How to Read (A lot of) Books

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.

2 thoughts on “How to Read (A lot of) Books

  1. Max Weismann

    We are a not-for-profit educational organization, founded by Mortimer Adler and we have recently made an exciting discovery–three years after writing the wonderfully expanded third edition of How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren made a series of thirteen 14-minute videos–lively discussing the art of reading. The videos were produced by Encyclopaedia Britannica. For reasons unknown, sometime after their original publication, these videos were lost.

    Three hours with Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren, lively discussing the art of reading, on one DVD. A must for libraries and classroom teaching the art of reading.

    I cannot exaggerate how instructive these programs are–we are so sure that you will agree, if you are not completely satisfied, we will refund your donation.

    Please go here to see a clip and learn more:

    ISBN: 978-1-61535-311-8

    Thank you,

    Max Weismann

  2. catholicbiblestudent Post author

    Thanks, Max! In fact, I have seen your re-publication of these videos and they really do add color to the How to Read a Book program. I enjoyed them and I hope that others interested in the art of reading will watch them.

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