Speed Reading

I always wanted to learn how to speed read. I read a lot of books and took few courses on speed reading. But my reading speed did not improve. I came across the classic book How to Read A Book by Mortimer Adler. This answered all the questions that I had on speed reading.

At what speed should I read a book?

Every book should be read no more slowly than it deserves, and no more quickly than you can read it with satisfaction and comprehension.

A simple  trick to double your reading speed

Place your thumb and first two fingers together. Sweep this “pointer” across a line of type, a little faster than it is comfortable for your eyes to move. Force yourself to keep up with your hand. You will very soon be able to read the words as you follow your hand. Keep practicing this, and keep increasing the speed at which your hand moves, and before you know it you will have doubled or trebled your reading speed.

You can ask why should this improve your reading speed. The reason is because

  1. When you follow your hand it is harder to fall asleep, to daydream, to let your mind wander.
  2. Your mind can grasp a sentence or even a paragraph at a glance. But your eyes is not capable enough to provide that much information. Hence when you force yourself you can take in more number of words in a single fixation. This results in increased speed.
  3. Most of us subvocalize when we read. What does that mean? It means that we internally pronounce every word we read. This slows us down completely. When you force yourself it is very hard to subvocalize and hence we can increase our reading  speed.
  4. Eyes of an untrained reader fixate as many as five or six times in the course of each line that is read. The eye is blind when it moves; it can only see when it stops. When you force yourself you fixate less often and it will increase your reading speed.

Should I need to understand every word or page of a difficult book?

Do not try to understand every word or page of a difficult book the first time through. This is the most important rule of all. Do not be afraid to be, or to seem to be, superficial. Race through even the hardest book. You will then be prepared to read it well the second time.

6 thoughts on “Speed Reading

  1. Jana,

    I am first time visiting you blog based on reference of this in one of safal niveshak’s post of mental model. Nice blog. I have a question regarding this post on speed reading. It would be great if you could first tell us why speed reading is beneficial compared to normal reading.


    • Hi Ravi,

      There are several speed reading courses which make bold claims about increasing your speed to 1000 words per minute. But most of them does not work for various reasons.

      The most common problems during reading are

      1. Lack of concentration.
      2. More eye fixations per line.
      3. Rereading the same line several times.

      By following few simple things as given in the post we can correct these mistakes. This should increase your reading speed and you can read more in less time.

      More than that you will enjoy the experience.


  2. Have you actually tried to do all types of reading suggested by Montimer Adler? I loved his book but was never able to actually follow things through tough it did make me a better reader! Have you watched his DVDs based on the book?

    • Eduardo,

      I have read it couple of times and I learnt how to read a book in my 36th year. I practice the concept of active reading as I take notes while reading and also relate to big ideas.

      Blogging really helps in doing syntopical reading as I refer to multiple books while researching on a topic to blog. I need to reread the book several times to get 100% value from it.


    • Eduardo,

      Is there a DVD based on this book? I never knew that. Can you send me the link to purchase the DVD?


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