Wednesday, July 15, 2015

How Fast Do You Read?


I met a new neighbor a few weeks ago who told me she read at least a book a day. She was able to speed read by reading the middle of each page. She seemed to enjoy reading this way. I am able to do this somewhat with subtitles in a movie, but I can't say I enjoy it. And I am, in fact, a slow reader. And I have gotten slower over time-more distractable I suppose. I stop to think, stare out the window, digest what I've read. Only rarely does a book hold my interest to the extent that I speed through it. The average book takes me a week to read. In my twenties I read three books a week. But I think there were so many fewer distractions then. Both in the world and in my head.

What is the average amount of time it takes you to finish a book? Tell me how you read. Does it vary? Do you read a book you like faster than one that is so-so? Where do you read usually?




31 comments:

Al Tucher said...

It varies, but I have definitely showed down. My attention span is shot to hell, and I'm afraid the internet is at least partly to blame.

I also fail to finish more books these days (although CONCRETE ANGEL was not one of them!)

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I was a fast reader and can be at times, when a book really grabs my interest. I blame too much time fooling around on the d@mn internet for distracting me! And all those blogs like yours that give me lists of other interesting books to look for when I should be reading.

Back in the 1970's (remember the days of yesteryear!) when there was no internet or even (yes, children, it's true) home personal computers, let alone smart phones (the Devil's tool) I read a lot more ... some years. In college one year I read nearly a book a day - 333 books in a year. (100 of them were plays.) But when I got involved in mystery fandom ca. 1976 my reading dropped off to 70 books as I was consumed with fanzines.

That said, I'd agree that I read slower because fewer books grab me the same way books like SHOGUN or LONESOME DOVE or THE PRINCE OF TIDES did when I first read them. When I read a mystery in a favorite series that I really like I will still read it in less than a day. And writers like Ken Bruen are a very fast read.

Normally I will start out reading a short story, then maybe a chapter or two in whatever non fiction book I'm reading, then whatever novel I'm reading. But I find I am easily distracted (as I am now, obviously).

I read mostly on the couch - the one here in the den more than the one in the living room. I will take a book to Starbucks but end up mostly on the phone checking blogs, emails, the NY Times, etc. so rarely get much reading done there.

Depending on the year (last year was better than this one), I'm reading 2-3 books a week. I want to get it back up near four, as 200 books a year is my goal. I haven't done that since 2002 (206 books) and 2003 (191).

I blame Al Gore.

Jeff M.

R.T. said...

I'm with you on the one-a-week pace. When I was a sprout in school, we were pushed to read faster (via something called the SAT Reading Laboratory system), and I picked up bad habits (i.e., "speed reading" of sorts), but I have slowed to a snail's pace in my dotage. I am suspicious of anyone who claims to read a book-a-day. But that is just my cynicism showing.

George Kelley said...

I try to read a book a day. But, in this era of inflated novels, it sometimes takes me a couple days to read a 500+ page book. And, of course, the type of book makes a difference. I can usually read fiction a lot faster than non-fiction.

Richard R. said...

I have a couple of favorite reading places, though one of them, out on our deck, has changed now that very noisy neighbor has moved in, (Sigh) so that only works in the morning. But a coney rocker in the bedroom and a living room sofa with good over-the-shoulder light are the best.

Speed? My goal every year is 104, two per week. I reach that goal most years, or at least 90. I've never been a fast reader, and when in high school took a speed reading course (Evelyn Wood) but the method of running my finger down the page as I read felt awkward and I thought I must be missing the depth of the book. Your book took me 2.5 days, and I read it right through. I do have less focus that I used to, and stare out the window, etc. as you mention doing. I read a book I'm enjoying as quickly as possible, foregoing other things including chores. (Grocery shopping, no. Read, yes.) A book I'm less engaged in takes longer, and sometimes I start a second book and double dip to the end of both.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sometimes I read a book I enjoy the most slowly of all!

Jerry House said...

Life tends to interfere with my reading more and more, although I think I average 4-5 books a week. Some books read much faster than others while some deserve careful attention to every word. I usually finish every book I start but sometimes have to quit it and come back to it later. (I have been trying to read Sheridan LeFanu's UNCLE SILAS for years now but circumstances -- not the book -- continually interfere. Some day, though.)

Gone are the days of reading 1-2 books a day.

I figure if I live to be 283 I'll be able to whittle down Mount TBR to a reasonable size.

Graham Powell said...

I used to read faster when I was younger, but now that my vision is not as good as it was I can't go so fast, even with glasses. I also used to finish most books in one sitting but these days I have more "life" to get in the way, and I usually only read about an hour before bed.

My reading is inconsistent. I'll go two or three weeks when nothing seems to appeal to me, then I'll read 3 books over a weekend. I end up averaging at least a book a week and sometimes a little more.

Steve Oerkfitz said...

I average about 160 books a year. I am not a fast reader but I am able to devote a lot of time to it not having a lot of obligations other than work-being single, my kids are all grown and I live in a apt and don't have such things as yard work, home repairs etc. to eat up my time. Some writers I read much faster than others. I find crime writers read the fastest. Fantasy writers the slowest. I can whip right thru Hemingway, Twain or Vonnegut but take forever to get thru Melville or Faulkner.

Deb said...

I tend to average about 100 books per year--so around two a week. If a book really grabs me, I always have my nose stuck in it and I can easily finish within a day. Others are slower going because, well, life.

I hate to speed read, especially through fiction and most especially through crime/mystery novels where it's easy to overlook clues. On the other hand, I will often skim-and-scan through non-fiction, especially if there's a lot of ancillary material that I don't think warrants close reading.

Deb said...

Btw, are those your shelves? Love them!

pattinase (abbott) said...

No. I think they were Mike Dennis'/ I should take some of mine.

Charles Gramlich said...

I can speed read but I don't like to. I'd much rather take my time and enjoy. When the story is going fast I still read quickly but I read every word. My time with books varies tremendously depending on what else I've got going. I don't have as much time to read as I once did, but I still get through about 100 books a year.

John said...

I've never understood "speed reading". To me it's not reading at all, it's skimming, information gathering, looking for key points. I never had any desire to do that with books I read for pleasure. It never worked for me with textbooks that's for sure. I tried yet never grasped the concept.

It's SRA not SAT, R.T. I did the SRA reading system in school, too. I looked it up online and amazingly it still exists. Here's some trivia from one of the articles I read: "IBM acquired SRA in 1964. It sold SRA to Maxwell Communications Company in 1988, and when the latter tried to stage a hostile takeover of CTB/McGraw-Hill the following year, the SRA assets became part of a new company, Macmillan/McGraw-Hill. McGraw-Hill continues to publish the SRA Reading Laboratory – in print and as software – to this day. Over 127 million children have used the product."

Because I read on my commute to and from work and almost every day at lunch I manage to complete a lot of books fairly quickly. I'm not easily distracted on the bus or train and find it very easy to immerse myself in the world of any book I'm reading. I also take extensive notes on the novels I read, so it becomes like my working mode where I can tune out everything and focus. It takes me about two or three days to finish a book, longer if the book is 400 pages or more. I don't think I read fast at all, but I can be compulsive about it; I've spent up to half a day doing nothing but reading a book (with breaks to eat and the bathroom, of course). On average, I get through nine books a month. I've read as many as 14 in one month but only because most of them were short (160-190 page paperbacks) and I got into my compulsive mode needing to finish them for research projects. In the winter I read more than I do in the summer when we are doing a lot of hiking, biking and camping.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I did all my best reading when I used to take a bus to work. An hour there and an hour back and I was about half done a book. Now I NEVER read for an hour at a time. Except on an airplane. Maybe I need to buy a bus and plant it in my backyard.

R.T. said...

John, thanks for correcting my flawed memory. I remember the SRA from the early sixties. It morphed me into an OCD reader for a while. Bad system!

Deb said...

John's reference to SRA brings back memories of the late sixties, my first year in the United States. We used the SRA program at school (6th grade) and I still remember some of the stories: Helen Keller, Booker T. Washington, the Irish Potato Famine (which was NEVER covered in the British history classes of my childhood-- perhaps because we were too busy memorizing the names of the English monarchs from 1066 onward). Anyway, whatever else you say about SRA, it used a very wide variety of topics and reading material. At least in 1968/9.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

When I first started reading a ton of mysteries, ca. 1971 on, I read a lot of books very fast, but it was different then. Your typical mystery was more likely to be 200 pages or less, not 300-400+ as so many are today. Plus, reading authors like Erle Stanley Gardner, Simenon and Agatha Christie enabled me to read a lot of books fast!

I didn't start keeping a full daily record until May of 1975 but I have a few earlier notebooks with book lists, and I see that for December 1971 and January-February 1972 I averaged a book a day. The same goes for several months of 1973 (my 333 book year). And there was a week in June of 1976 when reading Gardner (& A. A. Fair) helped me read 4 books a day on three days and two or three on some others.

But that was then.

Jeff M.

Gerard said...

I go through about 100 a year. Some of those are comic book novels which are faster reads. My speed really depends on the book. I rarely quit a book and will instead force myself to slowly finish it.

I picked up a Gorman and Zeltersman western anthology and that has been a quick read.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sadly I often don't finish a book since I am a promiscuous selecter. I always think I will like it.

Cap'n Bob said...

I read a lot of magazines, which cuts into my book reading stats. I'm not a fast reader and since I read in bed I'm often half asleep when I do read, which might explain why I remember so little of what I have read, including titles.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Seems like the magazines are dying out. Only get two now. Used to get 10.

Richard R. said...

There are still plenty of on-line magazines and digests available.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I miss the days they came in the mail.

Todd Mason said...

Well, there are still plenty of good traditional printed and mailed magazines, which I still collect and sometimes get a chance to read. (I will read at least some of anything I buy...which, aside from fiction magazines and occasional poetry magazine, regularly includes HARPER'S and THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR, DOWNBEAT and JAZZTIMES, BUST and BITCH (the former a pop-culture magazine aimed at younger women that, among other charms, often has the best new pop music reviews I see, the latter the feminist satire magazine), SIGHT AND SOUND and VIDEO WATCHDOG, THE NATION and THE PROGRESSIVE and Z, sometimes the NEW SCIENTIST and will probably be renewing my SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN sub. I mostly read in bed, but also on a couch or in a chair, and not infrequently at the meal table, at home or in the B&N cafe...even the larger local libraries have been putting in cafes. I rarely speed-read, as it's a great way to lose the rhythm of the prose as well as subtleties and details. It's a pretty rare day that I'll read a book in its entirety, but a short book, such as the Donald Wollheim collection I FFB'd the other week, is one that was read over about 12-15 hours.

pattinase (abbott) said...

We are down to THE NEW YORKER, EW and BON APPETITE (for Phil). Five years ago it was probably a dozen. (And Phil reads all of those online despite the print copy)

Cap'n Bob said...

I don't get many mainstream magazines. Playset Collector, FineScale Modeler, Auto Modeler, Flight Journal, Aloft, and Wild West are the main ones.

Kent Morgan said...

About 30 years ago, my postman (you could call him that then), told his son, who was a friend, "No one gets more magazines than Kent Morgan." Remembering as best I can, the list would have included Time, People, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Playboy, Macleans, Sports Illustrated, Inside Sports, The Sporting News, The Hockey News, Harper's when Willie Morris was the editor, GQ, Downbeat, The Village Vanguard and perhaps The New Yorker. I know I have missed some. Believe it or not at one point I even used to subscribe to the San Francisco Oracle and the Los Angeles Free Press and I may have been the only person in a Canadian city of 600,000 who did. Now I get Playboy because I have been subscribing for so long and a Canadian senior magazine called Zoomer that comes as part of an annual membership.

Todd Mason said...

It is rather a pity what ESQUIRE and PLAYBOY have become, compared to what they were at their height in the '60s (even given the lunkhead sexism that could be expressed at any time in the rather closely linked magazines, and their imitators). The Vanguard had a magazine? Shall have to look into that. I like the current HARPER'S editor; she's not putting together quite the magazine Latham was at his height, but it's better than Lapham's current magazine, and she's much better than her predecessor. Thirty years ago, I would've been subscribing to a similar number of magazines...what with OUR GENERATION, SOCIAL ANARCHISM, FACTSHEET FIVE, CADENCE, GRUE, THE REALIST and several others (including a popular magazine on the visual arts) still publishing or doing so on paper, and such others as SOCIALIST REVIEW, THE MATCH!, UTNE READER, and THE WHOLE EARTH REVIEW at least frequently interesting. (When possible, I tended to buy my fiction magazines on the newsstands, because of the awful things the mailing process did to them.)

Kent Morgan said...

I think it was The Village Voice that I subscribed to. No doubt I have some copies in my basement. While looking through my journalism collection, I spotted a book titled A Bomb in Every Issue about Ramparts magazine. That was another one I got in the mail. Near the top of my to-do list is to get into the corner of my basement that is filled with boxes full of papers and magazines. What has been stopping me is that I know I will open every box to see what's there and start reading. Then I will decide that I NEED to keep most of it. I need the willpower to remove the boxes without lifting the lids. I do know copies of Sing Out are there along with copies of some of the men's and sports magazines that did not have a long life.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I am a heartless throw it away person. So I have no magazines from the past. I don't need to keep anything apparently.