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

Marcia Biederman '70

Evelyn Wood had little classroom experience, no degrees in reading instruction, and a background that included cooperation with the Third Reich. Nevertheless, a nation spooked by Sputnik and panicked by paperwork eagerly embraced her promises of a speed-reading revolution. Journalists, lawmakers, and two U.S. presidents lent credibility to her claims of turbocharged reading speeds. Fudging test results and squelching critics, Wood maintained her popularity even as science proved that her system taught only skimming, with disastrous effects on comprehension. As apps and online courses attempt to spark a speed-reading revival, Scan Artist looks at Wood’s rise from missionary to marketer exposes the pitfalls of wishful thinking. (Chicago Review Press, 2019)

Marcia Biederman '70 has had her work appear in the New York Times, Crain's New York Business, New York Magazine, the New York Observer, and Newsday. She is also the author of Popovers and Candlelight: Patricia Murphy and the Rise and Fall of a Restaurant Empire. She lives in New York.