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Skimming and skipping

January 5, 2012

Are you ashamed of skipping parts of books? | Robert McCrum | Books |

In his article for The Guardian, Robert McCrum reflects on Somerset Maugham’s notion of “the useful art of skipping.”

I’ll admit to having skimmed (or skipped altogether) parts of novels I’ve read over the years, mostly books assigned for school. The phrenology chapter of Moby-Dick? I skipped it in tenth grade and then again in college. “The Pension Grillparzer,” the story-within-a-story in The World According to Garp? Skipped that too, the first time I read it. (In my defense, I did later go back and reread the entire book, including “Pension”). I’m positive I’m guilty of skipping even more parts of more books that I don’t even remember.

Should we be ashamed of skimming or skipping parts of books? As McCrum asks, “Does the urge to skip feel like a defeat, or a necessity? Which books are best skipped vigorously (Maugham said he would never have read Clarissa if he hadn’t found an abridged edition)? Which books simply must NOT be skipped? Does an e-reader encourage the act of skipping?”

What do you think?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Karla Procopio permalink
    January 5, 2012 1:05 pm

    I am guilty of always reading the ending. Of any book…

  2. Rose P permalink
    January 5, 2012 1:21 pm

    I am not a skimmer! I do get that guilty feeling. If i am going to skim and skip, then I need to let it go.
    I was recently asked by a self-published author if I would read and review her novel. I found myself skimming around page 160, and finally gave up. I have too many other books that I want to read.
    I am not a fan of ereaders, so I am wondering if this played a part in my opinion of the novel.
    Last year, I gave myself a 100 page rule. If I am not into the book by then, I give up.
    I really tried to go further with this book, but it just wasn’t holding my interest enough.

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