1 December 2022 Susannah

Do you find yourself skipping?

Reading a book

To skip, or not to skip … that is the question. If something in a book fails to interest you, do you find yourself skipping conversations or descriptions instead of ploughing through them? If you do skip pages, are you embarrassed or ashamed to admit to it? If you keep a tally of all the books you have read in a year, should the book where you have skipped pages be included in the total? Skipping tends to be one of those issues which divides book lovers.

Does the urge to skip feel like a defeat, a form of cheating since you have not actually read the whole novel? Skippers argue that they are still getting the gist of the novel and if they choose to leave out some pages that fail to interest them, they have a perfect right to do so. If one omits some of the hugely long digressions in Les Misérables, for example, has it seriously impacted on a reader’s experience of getting to know and understand the book? According to W. Somerset Maugham, there’s nothing wrong with skipping. In his essay The Art of Fiction he insists that skipping is fine because “a sensible person does not read a novel as a task. He reads it as a diversion.”

Some readers skip sections that make them miserable or uncomfortable – scenes depicting cruelty to animals, violence inflicted on children, the gruesome state of a corpse, are some examples. And some books should be skipped in their entirety – Fifty Shades of Grey and No Spin: The Autobiography of Shane Warne are two good examples.

Tired parents reading to a child have often resorted to skipping so that the end of the chapter is sooner reached – I do sympathise and was certainly guilty of that myself.

However, generally, I don’t skip!! If I am starting to find a book tedious, I will continue for some chapters and if it still fails to improve, I will then give it up totally, rather than resort to skipping several pages. To me, it makes a book feel like an incomplete experience if I have not read it word for word. I think that’s another big advantage of audio books – it is far more difficult to skip when you are pressing buttons and trying to find a new place to start than it is when flicking through physical pages. I feel that if I skip, I could be missing things that the author feels are vital, and unless you read everything, you will never know what has been missed.

Recent studies show that boys are less thorough readers than girls and are more inclined to skip. I have friends who skip, and others who don’t, and they are all good readers.

Is this a habit you resort to? I’d love to hear your views on skipping your way through books. Tell me here in a comment.

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Featured image- Reading a book, image by Sabine van Erp from Pixabay, https://pixabay.com/photos/hands-old-old-age-senior-citizens-4344703/
Body image- ‘Chapturn’, from The Kid Dictionary by Eric Ruhalter, https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/14296578, image from https://www.facebook.com/toocandotplay/photos/a.115299927035854/316716293560882/

Comments (5)

  1. Diana Paulin

    Generally I don’t skip at all, I an totally committed and absorbed, but sometimes – rarely – I give up if a book is not “getting” to me

  2. For most books, I read them entirely. But sometimes there is a book worth reading–maybe a classic, or a book about some topic that interests me–but there are parts I don’t want to read. I might skip sex scenes, or scenes of violence or abuse, because I don’t want those things stuck in my mind. Or, in an older book like Moby Dick or even when I read Ann Radcliffe as background to Northanger Abbey, there might be long portions that feel repetitive or dull to me (while original readers probably enjoyed them)–in that case I feel free to skip those sections in order to get the main ideas of the story.
    One reason that I prefer books to audio books or movies is that I can easily skip those sections that I don’t want to read–I can see where they start and usually easily find where they finish.
    I don’t think you were referring to nonfiction, but certainly in nonfiction books it’s often appropriate to just read the sections/chapters that interest you or that hold the information you are looking for.
    So, yes, I think it’s fine to skip parts of books when needed!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I agree that non-fiction is a very different matter and in those I do often skip, depending on what I need it for.
      Yes, Ann Radcliffe is an author where skipping can well be jsutified. Her heoines seem to faint on almost every page!

  3. Carolyn Cossgrove

    My kids always knew when I’d skip pages…very frustrating! Thankfully they all read for themselves now.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Mine soon learned when I was skipping as well, and when you are tired and just want them all asleep, it is hard!

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