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I saw this article the other day that asked, “Are you ashamed of skipping parts of books?” Which, naturally, made me want to ask all of YOU.
Do you skip ahead in a book? Do you feel badly about it when you do?

Before I clicked to read the article my first thought was what Somerset Maugham said about skipping. Indeed, the article draws upon Maugham’s book in which he devotes quite a bit of space to “the useful art of skipping”. Skipping, says Maugham, is perfectly fine, because “a sensible person does not read a novel as a task. He reads it as a diversion.” If reading is an art, and art aims to please, then any book that is bogged down my overly embellished details that do not necessarily advance the plot should be skipped. I have read character-driven novels that often repeat and reinstate traits and personalities. I find such details redundant and justify skipping. The current read, Latecomers by Anita Brookner, I do not read every single word because it has a mild tendency to repeat. The very difficult The Sound and the Fury I skipped a lot of the first part because it didn’t make sense to me at all. But I came back to that many times as the subsequent narratives make sense of the first, which Faulkner purposefully meant to obscure. Long books aren’t usually the targets of skipping, unless they read like War and Peace, which devotes quite a lot of space about farming techniques and land division. If a book cannot get my attention flow on the several pages, I would have skipped it altogether and find another one. If I’m halfway through and am losing interest, I feel justified skimming/skipping through it. After all, it’s foolish not to read and have fun.

8 Responses

  1. I don’t skip ahead but I have been known to skim!

  2. I tend to speed-read during certain passages, which involves a fair amount of skipping words and phrases. I agree with Maugham; books by their very design require a certain amount of skipping/skimming because they are meant to be enjoyed. The human brain is not designed to read every single word on every single page, especially in long novels.

  3. I wanted to gasp when I saw the question. Skip? Me? No way. Do I skim sometimes? Yes. Occasionally if I’m busy or distracted, I’ll skim, but I usually end up going back anyway.

  4. I often skim or speed-read, but I’m reluctant to skip any text because I’m worried I’ll miss something that might prove relevant later on in the novel. But Maugham makes a very good point: reading should never be a chore! It’s probably better to skim less interesting bits and go back to them for clarification later on than struggle through and risk losing enjoyment in the book.

  5. I never skip ahead but I have been known to skim a page when there are too many details. Let me rephrase that, I will skim if the details are not interesting to me, but typically, I like detail heavy books.

  6. Usually don’t skip, but do skim… or if a book is too booring, I stop (don’t happen often though)

  7. I wish I could, but I can never bring myself to. I’m always worried that I’ll skip over the brilliant bits.

  8. I would much rather skim than skip. I will only skip if I am re-reading a book, with one exception. I have never read those alternate chapters of the Grapes of Wrath that describe nature because, for me, the actual story is more important.

    We all have different interests so skimming certain parts makes sense sometimes. Those political ideology sections of 1984? A lot of people skip/skim them, but, for me, those are the most gripping parts of the book!

    One thing I WILL NEVER do is what my dad does for every book- read the first ten pages and then he skips to the last ten pages. THEN, he reads the rest. Ugghghhhhh.

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