I’ve been asked how I’m able to read so many books every year. Do I “speed read,” do I just “skim” them or what? Let me explain, beginning with some background detail. First, I do read them cover to cover. If I count a book as read it means I have read every word in it. To qualify as a book it has to have an ISBN and page numbers. I could read a lot of short books but last year my average length was 192 pages so that isn’t the case. My overall average since I started keeping track (on Dec 9, 1986) is 178. I originally pondered counting lines per page or something to provide a more accurate count of how much I am actually reading but that seemed like too much work and now in the age of the e-reader it is possible to count actual words read. I am amazed how much books vary in words per page. You can see this when a book is originally published in hardcover and subsequently in paperback > the paperback version will usually have substantially more pages.
That said. How do I actually read so much? As of the end of February I have read 589654 pages, which takes:
1. Time. There’s only so much time in the day so where do I find time? I don’t watch TV. I gave it up for lent in 1998 and haven’t gone back. That’s not to say that I never watch it but I don’t follow any series and there is no such thing as “must see TV.” If I want to watch a series I buy it on DVD, like Corner Gas. This saves me having to watch the ads as well. Also, I am married but don’t have any kids. Kids take time, and rightly so, but I don’t have any yet. I also don’t work 70 hours a week. If you want to read a lot don’t get into management and work 70 hour weeks! I read wherever it’s convenient – on the bus, the train, the plane, in waiting rooms…Don’t get stuck reading 10 year old copies of Home and Garden or the airline magazine!
On top of finding time to read there is also the admitted fact that I read fast. I don’t “speed read/skim” because I enjoy reading and it’s hard to relax with a book if you are intent on pounding it back like sports drink after a game of soccer. I prefer to sip my books like herbal tea while playing tiddlywinks. Perhaps I should clarify that there is fast and superfast. In other words, I read a word at a time and not a paragraph at a time but I read those words pretty quickly.
Practice made me perfect, which is to say that the more you read, the easier it becomes. If you remember the first time you read Dick and Jane it took forever. The first time you picked up a textbook on elementary particle physics it took you a week of all-nighters. Now you can read about Dick, Jane and Spot and understand quarks and gluons with little trouble and your reading speed has increased.
Variety. Some people pick up their Calculus handbook and vow to read it if it kills them; usually they survive but their love of reading is gone afterwards. So read a variety of material. If you don’t feel like reading pick up a western.mystery.fantasy.romance and pound it back. You will be surprised how your brain responds with gratitude.
e-Reader. My wife bought me an e-reader in October and I’m sure I read 20% faster with it. The font is uniform in size and style which is nice. Turning pages is a click away and I hate to crack my spines so now I can be less careful about opening the book too far :).
Consistency. The longest book in the world was written by someone. Imagine how much longer it took him or her to write than it will take you to read. At a chapter per day most books can be read in a couple of weeks, no matter how difficult the subject matter. I admit to having started lots of books that I haven’t finished (yet!) but the way to finish a large book is one page at a time consistently. Just remember that sometimes the second half is better than the first and you will enjoy it!
Join a club. I have a LibraryThing account and some of friends and I have a group on there where we can chat, exchange book thoughts and see what each other has read recently. Of course, having someone like me in your group can be overwhelming – sorry about that folks. Do you still love me?
I hope this explains things and I hope that you can enjoy reading all the more!
P.S. If you’ve actually read this post you obviously enjoy reading. 🙂