we had a one-hour (more precisely 45 minutes) free reading session
at the school's library.
An hour I would have spent elsewhere.
Free reading session meant that you could pick whatever book you wished,
and you wouldn't have any homework to do about it.
Our French professor took us to
that library attached to the school every week.
It was a library managed by the Clerc of St-Viateur (Clergyman's).
So, the professor instructed us to enter the library in silence
and go through the row of books;
you know, those rows of shelves full of books
having letters attached at the top to find them more easily
AB-CD, EF-EF, FG-GH, HIJ-KL …
I don't remember these exactly, but I still have an image in my head.
And the smell.
Shelves of books smell a unique odor I still remember.
So, we had 5 minutes, precisely monitored by our professor,
watching the big clock at the top of the wall on the other side of the library,
to pick a book and sit at a table in the middle.
Then, we had to stay there and read for 45 minutes.
The only benefit of this session was nothing mandatory to learn and remember.
There would be no test.
And we did not have to report
or provide a summary later of what we read.
But still, I found that ¨hour¨ very annoying and unpleasant.
But what I did, like many of us to make it more bearable,
I picked and ¨read¨ comic books.
And even that, I would look at the drawings in many cases.
Because with all that competition walking fast to grasp a comic book,
they punished us if we ran,
It wasn't always easy to get one that was even slightly interesting.
But one day,
quietly, sitting and looking almost anywhere
except at my poorly selected comic book,
my eye was attracted by one of the librarians.
He was sitting on the other side of a counter and was reading.
Watching him for a few seconds,
I suddenly realized that he was reading at the speed of light …
That was the impression I had. He was turning pages very often.
He was sitting, almost looking away from me, but slightly turned.
Just enough towards the right so I could see him turn pages.
After a few minutes, I asked myself, at what speed is he reading?
From afar, I could see that this wasn't a comic book.
There were no images on its pages.
The size looked like a typical paperback.
But he was reading at a surprising rate.
I started to count seconds right when I saw him flip the right page.
1001, 1002, 1003, … 1010, 1011, 1012 … 1020, 1021, then whoosh,
you know the sound of turning a page energetically.
I could barely hear it.
1001, 1002, 1003, … 1026, 1027, woosh,
I watched him for a few minutes.
I calculated that he turned the pages 12 times,
meaning he read 24 pages.
I realized that I did not manage the time,
and I couldn't figure out how long it took him exactly,
but one thing I was sure of was that I never counted to 30.
2 pages read under 30 seconds means four pages a minute.
I calculated that this guy knew how to go through
100 pages within 25 minutes (4 pages a minute x 25 minutes).
I was impressed.
He was sitting on a stool, the book in his hand.
I saw nothing special about him,
except his mustache, I don’t like mustaches.
He could have been a professor, the janitor, or else.
But I knew he was one of the three people
we always encountered in the library.
So, a librarian, I concluded.
I was sitting at my place, doing nothing, and breathing silently,
so he wouldn't notice me watching him.
Like he would have heard me. He was at 20 feet at least.
Things we think sometimes.
Reflecting on this while writing to you,
I realize how funny that was. He couldn't hear me for sure.
Then I became anxious. I should ask this guy how he does that.
What if I could do the same with the books we are assigned
to read during the classes
and get rid of the ¨chore¨ very fast?
Let me guess. You felt the same about those imposed book readings. Remember?
Do you see the cover of that book in your head
or hear your teacher ¨This semester, you will have to read …¨
For most of us, this image that comes to our mind right now
is like seeing a ghost that haunted us.
In addition, as I told you, I was not particularly interested in reading.
May I remind you that at each of these library sessions,
I was picking comic books?
And although we could bring home the book we started. I never did.
The professors would not manipulate me to do that
and please our French teacher.
He was the instigator of this one-hour free reading class at the library.
And I knew that he tricked us into
taking our unfinished readings home
to spend time at home reading.
He would not lure me into this.
But that day, I was sitting there,
overlooking my comic book,
and this man was doing what I would like to do,
take less time to read a book.
The rules at the time were very severe.
You entered the library. You had 5 minutes to find
what you would like to read.
Then, take that book from the shelves
and sit there for the remaining 40 minutes.
It was a 45 minutes in library class.
They didn't want us to constantly walk around, have fun,
and disturb the other ¨readers¨.
So, if you were caught going places, the penalty was that
you would then have to take the book with you
and present a summary one week from the incident.
And it better be a good summary because
that exact presentation would replace another presentation
on which you would be evaluated,
which would count in your report card.
So, there was a price to stand up and ask this guy
how he could read so fast …
And I wasn't sure I wanted to do that.
It could well be that he tells me he just read fast.
I would pay the price for nothing.
There were many occasions in my life I just let it go,
whatever that was. You know.
Not everything is necessary enough to ask.
But not this time. For whatever reason, I had to ask.
So, I stood up and started walking towards that fellow
that didn't know I was coming.
I probably had walked halfway, 10 feet,
when my professor started walking in my direction.
I knew very well why.
He and I arrived at the counter at the same time.
I didn't even have the time to open my mouth.
My professor was already talking and reminding me of the rule.
I started to say, ¨I just want to ask him how he can read so fast. ¨
pointing at the librarian,
who was turning around simultaneously distracted by us.
My lovely professor said to ask him next week
when we return and during that 5 minutes window
when we are all allowed to walk around.
There was no option left.
He signals me to return to my place and follows me there.
He had a quick look at my comic book.
Put his big right index on it and said
¨you know what to do with this next week.
I expect a remarkable presentation essay Gilles¨.
I was feeling angry, plus a mix of other feelings.
I have that homework now. I must write an essay
and present it without the answer to my question
—all that for nothing.
Sure, I could ask next week. But at 14,
an unnecessary week to wait was long.
And today, I know that waiting one week
before asking that simple question
probably meant that I would forget and never ask.
I am not sure of that, but that could have happened.
Today, I know that when we have such a call to ask or do something
we should because the emotion that drives us weakens, and we let go.
But that day, the gods were on my side.
I can say this now. While I brooded on my chair,
thinking about this unjust treatment, the professor,
and the additional homework I had just put myself into,
I felt a presence on my left.
There he was, the librarian,
standing with a discrete smile.
He lightly deposited a book on the table on my left.
He said nothing and walked away.
I looked at the book. The title was ¨Learn to read faster¨
by a French author.
The librarian had heard my question, and this was his answer.
I was very excited.
All my feelings about the situation just disappeared.
Not only did I get my answer, but it wasn’t something like
¨I don't know, I just do, kid …¨.
There was a technique, a method.
And the fact that the librarian brought me the book and smiled
meant that I could do it too if I read and learned what was in this book.
I am sure this was the first time I was in a hurry to read a book.
The story doesn't end here. As you can conclude
I had to do a presentation on the comic book the following week.
And I had a hard time working on it. But this isn't the exciting part.
Interestingly, I brought two books home that day:
the comic book and the reading faster book.
So, you can guess that when I arrived home,
I jumped into that book about reading faster.
But the facts are that I started way before going home.
The truth is that I was so compelled by what I saw
—the librarian who was reading that fast.
The key to spending less time reading boring books
(This is how I felt about it at the time)
was in that book.
I started reading it right the moment he gave it to me.
By the end of the library session that day,
I had read the first chapter.
I can't explain how I went from an aversion to books to
want to read a whole book right now.
I continued reading in the following course of … I don't remember.
I couldn't read as much as I would have liked the rest of the day
because it was not that easy to make sure not to be caught.
There were two consequences to that
(a) I would have had an additional punishment,
(b) they would have taken the book from me.
So, the whole day, I was on my toes between
following the courses,
discreetly opening the book,
and reading a paragraph or two at a time.
I was lucky that my desk what one row from the last row at the back.
And rightly so; I almost ran home when school time was over.
When I reached home, with only one foot in the door,
I was already getting the book from my bag,
went into my room,
jumped flat on my bed,
and continued reading where I had left previously.
I never knew what my mother thought or felt
when she entered my room and saw me
avidly reading a 300-page book.
I forgot to ask later.
She must have had a vivid feeling to see me do this and hear me respond,
"I am not hungry for now. “
I usually was when coming back from school.
It must have been gratifying for her since she was herself a professor.
I am sure that before that, she worried about my lack of interest in reading.
Now I know what you think.
You think that probably when I started to like to read. Well … honestly, no.
The purpose I was so hungry to learn to read faster was to read less …
And this was what I planned to do.
It took me about a week to go through the whole book,
including reading it during the next library free reading session.
But then, I was already a much faster reader.
So, I finished and returned the book, but only the third week,
not that I needed it anymore,
but I wanted to keep it.
(I would buy a copy years later...)
The following weeks,
at the one-hour library session,
I would pick a novel from Agatha Christie,
murder stories type of book,
and challenged myself to read it within 45 minutes
and not take it home.
I would not succumb to the manipulation of taking readings home.
I had my principles …
This is what I did.
I was able to do that: read a novel in 45 minutes.
And I enjoyed it. I could read the story at a speed that felt like
watching a movie unfolding in my head.
The intrigues and the conclusions of the stories were much more fascinating.
I view in my head all the events of the story
unfold during that one session.
At the end of the session, I put back the book on its shelve.
I was kind of proud that I was able to do that ...
A few students sitting close to me in our library class noticed it.
I was reading a 200-page something plus book,
which wasn't a comic book within the one-hour library session.
So, you would think that some of them
would have jealously looked at my new skill
and asked how I do it.
But no, this isn't what happened.
Instead, they were kind of pissed
that I felt under the spell of our professor
and became a deserter.
I was the only one taking that step to read faster.
And I became a much better, a lot better reader.
But, unfortunately, no one else took the time
or the interest in doing the same.
To this day, I am still puzzled at how many people saw me do it
and didn't ask me to teach them.
Even when I offered it to many,
only a few took the opportunity all these decades.
If you want to learn to read better (and faster),
you're giving yourself a tremendous competitive edge
because only a few do, even if they know it is possible.
See for yourself.
Are you still hesitating after what I told you about my story above?
You're not alone. Many will not go the step further,
even for the cost of only one pizza.
They will not acquire a book
that can change and leverage their reading skills
for the rest of their life.
Also, because of how it happened to me
and that I wanted to learn how to read faster immediately,
I have written the book Velocity Reading so
that right into the first chapter,
you will learn the Tennis Technique,
which is the cornerstone of Velocity Reading.
Fifteen minutes into the book,
you will have learned and practiced
the most powerful technique to read faster and better
without skipping any words and missing anything.
You will read much faster, better, forever.
That's a promise.
Thank you for your time reading my story.
It is your turn to start a new chapter in yours.
See yourself reading better,
enjoying it more,
and extracting quality information much faster.
Do yourself a tremendous favor and take
that first step that will improve your life forever!