LAW & CRIME

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

Chicago Review. Sept. 2019. 240p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781641601627. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781641601658. CRIME
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Before Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos, there was Evelyn Wood. The ingredients for a successful con were the same: a dynamic founder, lightly credentialed, who peddled a sensational, secretive product with the endorsement from prominent figures. Journalist Biederman did extensive research on her subject, which shines through in this clear telling. Wood and her husband were devout Mormons who spent 1938 and 1939 in Nazi Germany on a mission. Wood, always driven, learned the value of spectacle and self-promotion, becoming a college reading instructor and promoting a service called speed reading. Her business boomed after she relocated from Salt Lake City to Washington, DC, and recruited students and salesmen to take her classes. At the time of Sputnik and President Kennedy’s space race, her “Reading Dynamics” promised dramatic self-improvement. The author convincingly portrays Wood as a fraud who threw off academic critics by embracing politicians’ endorsements.
VERDICT A clearly written book, laced with wry humor amid condemnation. Suggested for history and true crime readers.

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