How to Read a Book a Day

To become a great writer, first you must become a great reader.  Imagine how your life might change if you could read a book a day.  Think of everything you could learn, the insights you could gain, the people you could meet, and the worlds you could explore.  For most people, it sounds like an impossibility—life is busy and there are only so many hours in a day—but for me it’s a reality, even with a busy schedule.  It’s a reality for anyone who masters how to speed-read.  

When I was in high school, I read at a pretty average speed, it took seemingly forever to finish a book, and I never thought twice about the process of reading; however, everything changed when I met my grizzled, wise-cracking English teacher.  One day, he began class by telling us that he always read the books he asked his students to read, but he hadn’t read our current book yet.  After his lecture, he gave us an assignment, sat at his desk, and started reading the book.  As I wrote my essay, I would look up and see him quickly thumbing through page after page of the book—almost like the rhythmic ticking of a metronome.  At the end of class, he put down the book, dismissed everyone, and gathered his things to head to lunch.

Before leaving, a curious student asked him how many chapters of the book he had finished.  Amused by the question, my teacher let out a short chuckle, turned his head just far enough for us to see him smirking, and responded with a smug, lilting tone, “Chapters?  I finished the whole book.”  And then he walked out the door, leaving a throng of stunned students with jaws agape.  At first I was skeptical of his claim, but as the year went on, I came to learn it was true.  He could speed-read faster than anyone I had ever met—faster than I thought was even possible—but whenever he was asked how he did it, he would respond, “With many years of practice.”  It was then that I decided to figure it out on my own.  It took me a over a decade of research coupled with trial and error, but I finally learned how to do it.  Now, I want to share the secrets with you.  Here’s how to do it:

How to Read a Book a Day
On average, people speak at about 150 words per minute (WPM), so the majority of people read at around 150-200 WPM.  Most popular books contain about 300 pages with around 250 words per page.  In order to be able to read one such book in an hour and a half, you need to be able to read at about 833 WPM.  I’ve broken down the path to becoming a master speed-reader into three phases:

Phase 1—Easily double or even triple your current reading speed in just minutes

  • Stop regressing—Focus on reading straight through the text without going back to reread anything you might have missed or misunderstood.  In time you will see and understand everything with just a quick glance.
  • Stop subvocalizing—When we learn to read, we are taught to sound out each word aloud.  Eventually, that leads us to speak the text in our heads.  By breaking this habit, you open the doors to instantly increasing your reading speed.  Sometimes it is helpful to bite your tongue when you catch yourself subvocalizing.
  • Find keywords—Focus on nouns first, then verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.
  • Be consistent—Keep a constant pace as you read.  If it helps, use your finger to direct your eyes.
  • Read linearly—Start a few words into the text and end a few words from the end.  Use your peripheral vision to read the words you aren’t looking at directly.

Phase 2—Strength train your eyes

  • Speed-read daily—Practicing every day will allow you to read longer without eye strain.
  • Maximize your peripheral vision—Slowly increase the amount of each line you read using your peripheral vision.
  • Read voraciously—The more you read, the stronger your eyes will become and the faster you’ll get.  There are many apps with useful features for speed-reading.  Download a few and use the ones that work best for you.

Phase 3—Read a book a day

  • Utilize your peripheral vision—I personally sweep through paragraphs diagonally in a thunderbolt pattern, but find a way that works best for you.
  • Use columns—If you can, read your text in column form.  You can look down the middle of each column and use your peripheral vision to read the majority of the text.
  • Master how to focus—Perfect concentration is key to maximum speed-reading.  Meditation can build focus and increase memory retention.  Listening to calm music also helps with concentration and increases memory recall.
  • Ease into your maximum speed—Start at a speed higher than you can handle and gradually slow down to your goal.  Use apps that allow you to scroll through your text at specific tempos.  Start with an uncomfortably high tempo and gradually reduce the speed until you reach your desired goal.  This is an essential step that has allowed me to read a book a day.

Until next time, adieu.

 – Zach

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