to 150 wpm when detective is explaining how he figured out who the killer was. The reader can read fast and slow throughout the book without losing joy in the text they’re reading.

I was a slow reader for quite some time, and even though reading was important to me, reading slow did not make reading more enjoyable. In fact, quite the opposite.

I don't think I'm alone on this, but maybe I am… I’ve found the more I read, the more I enjoy reading.

We only have a short time in this life, and my approach to reading is much like that fireman running into a burning building. There's too many great things to read in this world that to read them all would take several lifetimes, I'd like to enjoy reading as many of them as possible before my time's up.

Leo, I love you dude, but your last post sucked.



Kris Madden


I don't know if they'll post my comment...

Hi everyone,

A little rant of mine, that has been developing for some time now...

I came across an article that is similar to many that appear around the web, called "Easy Techniques to Increase Reading Speed", and there's nothing really bad about this article. But, it's the millionth version of this article, along with the Dr. Jay Polmar articles, and the like that tell all of us how easy it is to read faster.

Saying things like, "Just stop saying the words in your head," or "Don't pay attention to the small words, just the big ones," or my personal favorite, "Don't re-read, just keep on reading, but make you sure you're comprehending what you're reading." Well, if I understood it, I probably wouldn't need to re-read it would I? So, how do I stop this vicious cycle?

And so you read on, hoping to see the "How It's Done" part, but it never comes. These articles upset me so much, because they remind me of when I was one of the slowest readers in my class. They seem to evoke this feeling of hopelessness, because they tell you it can be done, and that others can do it, but that you can't. And I hate that, because that's not education, it's bull-...well, you know what it is.

I'm fed up with speed reading being associated with scams, informercials, 1-800 numbers, and easy short-cuts for 3 easy payments of $19.95. I want people to know that if they're interested in learning about increasing their reading speed, or increasing their comprehension, the information on how to do it is out there.

There was a time for these kinds of advertisements and sales pitces, but not anymore. It's one of the reasons I don't run ads on website, no ppc, no Chitika, no adsense, or whatever, because I DO NOT want to be associated with any type of scam speed reading program. I  just want to be honest with readers everywhere at all reading speeds and comprehension levels.

So, in case my comment  isn't approved for their website, I've decided to post it here. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.


"I agree with your four steps:

1. "eye examination" - Yes, great for assessing your physical capabilities for reading and general vision health.
2. "Stop pronouncing the words" - Yes, sub-vocalization can slow down reading speed.
3. "concentrate on the most important words" - Yes, I think it's perfectly okay to skip over the the's and the and's and the a's and the an's. Think about how much faster you would have read that last statement if you had skipped over them.
4. "stop regressing" - Yes, several researchers have shown that the amount of fixations that a person makes while reading a line of text correlate with their reading rate.

And while these are great tips, how does a person learn to stop sub-vocalizing when it's become a habit like breathing? How do you learn to ignore the words "the" "and" and so forth? And why should you stop regressing, when you can't remember what you just read, isn't comprehension more important? Shouldn't you re-read so that you get the main idea?

The answers are out there and many of them are free because they date back to 1900's with the publications of W.B. Secor's study and E.B. Huey's 1908 book "The Psychology and Pedagogy of Read", which is available on Google Books to read for free and download. The research and the answers are out there for everyone to read.

Good luck to everyone looking to read faster."


Readernaut: The First Cool Book Club I've seen

Over at Readernaut, you can follow what books I'm reading, what I've read, what I plan to read, as well as quotes, notes, etc. on the books in my library. They're in beta right now, but it looks to me like it's going to be the facebook of bookclubs. Feel free to join up and follow me over there. Take care.