George V. Reilly

Reading at Speed

Speed Reading

I’ve always been a fast reader, faster than most people. I’ve read and reviewed 176 books in just over two years, or about two books a week. That doesn’t count newspapers, magazines, blogs, and other online reading.

When I was 10, I had an operation on both my feet and I spent all summer with my legs in plaster. My mother had to go to the library every day because they’d only let her take out three books at a time for me. On the flight back from Ireland two weeks ago, I read two 500-page books. My personal best, though, was the long, long night that I read seven short novels.

I’ve known people who read faster than me, but not many. One friend at college seemed to read about twice as fast as me.

I just tried a couple of online reading speed tests, which rated me at 650-700 words per minute. One of the tests also indicated that online reading is slower than reading a book.

A reviewer for the LA Times read 462 books last year. I might be able to do that if I had nothing else to do. She talks about ripping through an 80,000 word book in 90 minutes. A number of the commenters claimed to be ultra-fast readers too.

I’ve never taken a speed reading course. I naturally developed a high reading speed. My com­pre­hen­sion and short-term retention is good. My long-term retention is not great, but this is equally true for movies that I’ve watched.

I think my high reading speed is why I have no patience for podcasts. I can read five times faster than anyone can talk in­tel­li­gi­bly. Unless there’s a lot of additional in­for­ma­tion in the soundtrack, such as music or an unusually talented delivery, I’d much rather read.

There are screen readers that will speak at triple speed for blind users: ‘To the untrained ear, the output is in­com­pre­hen­si­ble, but it allows [T.V.] Raman to “read” at roughly the same speed as a sighted person.’

Read on!

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