How to speed read books?


Less than 10% people on this planet read books regularly. If you too find it tough to read books then read through. Whatever might be the reason that puts you out of avid readers league if you are shown an easy way to be a habitual reader would you want to consider?

If this is still not convincing then you may want to consider merits of being an avid reader. According to the study conducted by university of Sussex stress levels of active readers have reduced by68%. Active reading leads to increase in memory. As our brain snaps through various facts while reading it is actually exercising. Neurons are being fired to search and verify these facts or retain them as new insights. Human brain in its lifetime is not used to its full potential though it is capable of storing over 125 trillion facts. Reading also helps in building resilience. When there is a downfall in ones career or in relationship a reader is better placed to tackle it for he is exposed to multiple such stories (real life) of people around the globe. Reading gives a perspective and hope to the old. People who regularly read are able to retain their cognitive skills till the end of their life.

Despite of these vast benefits of reading only a handful people are active readers. The reasons are:

  • Reading requires tremendous patience. Writers usually do not give out solutions easily, they will make a reader crave for it until the end of a book.
  • At an average speed of one page per 10 to 15 minutes a book of size 200 pages would take 3000 minutes or 50 hours.  Those are 30 days if reader gives an hour a day for reading.
  • Google has made information available easily within few keystrokes. Why would someone spend days to get something he would otherwise get it in minutes.
  • People spend more time surfing net instead of reading through a physical copy. Gone are the  days when people spent their time in libraries. Blogs are selling more than books for being concise and interesting.
  • Not every book is worth reading. With instant publishing there are many naive writers in the market whose goal is to sell their book somehow instead of focusing on value creation.

Reading is a habit to be developed. Once this habit is formed automatically people would read more, learn more, be more informed. To develop a habit the first step is to know why you should have it, what benefits you would get? Then, what routine will you have to make it a habit? Would you be willing to be patient? Who will be your buddy that will inspire and keep you on track. Once you work this out follow these tips for speed reading:

  • Measure current speed of reading. Lines per minute,  minutes per page. Use timer to record. The goal is to retain what you read. If you are flipping back to previous line or para you are double reading & that is a waste of time. Count number of double reads per page.
  • Once you have current baselines now set a goal of reading it a bit more fast.  Before you dothat,  use both the index fingers. One that points to the start of the sentence and one as a

    cursor that moves to direct your reading and speed.  So as your other index finger speeds up you start reading faster. This reading is without flipping back. Even if you didn’t understand don’t flip back. Later you will adjust to the new speed and retain what you read. After 25 iterations record new speed. That becomes your new baseline.

  • In the next round remove crutches of fingers. Read without the use of fingers and record your reading speed. If this is lower than previous baseline which it will be by all means don’t worry. Continue reading & recording speed until your eye movement catches up to read at the earlier speed. Keep a distance between face and book to an extent that entire para is clearly visible. This helps in eye movements and knowing beginning and end of lines.  Usually people read from left to right and start with first word then second and so on. Instead, within the grasp of your eyes catch 2-3 words at a time and move eyes with that coverage. Continue recording for next 25 iterations. An iteration covers 10 pages.
  • Practice is the key. Continue reading and recording for the next 10 days to set a new speed. Stop when you reach a speed of one page per minute.  Read at that speed for next 2-3 months and then move to your next goal of one page per 1/2 a minute. Remember retention is key, so have your buddy ask you questions from the book and if you are unable to answer you are just rushing.  Reset the speed and start again. You may bookmark for future read an important text.
  • On an average a book is of 200-300 pages, some books are even lesser in size. To read a book of 200 pages with a speed of 1 minute per page is 220 minutes (buffer of 20 minutes). Here’s the secret, books are blown up in size by the writer to create a market value, most books have a message/learning covered in 1-2 page. To make ideas saleable authors usually blow up the content by adding case studies, references etc.If you want to understand a book in less than 20 minutes here’s how to do it. First, skim through the table of contents topics to know about the structure of the book. Then read entire introduction page. You should mark some key topics while reading the index page. Read some important topics. Then directly go to the summary page. Usually summary covers what the author wants to say. This page is the gem of all. Follow this practice & soon you will end up reading 5-6 books easily each day. Use the time saved in taking notes, bookmarking for future reference. Remember, every time you read a book there is a new revelation.

Regular practice is the key. Once a speed is attained it is retained only by a regular practice.
You have to keep sharpening the saw. A break in habit will mean starting over again. Find 1
hour in a day dedicated to this hobby and soon there will be miracles in life. If you read 1 book a week that is 52 books a year,  520 books in 10 years  that should be good enough to place you in the elite club of knowledgeable people .

Leave a Reply