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Scan Artist: How Evelyn Wood Convinced the World That Speed-Reading Worked

3.15  ·  Rating details ·  68 ratings  ·  21 reviews
The best-known educator of the twentieth century was a scammer in cashmere. “The most famous reading teacher in the world,” as television hosts introduced her, Evelyn Wood had little classroom experience, no degrees in reading instruction, and a background that included work at the Mormon mission in Germany at the time when the church was cooperating with the Third Reich. ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published September 3rd 2019 by Chicago Review Press
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Average rating 3.15  · 
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Jan 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Those of us who grew up in the fifties and sixties will remember Sputnik and the intense fear that permeated the American science and education communities. America could not be permitted to fall behind in the space or arms race and to stay ahead education was to be reformed and supported. 

It was the perfect medium for Evelyn Wood and her husband to grow interest and support for her "dynamic" reading program that purported to not only increase reading speed, sometimes up to 25,000 words per minu
Amanda Mae
May 27, 2019 rated it liked it
While the subject matter is fascinating, and there are some good stories and information, overall I found the narrative in need of some better editing. There are frequent references to Wood’s Mormon religion, which were not always relevant to the context in which is was given. A running story of Evelyn’s adopted daughter Anna could have used some better consistency in the telling, since it always seems to be shoe-horned in as well, aside from the initial telling of it before the Wood’s time in G ...more
Laura Harrison
Jul 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Back in the late 1970's my private school in Westchester Cty, NY invited a representative from this company to give a sales pitch. Even as a child, this felt not right. It was unusual for the nuns to allow such a presentation to the students. They must have really believed in the program. I don't remember how many classes his pitch took up but the salesman was there a loooong time. We each got sales packets to take home and give to our parents. The course was expensive. I believe three of the we ...more
Lori L (She Treads Softly)
Aug 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Scan Artist: How Evelyn Wood Convinced the World That Speed-Reading Worked by Marcia Biederman is a highly recommended examination of the life of Evelyn Wood and her Reading Dynamics program.

As a fan of Saturday Night Live, I saw the hilarious third season mock commercial on 11/12/77 about the "Evelyn Woodski Slow Reading Course." For anyone who lived through the 60s and 70's', the name Evelyn Wood is closely associated with speed reading through her Reading Dynamics Institutes/classes which wer
Jamie K
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2020
This would have made a great longform article. As a book, though, it really struggles to keep momentum even for 250 pages. Evelyn Woods is an interesting figure, but she's a bit of a cipher, and we don't really get a look inside her head. Is she a dedicated scammer, or a true believer in speed reading who's willing to discount conflicting evidence because she "knows" it works? Is she fundamentally dishonest, or just a bad mother? We don't know. She seemed to have lived too privately for a really ...more
Boring and disorganized.

Ironically, there are so many parts of this book I ended up skimming- and others I had to read a few times, because the information was presented in such a disorganized way that I had trouble processing it all. Probably because there was a ton of irrelevant information thrown into the stuff that actually mattered.
Jan 14, 2020 rated it liked it
This book has some merits as a reconstruction of a now largely defunct business, that of speed-reading. (I say "largely" defunct, because a quick search showed me that there are plenty of youtube videos claiming to teach speed reading, so the idea still has its attractions.) And I was genuinely interested to learn how an ambitious and energetic woman could make her way in the world, even in what I imagine was a not very woman-friendly environment, that of the Mormon community of the 40s and 50s, ...more
James Carter
Feb 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Prior to picking up Scan Artist: How Evelyn Wood Convinced the World That Speed-Reading Worked, I'd never ever heard of the person herself but had seen "speed reading" ads prop up from time to time, having always ignored them. I just intuitively know that it can't be done.

As for my experience with books, I read slowly, understand what I read, memorize vocab words, can spell pretty well, and take my time. As a result, I have a large vocabulary base and high reading comprehension as long as the t
Jun 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Adequate information about Evelyn Wood, especially the part where she stayed in Europe as part of a missionary endeavor. Reading this book felt like the author was trying to make Evelyn Wood seem more interesting than she already is. A lot of the info seems repetitive.

Thanks to the publisher for access to review copy.
Dec 16, 2019 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Nobody
Recommended to Gail by: Other reviewers
I could not get into this book. The style of writing was off-putting. Maybe I read thirty pages before I called it quits. Too bad as I was really looking forward to reading it.
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read this book as it wanted to be read, though ironically it's very skimable. Lots of padding, nothing too substantial. It goes pretty hard on Evelyn, about whom I learned the most, like that she was a lousy mother and not homophobic in the sixties, even though it was illegal not to be homophobic in the sixties. There is some vagueish stuff to debunk speed-reading, too, but it focuses mostly on exaggerating in advertising (which is just so un-American).

Fine, don't speed-read. Even the girl on
Jeff Powers
Mar 16, 2020 rated it it was ok
Trying to read more biographies but this was a bit of a struggle. If only there was a way to get through it faster...heh. The premise is good but the delivery is a bit dull. Could have been shorter, or taken in a different direction. It was really hard to tell if Evelyn was actually con artist or just buying into her own bull. In fact, it was hard to get a read on much of the people involved. I picked it up hoping for so much more. Read an article on the subject and move on. Not recommended.
Mar 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Having worked at a Britannica Learning Center that was just starting to teach the Evelyn Wood method in the late 1980s, I was interested in reading how this method came into being. I found the book much longer than it needed to be and, ironically, I found myself skimming large parts of it. The author seemed to be trying to make Mrs. Wood more interesting than she was, and there were so many people in the story, I had a hard time keeping track of who was who.
Dec 18, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I thought/hoped the book would use Ms. Wood's story to springboard into a larger discussion of how scammers scam. And why people get scammed.

Instead, it was a fairly straightforward biography. The first few chapters were more interesting, as the author recounted Ms. Wood's time spent in Nazi Germany doing missionary work for the Mormon Church. But most of the later chapters seemed to focus more on the minutia of her business's growth and decline.
David Blake
Read it in 2 minutes...well, maybe scanned -- anyway send me $19.99 and I'll tell you more!
Oct 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I grew up reading ads for Evelyn Wood speed reading courses. I always wanted to go to one. I loved reading then as much as I do now. Who wouldn't want to be able to read even more books?

It turns out that speed reading is a myth. What Wood essentially taught was skimming, though she rejected that word. The author reveals that Wood (aided by her husband) knew how to create -- and defend -- a brand. Ignoring critics as "unbelievers" she was able to float for years on the idea that JFK had actually
Sarah J
Sep 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
I took a speed-reading course in college, and while the instructors insisted it would improve my reading and studying skills, I found it made no difference. Years later, reading this book, I'm astonished to learn about how it was all a scam (luckily it was a free course). Biederman's account of how one woman influenced and is still influencing a whole country that we can read faster than a computer is fascinating. We all got taken in and are still convinced this is something we can do.
Mar 15, 2020 rated it liked it
Maybe closer to 2.5/2.75 but I still liked it. The author pulls no punches in depicting Wood's flaws, but while she does show several positive sides of Evelyn Wood, and correctly questions Evelyn Wood's motivations throughout her life, especially during her time in Nazi Germany, it ultimately paints an incomplete picture.
Emily Fritz
Nov 02, 2019 rated it liked it
This book was very well researched and very easy to read. What bothered me, however, is the author’s strong bias against Woods is very clear. Certainly Woods overhyped herself and her reading method, but she surely had some redeeming features that could’ve been mentioned.
Dec 02, 2019 rated it liked it
I thought it would be just about the scam that is speed reading, but there is a lot of social commentary as well.
Melinda Borie
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
A little light, perhaps, for a book— I might prefer to see a piece of longform journalism on the subject— but I love a scam story.
Nick Velkavrh
rated it really liked it
Sep 08, 2020
rated it it was ok
Feb 13, 2020
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Oct 26, 2019
rated it it was ok
Jul 08, 2019
rated it really liked it
Mar 31, 2020
rated it liked it
Oct 22, 2019
rated it it was amazing
Jul 22, 2019
rated it it was amazing
Nov 14, 2019
rated it liked it
Feb 13, 2020
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A mystery-writer-turned-biographer, Marcia Biederman is also a journalist who has contributed more than 150 pieces to The New York Times. Her work has also appeared in New York magazine, the Christian Science Monitor, and the International Herald Tribune.

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