I found a helpful blog post by Matthew Cornell on how to read a lot of books in a short period of time. Students and scholars alike always need to be reading a lot of books. A book that has been helpful to me is How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler. It’s a classic, but it is more about reading in general than it is about reading fast. It will help you read faster, but more importantly, it will help you read better. Adler understands and explains the purpose of reading and how to go about it in the most productive way. As far as quick reading, I have looked through The Complete Idiots’ Guide to Speed Reading by Abby Marks Beale and Pam Mullen. This book pulls together a lot of advice from many different speed reading approaches and techniques. It’s kind of a buffet of techniques rather than a particular approach.
The principles that have been helpful to me are:
- Set apart a large block of time for reading.
- Avoid all distractions. (Usually this means going to a place for reading, like a coffee shop or library, where you are less likely to be distracted than in whatever normal place you have like your living room or office.)
- Stop sub-vocalizing! (Most people sub-vocalize words as they read them, because they learned to read by speaking. Once you overcome this problem–by humming, breathing, or just not doing it–your reading speed will increase.)
- Use a card to guide your eye. (This technique involves using an index card to lead your eye down the page more quickly than it would go by itself. I don’t do this all the time, but sometimes.)
- Don’t read every word and skip some stuff.
- Read in a brightly lit environment, the brighter the better.
- Interest yourself in your author’s ideas. (That means you have to “get” what the author is talking about so that your mind can ride on the track which he has laid down. If you don’t get the story he’s trying to tell you’ll find yourself lost and hopelessly uninterested.)
Speed reading is kind of like swinging a golf club. There’s a whole lot of techniques and things to remember and you can only utilize so much them at any given time. But with some effort, anyone one who can read can read faster.