How to Speed Read Like Theodore Roosevelt

by Brett & Kate McKay on October 18, 2009 · 72 comments

in Money & Career

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When Theodore Roosevelt did things, he did them with gusto. That included reading. Roosevelt was a voracious reader. The man devoured books like a damn hungry lion feasting on a fresh kill.  While in the White House, he would read a book every day before breakfast. If he didn’t have any official business in the evening, he would read two or three more books plus any magazines and newspapers that caught his fancy. By his own estimates, TR read tens of thousands of books during his lifetime, including hundreds in foreign languages.

Roosevelt accomplished this feat because he knew how to speed read. Associates said he would would flip through two or three pages in a minute. Despite reading so quickly, Roosevelt could relate back  in minute detail all of a book’s important points and even recite quotes from the text.

Being able to plow through so many books so quickly benefited TR’s leadership and influence. He easily connected with others as he could hold a conversation with anyone on any subject imaginable. Scientists were  blown away with Roosevelt’s knowledge of complex theories, socialites were smitten with his witty insights about the latest piece by Oscar Wilde, and cowboys out West respected the “Eastern Dude’s” understanding of desert wildlife. TR’s life as a bionic book worm also provided plenty of grist for the 2,000 published works he turned out himself.

In this post we provide some suggestions and tips so you can start speeding reading just like Theodore Roosevelt. Are you ready to start devouring books with your brain? Let’s get started!

How to Speed Read

Stop subvocalizing by counting.When we learned to read, we usually read aloud and pronounced every single word that we saw in a line. This slows reading down considerably because you can only read as fast as you can talk. While you may long ago have graduated from Hooked on Phonics and transitioned to reading silently, you probably still subvocalize. Subvocalization is when you pronounce words with the voice in your head or larynx. You might even open your mouth silently as you read, sort of like a guppy (I do this sometimes and my wife makes fun of me for it).

Quitting the subvocalization habit can be hard. First try simply reading faster than your mouth can move or the voice in your head can speak. If that doesn’t work, try this technique: Repeatedly say “A-E-I-O-U” or count “1, 2, 3, 4″ as you read the text. This will help train you to stop reading with your larynx and guppy lips and start reading with your eyes. This little trick can increase your speed in a matter of minutes.

Stop backtracking by using your finger. Backtracking slows many readers down. After reading a word, a person will read two or three more words, but then dart their eyes back to the first word. You probably do this without even realizing it. Watch someone read. You’ll see their eyes darting back and forth. Chances are they’re re-reading the same line over again.

To help you stop backtracking, use your index finger as a pace car. Underline the text with your finger at a pace faster than you normally read. Only look at the text in front of your finger; once you pass it with your finger, you can’t go back.

Use your peripheral vision. Your brain can comprehend several words at a time. You don’t have to read every single word by itself. The key with speed reading is to start reading multiple words at a time instead of just one at a time. To read chunks of text at a time, you need to start developing your peripheral  vision. Here’s how:

Take a book and draw two parallel lines about three inches apart from each other down the middle of the text. Concentrate on the area between the lines and try not to move your eyes outside of them. See if you can catch the words beyond the lines in your peripheral vision. Being able to indirectly read words in this way will greatly increase your reading speed.

Another thing you can do to get in the habit of reading text in big chunks is to practice speed reading with newspapers. Newspaper columns typically measure 1.83 inches. You can only fit five to six words in that small space, thus providing you the perfect platform to master reading text by the chunk. Instead of reading word by word, try reading line by line. It takes some practice, but you’ll find yourself breezing through the local story about the cat that got stuck on the roof in a matter of seconds.

Train your eyes with free web apps. Several free web applications exist that help users stop backtracking and train their eyes and mind to read more than one word a time. Spreeder is my favorite. Simply copy and paste the text you want to speed read into Spreeder. Spreeder will then flash chunks of your text on the screen until it goes through the entire text. You can decide how many words Spreeder will show at a time and how fast you want the words to appear. I actually used Spreeder during law school to help me quickly read through cases. Not only was I able to get through assigned reading faster, I trained myself to stop backtracking and subvocalizing as well.

Try the z method. The idea that reading must be done linearly is a myth. Your mind is pretty dang amazing, and it can actually process and understand stuff even if you read it backwards. Take advantage of this by employing the z  method. Basically the way this works is you start off on the first line and read it normally- left to right. Of course you’re not subvocalizing, and you’re not making any unneeded stops. When you get to the end of the first line, sweep your eyes from right to left diagonally across the second line until you get to the beginning of line three. Repeat this z pattern down the page.

You’d think you’d miss information by simply scanning across every other line backwards and diagonally. But try it for yourself. With practice, your brain will be able to pick up information backwards and in the periphery. Pretty dang amazing.

Know when to skim and scan. In addition to reading quickly, Roosevelt looked for places where he could skim and scan. In a letter to his son Kermit about the best way to read Dickens, Roosevelt said: “The wise thing to do is simply to skip the bosh and twaddle and vulgarity and untruth, and get the benefit out of the rest.” We can follow that advice for most things we read.

Not every word is important when conveying an idea. For example, articles like “a,” “an,” and “the” can be eliminated from most text, and you can still understand what is written. With practice you can train yourself to look over these unnecessary words and focus on the meaty stuff.

Another thing you can do to help focus on keywords is to skim through the book’s table of contents and section headings so you have a general idea of what the section is about. This will prime your brain to be on the look out for words related to the topic when you actually start reading.

Of course, the pleasure of some books is the masterful whole, the entirety of language and the author’s carefully selected words and purposefully constructed sentences. The joy of such literature comes in soaking up the text precisely as intended. In such cases, it’s best to slow down and take it in.

Have any other speed reading tips? Share them with us in the comments!

{ 67 comments… read them below or add one }

1 jonathan frei October 18, 2009 at 10:57 pm

Thanks for this. One of my goals has been to read more book, but my sluggish reading has put that on the back burner. Hopefully I’ll be able to use a few of these to pick up the pace.

2 Gabriel October 19, 2009 at 12:07 am

Great advice! I’m a pretty fast reader myself, something that has served me in good stead through my college years. I would say that the one piece of advice to add is to read CONSTANTLY! I think that’s the reason I read so quickly – I enjoy reading and so I’m constantly “practicing.” After all, practice makes perfect! :-)

3 Aaron Cirilo October 19, 2009 at 12:21 am

Found this article interesting……. i read it slowly, backwards, fast, then reread it with my figure tracing the words to be sure i didn’t backtrack.

:)

4 Luke - AspiringGentleman October 19, 2009 at 12:25 am

Very cool! I put the whole article in spreeder and read it in no time. Definitely something I want to work on.

5 Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot October 19, 2009 at 1:05 am

Great ideas to try here, I think I’ll give the z technique a go. I do worry that by speed reading my poor, tired old brain won’t be able to retain as much info and make the necessary connections. So I think picking and choosing the bits that are most pertinent to the information you seek is key.

But not when it comes to fine literature, of course, then it’s great to read and reread a brilliant line to work out why it’s so damned good, especially if you’re hoping to become a better writer yourself.

Always enjoy a good read here even though I’m not really interested in becoming manly:) Thanks, from one of your lovely lady readers!

6 Brew October 19, 2009 at 1:19 am

Sure, quantity is sometimes a priority, but who wants to crawl into bed after a long day’s work and relax with some speedreading? I sometimes prefer to mosey through a well-crafted novel. Also be warned that much less is comprehended when speed reading. To devour words like T.R. and gain a working knowledge, especially capable of quoting, says more about him than the technique. He also understood several languages, as I recall.

7 Brett McKay October 19, 2009 at 1:27 am

@Brew-

Speed reading is not unpleasant. Once you practice it, it becomes just as natural and relaxing as the way you read before. But I do agree that some books should been read more slowly, which is why I included that caveat on the end.

But I don’t agree with your point that speed reading diminishes one’s capacity for retaining and comprehending what is read. Not to toot my own horn, but I am able to tear through books rather quickly. My wife is frequently incredulous that I could possibly read that fast and still comprehend what I read. So she’ll quiz me and is always very surprised by how exactly I can recall and explain everything I have read. And as I mentioned in the post, I sped read in law school, and was able to use the knowledge I gained in answering questions in class and on exams and did very well. And I certainly don’t have the mind of TR! The brain is capable of more than we give it credit for!

8 Brendan White October 19, 2009 at 1:28 am

This is a blog that I rarely “Read” because the posts tend to be so long (of the 30 blogs in my RSS feed its this one and Steven Novella’s blog that don’t get read), I hope to use spreeder to read your posts in the future, because I do so much like what you have to say.

9 Yavor October 19, 2009 at 2:49 am

His speed reading ability is ridiculous.The 1234 trick is something new – thanks for this!

I tried the web app but it made me dizzy. Though the z method sounds useful – just tried it. Brett – have you used this method to study, or just to plow through the cases? I am asking as a future fellow lawyer.

Best,

Yavor

10 Gaurav October 19, 2009 at 5:50 am

Convert yourself into a high speed word scanning machine and engulf a line at the speed of light.
Whatever efforts put in this direction will help to reach *Somewhere*

11 Gen Y Investor October 19, 2009 at 8:03 am

I’m a pretty slow reader compared to others and I’ve always thought about learning how to speed read. I definitely subvocalize all the time, although I don’t do the guppy mouth thing lol. Thanks for the useful tips, I’m going to start implimenting some of them and see how they work!

12 Chris October 19, 2009 at 8:20 am

I’m a pretty slow reader compared to most. So this was definitely useful. Only thing that I have to say about this is that my English teacher always told us that if we truly needed to learn someone, and memorize it, it was always better to Subvocalize, or “Milli Vanilli it” as he would say. Thanks for the tips.

13 Shane October 19, 2009 at 8:53 am

This is great advice, the best book I’ve read on the subject is called “Reading Smart” from The Princeton Review. The focal points it references under “Use your peripheral vision” are called saccades. This book goes into depth about using these to increase your peripheral vision reading. It’s quite awkward at first, and slow, but after a while it becomes natural and you’re flying along.

14 Brian Driggs October 19, 2009 at 8:57 am

Very interesting article. I don’t think I do too much subvocalizing when I’m reading, but I am in the slow category when it comes to actual books. If I’m lucky, I’ll finish the 300 page book I got for Christmas last year in time to re-gift it this year to someone who’s expressed interest in reading it as well. (Not that I have trouble reading, I just read a LOT online.)

Speed reading sounds like something useful to have as I’m skimming blogs before heading off to work in the morning. I’ve sort of had the last seven months “off,” and have gotten used to reading a lot in the morning. Now I don’t have the time.

PS – I’m really digging the longer, beefier content of the articles on this site. It’s quality AND quantity. Substance should not be avoided in the interest of brevity imo.

15 Matt October 19, 2009 at 9:54 am

Another tip is to be actually interested in what it is you’re reading. I can blow through a Michael Crichton novel in a week or two just reading before bed, but when I have to trudge through some textbook on quantum mechanics, I find myself letting my mind wander and not becoming as engaged with the subject…

16 John Keener October 19, 2009 at 10:29 am

I use a free offline program called WordFlashReader. It can be downloaded from http://wordflashreader.sourceforge.net/. As your reading skills improve, the speed and “chunking” can be set manually. The program will also give you reading statistics, such as average speed and word count. You can also check out the wiki on “Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP)”. It will give you links to other programs of this type, including Spreeder.

17 Gianpaolo Pietri October 19, 2009 at 11:03 am

I have always considered myself a voracious reader, but good old Teddy here really puts me to shame. The truth is, I like to read alot, about a wide variety of topics, but I am quite slow at times. As I was reading ‘How to Speed Read’ I caught myself doing the very things you were warning against. After the first few paragraphs I immediately applied some of the very suggestions I was reading, and got through the article in a flash, and somehow retained the information. Thanks for another great post.

18 iMark October 19, 2009 at 11:16 am

Thanks for the tip on sub-vocalization. It is very hard to not sub-vocalize.

I would love to get through the books I am behind on!

19 Brett McKay October 19, 2009 at 11:16 am

@Yavor-

I used speed reading just to get through cases and would study at a slower pace. But it’s very helpful in getting ready for class.

@Brian-

Thanks, I’m glad you like our style. We kind of buck the blog trend with our longer posts but among the other old fasioned values we’re trying to resurrect is the attention span! :)

20 lady brett October 19, 2009 at 11:26 am

i saw this really neat little example of reading comprehension once in college (i can’t find an example of it online though). it was a few sentences explaining that we don’t typically “use” all of the letters in a word to read that word – and it was all written with only about half of the correct letters. the words were the right length, but some of the letters in each word would be replaced by random other letters. it was slightly slower work, but it was very surprising how easy it was to read and understand, given that it looked like complete gibberish.

anyhow, that bizarre experiment went a long way in convincing me how much our brains really can understand, and it seems like a good example of the way you can comprehend even when you are speed reading.

21 Kris Madden October 19, 2009 at 11:34 am

Great Article! I agree 100% about the lessening subvocalization increase reading speed.

I did a video on YouTube on saying “A-E-I-O-U”, while reading, and it was also posted on LIfehacker and Boing! Boing! If you’re interested in seeing some of my videos feel free to check out my website: krismadden.com .

22 Luis Q October 19, 2009 at 12:01 pm

Very nice article. I think reading is one of the most important things a man ( and a woman) can do with their time. It changes the way you see things and you can be a person that can interact with lots of different individuals.

Thanks!

23 Squirrel Most Frugal October 19, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Brett,

Nothing wrong with longer blog posts if it is something constructive and useful. I prefer longer, useful posts to a gazzillion short, useless ones.

I used to speed read when I was growing up but the Internet ruined my concentration. (fast, quick information). I need to get back into it. It was a lot of fun to knock back a bunch of books in a day.

24 Jason Y October 19, 2009 at 12:21 pm

Thanks for the post!

One speed-reading technique I read about is to sweep your finger from the upper-lefthand corner of a paragraph to the lower-left hand corner and somehow see all the words along the way with your peripheral vision. This sounds almost superhuman to me!

Speed reading seems to be as amazing of a learning-empowering tip as googling everything you don’t know! Amazing!

Any tips on speed reading with a computer? Using my finger against the computer screen gives me a headache!

25 Mike N October 19, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Hello,

I have read many many articles on speed reading and I must say this is one of the most informative and most information concentrated article that includes all of the best techniques to accomplishing and improving upon the skill. Kudos to you!

P.s.- This may be one of my favorite articles that you’ve composed so far! Nice work Brett

-MN

26 PAUL October 19, 2009 at 1:29 pm

Amazing is how many books Roosevelt read, he said “reading to me is like a disease” he succumbs to it. Also in the book it says he read using one good eye,(his other eye was almost blind).

27 Z. J. Kendall October 19, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Definitely people need training in, but everyone is going to cap out at some point based on their capacity. TR had a special brain. I’ve done quite a bit of speed reading learning (via article’s and such on the internet) and I can read light material (mostly fiction) between 400 and 500 WPM but, most stuff I want to take slower so I can grapple with what is being said.

A highly recommended book is How To Read a Book by Alder.

28 Chemical Erik October 19, 2009 at 2:05 pm

I did some of the speed reading techniques in college, but this article really showed me how much I’ve back-tracked the last few years. Looks like I need to refresh my skills and maybe take them a step further.

29 Rich October 19, 2009 at 2:34 pm

A few important steps

1. State a purpose for reading this book
2. read the front, back covers, preface and the TOC
3. List 10 questions you want to learn the answer of while reading this book.
4. Read as fast as you can.
5. When you complete the book reaffirm the reason why you read the book.
6. What about 20 minutes to let your subconscious work on the book.
7. Answer your questions..

To speed read PDF’s with Adobe Reader

Click on Edit
Click on Preferences
Click on Advance every _ seconds ( fill in the _ )

30 Jackson October 19, 2009 at 4:42 pm

I don’t know if I like the idea of speed reading. You might be able to retain information while speed reading, but reading isn’t simply a one-way street. I feel like most of my time reading is spent contemplating and interacting with what I’m reading as I’m reading it.

Language is full of subtleties that deserve time and thought, not a simple glossing over for explicit meaning.

I value reading tremendously, but I value the quality of my reading over the quantity of books I consume.

31 Zoli Cserei October 19, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Using spreeder I read Paulo Coelho’s “Eleven Minutes” in just about two and a half hours. My eyes are aching, but one thing I achieved is that I wasn’t distracted throughout the read.
I got so used to flashing through new blog posts, that I seemed no longer able to read thoughtfully. Your article helped me. I read a meaningful book in less than three hours, and I can form an opinion about it, even if I’m still quite far from Theodore Roosevelt.

Thanks, I appreciate your work,
Zoli.

32 Owen October 19, 2009 at 4:57 pm

Interesting article and some good comments – but some bad ones too.

Contrary to the stated opinion in one of the comments, research shows that speed readers retain MORE information from what they have read than non speed readers.

I went to school in England and we actually were given a speed reading class at one point – about ten lessons total. I was already a fast reader but it absolutely helped.

Continual practice really helps. I am slower now than I was but I can still knock off a book a day outside of my regular work hours etc.

Speed reading works best for non fiction where ideas are usually expressed in concrete bursts. Novels are harder and complex literary novels where the writing is deliberately complex are harder still.

Also, most established speed reading techniques are good for books – NOT for screens.

33 Tyler October 19, 2009 at 11:18 pm

I’m constantly trying to increase my reading speed At the moment I primarily read text books and instruction books. I usually read these types of books a little slower to further soak in the information so I’ll abbreviate frequently repeated words to save some time.

34 Kartikey October 20, 2009 at 5:20 am

Read without fear and don’t be bother if you con’t comprehend.

35 Katherine Taylor October 20, 2009 at 5:50 am

In the information age, speed reading can be a very valuable skill, however, you should also be able to comprehend what you are reading or else it is no use.

36 Sir Lancelot October 20, 2009 at 6:09 am

“I used to speed read when I was growing up but the Internet ruined my concentration. (fast, quick information). I need to get back into it. It was a lot of fun to knock back a bunch of books in a day.”

What this man said. The Internet has made me cut back my “actual” reading. The possibility of accessing endless sources on information at a click of the mouse is too tempting and makes it harder to pick a book and singlemindedly focus on it

37 Alex Chebykin October 20, 2009 at 12:32 pm

Wonderful article in that it inspired me to learn a new skill.

I did some searching and stumbled upon a program called Mental Photographing. As far as I understand it, it it s similar to speed reading in that it allows you to read a lot faster. The creator claims it increases reading speed to anywhere from 25,000 wmp to 100,000 wpm, which sounds impossible.

I am almost sure that its a hoax, but just to be certain I want to ask the respectable members of this community if they know anything about mental photographing. Did anyone use mental photographing and find it useful? Or is it just a scam?

38 Chris W. October 20, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Great article. I work for a speed reading software company and a lot of what has been put here is quite accurate. I was curious for a number of years about how fast I actually read and wondered if any program would help me. You can take a free demo of our product and found out how fast you reading, before and after a exercise of our program. Check it out at http://www.eyeqadvantage.com, and while your there enter to win a free iPod touch.

39 antonio October 20, 2009 at 2:14 pm

funny how i was actually researching up this very topic for self improvement a few back to find it conveniently summarised here. nonetheless, thanks for the good article!

apart from the above gems, here are some others which might be useful to you and other readers:

1. many reading materials contain “filler” materials. filler materials just serve the purpose of bulking up the gist of the article. extract the crux of the article and briefly understand the fillers. you can return to them later if you so wish.

2. quality speed reading requires focus. abstain from multi-tasking. works for some, but i guess i dont belong to that “some”

3. people have different levels of comprehension and speed when it comes to different topics. technical information usually requires more time to devour as opposed to light topics. a person’s own interests and aptitude in the subject matter also do play a part. in short, speed reading is not a constant for all articles.

4. understand the basic structure of an article: title, subtitle, abstract, introduction, body, diagrams and figures, summary, appendices etc. it’s always useful to glimpse the summarised gist to get an overall understanding before dwelling it in deeper details. also, it’s very useful to read and understand diagrams first before reading the prose.

5. there are different levels of reading. “i’ve read this book” doesn’t need to apply to reading it only once. i enjoy glimpsing through a novel, and if i do enjoy it, i will consider a further more in depth read. if not, it shall pass. extracting the gems of an article doesnt need to be once. quite on the contrary, you extract some gems through multiple re-reads and revision. there’s always hidden gems that you failed to uncover or appreciate (at that point in time) that you can find upon re-reading (or revising a textbook)

6. treat reading like watching a movie — you can rewind what you missed. in other words, eliminate back skip. it’s a good method to accustom yourself to this generally time wasting habit. you can make exceptions if it’s technical matter or something critical to understanding of the entire prose.

7. imagine your reading focus as a circle. main focus in the centre and it’s peripheral vision near the circumference. practice reading all the words in this circle of focus, and slowly improve on expanding the circle.

i hope this helps.

40 Joseph M. Orellano October 20, 2009 at 4:47 pm

I’ve been a reader for the entirety of my life, though I do not read books quite as much as I used to. That all changed when I became a journalist for a local newspaper. I stopped reading so many books and writing creatively and for fun, for the most part, once I got home, since the vast majority of my day became all about writing the news. I’ve learned how to skip over the fluff and focus on the meaty things like Roosevelt, but I’ve got that nasty problem of subvocalizing! (I am very happy to finally know what that is called!) If I could simply stop myself from doing that, I’d imagine I’d be able to enjoy reading again. I tried it out by reading the remainder of this article, but found myself slipping here and again, and now I’ve got a headache. But still, a fascinating read, as always!

41 Daniel October 20, 2009 at 7:37 pm

Great article. And there have been some interesting and useful comments posted. I backtrack often. But that’s mainly because I have a difficult time comprehending what I’ve read. Any suggestions on that?

42 Robert October 22, 2009 at 12:46 am

wow, that really helped a lot, I read this article so damn fast! I couldnt really to the z method. but the fast scan and counting 1234 friggn worked like a charm!!! Thanks a ton!

43 krist October 29, 2009 at 12:50 pm

Glad to read this article. I read really slow, i need to pick it up!

44 Thad October 29, 2009 at 1:51 pm

I trained myself to speed read while an undergrad … it helped to have teachers assign 1000 pages of reading a week per class!

I am going to link to this for my current students who may need some help reading faster …

45 Kris Madden November 2, 2009 at 3:47 pm

In response to “antonio”:

If you’re still looking for more research, you can check out the Bibliography section in my new book: “Learn To Speed Read”. It’s got about 20 pages of resources you dive deeper into, if you’re interested. I’ve been researching for the book over the past few years, and the 366-page course book is culmination of that research. Hope it helps.

-Kris Madden

46 Tas von Gleichen December 5, 2009 at 6:55 pm

Trying to improve my reading skills. Nice article to get better.

47 Ayla87 March 14, 2010 at 3:17 pm

I know I’m a bit late to the coversation, but I would just like to say that the Z method is fantastic! I practiced this technique immediately with this article and I was amazed with the quantity of what I understood. I’ll definately use this tactic in the future. Thanks!

48 Janice June 21, 2010 at 10:59 pm

I have been wanting to learn to read faster, There are some useful tips in the article, but I think I need to order some speed reading software, I need a little more help.

49 Brandon August 7, 2010 at 12:07 pm

I can’t believe that worked! I tried just reading faster than normal by leading with my finger, and my brain skipped the subvocalization and just read it directly. Thanks AOM!

50 Gary V August 15, 2010 at 1:44 am

As someone who learns best through auditory means, subvocalizing is how I manage to learn or remember what I read. So sadly, as appealing as speed reading is, I will have to pass and do it all the hard way.

51 Mark August 19, 2010 at 6:28 pm

From Nietzsche’s preface to Daybreak, “A book like this, a problem like this, is in no hurry; we both, I just as much as my book, are friends of lento. It is not for nothing that I have been a philologist, perhaps I am a philologist still, that is to say, A TEACHER OF SLOW READING:- in the end I also write slowly. Nowadays it is not only my habit, it is also to my taste – a malicious taste, perhaps? – no longer to write anything which does not reduce to despair every sort of man who is ‘in a hurry’. For philology is that venerable art which demands of its votaries one thing above all: to go aside, to take time, to become still, to become slow – it is a goldsmith’s art and connoisseurship of the WORD which has nothing but delicate, cautious work to do and achieves nothing if it does not achieve it lento. But precisely for this reason it is more necessary than ever today, by precisely this means does it entice and enchant us the most, in the midst of an age of ‘work’, that is to say, of hurry, of indecent and perspiring haste, which wants to ‘get everything done’ at once, including every old or new book:- this art does not so easily get anything done, it teaches to read WELL, that is to say, to read slowly, deeply, looking cautiously before and aft, with reservations, with doors left open, with delicate eyes and fingers…My patient friends, this book desires for itself only perfect readers and philologists: LEARN to read me well!”

As a classicist, I agree drivel out to be read as quickly as possible. But there are works that must be savoured word by word. And then read again. Read the NYT as fast as possible, but try to understand, or even to catch, why Plato does not use a definite article for Piraeus in the first line of the Republic.

52 Jhans September 23, 2012 at 10:49 am

Thank You Very Much!

For Mac Users, a nice app for offline use (instead of spreed.com) is iReadFast. Download at http://www.macupdate.com/download/25920/iReadFast%202.0.dmg

JA

53 JamesT February 18, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Cheers for the article brother. First time i’ve commented here, couldn’t help it after realising how much this article has helped me.

Thanks to you guys I’m now back into my old habit of reading pretty much during any spare second I have.

The method I’ve adopted is a blend of peripheral vision and the ‘z’ method. Never realised how quick I could actually read with just a little practise.

So to summarise the entire point of this comment, thank you again for helping me pick up something I love again and have the ability to do it quickly.

54 Jasi February 22, 2013 at 1:57 pm

This article is really awesome. I found it cool how, as I was reading it, my inner voice started to quiet. Neat!

55 Andrew L February 23, 2013 at 5:32 am

Started the article off reading about a line every couple of seconds and by the time I was at the end of the article I was finishing paragraphs in second. My jaw has literally dropped.

56 Bryan March 19, 2013 at 12:04 am

Great article! My wife and I will go to the library together and I’ll get one or two books while she leaves with a huge stack. Yet she’ll finish her dozen before I’m done with one. I’ve always blamed it on the fact that I work long hours and go to grad school so the amount of time I have to read is diminished, but the fact is that she can tear through a book! I used the 1-2-3-4 technique reading this post and was AMAZED at how fast I was finished! Now, if I can just get used to doing it without having to say “1-2-3-4″ to myself!

57 N Kinsella March 19, 2013 at 2:24 pm

I used to be a pretty fast and avid reader, a 1000 page novel each week didn’t phase me at all and there was a time I was getting through three or more books of that size simultaneously every fortnight.
The internet put paid to that, it’s about time I started flicking through real paper again.

58 Joel March 19, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Just by taking out the subvocalization (i was repeating the words in my mind) increases my lecture speed without losing the understanding of the text.

Awesome!!!

59 Throckmorton Q. Dirktwister March 19, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Here is a skeptical analysis of speed-reading:

“Speed reading classes claim to be able to turbocharge your words per minute. Is this really possible?”

http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4229

60 Joe April 7, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Great article! Really interesting, i’d also highly recommend Tony Buzan’s work on speed reading to anyone wanting to learn more about it and the most effective techniques. :-)

61 Drayton April 19, 2013 at 8:39 pm

there are extensions for Chrome and Mozilla Firefox that will work like speeder. It’s called REASY.

you can set the speed of the words flashed. how many words flashed at a time. etc.

62 bartkid June 20, 2013 at 10:38 am

>While in the White House, he would read a book every day before breakfast.

This is the best nugget I got out of the article: Read early in the day before the myriad of problems of the world may intrude on your time.

63 David June 23, 2013 at 9:16 pm

Brett – how did you originally learn to speed read? Do you recommend any courses, books, drills, etc. on top of what you have in this article?

64 Tom July 10, 2013 at 12:37 am

My only problem is that if I don’t subvocalize then I don’t understand anything. oO Or does it work for you…?

65 aaa January 3, 2014 at 10:22 pm

When I read books like Bonjour Tristesse, it’s hard for me to read fast, because I’m savoring every word. I’m literately re-reading some sentences just to reflect on how beautiful they are. The problem is I mostly read books with beautiful writing style, so I kind of forces myself to read slow. I do want to learn to spored read though, so I can cover more material and more diverse in reading

66 alice January 3, 2014 at 10:31 pm

I suspect some materials are not meant for speed reading. Like philosophical materials, there no point speedily flipping through the book. It’s meant for contemplation and reflection on what’s being written.

67 Ashley-Anne February 6, 2014 at 7:11 pm

I already read pretty quickly, usually over a page a minute, but I find when reading articles for class (those long boring research articles) it takes me forever. However, I’ve learned that when reading stuff like that, you can just read the first and last sentence of each paragraph, skim the rest, and still understand the text. No really! Most of the middle stuff is elaboration and reiteration you don’t need to know anyway. I wouldn’t recommend this with pleaure reading just because you’ll miss all the satisfying minute details, but it’s great when you have to read for school or work.

Also, I don’t think I’m a subvocalizer, because when I read I skip entire sections of dialogue and don’t feel like I missing anything. What I mean is, I will skip over all of the “he said” “she replied” “he thought to himself” stuff. I can hear it spoken in my head without having to read it word for word.

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