On Speed Reading

By Xah Lee. Date:

I'm a serious nerd, and do reading 24 hours a day every day since about 1990.

Speed reading naturally have come to my attention with intense interest, as i'm also a efficiency nerd. Imagine, if i can possess the greatest knowledge, that by a mere few minutes i can devour a entire set of encyclopedia, digest entire volumes of human history… that i feel like a miserable shit if i cannot. Then, that is my state of mind and nature of me. Not really a positive experience, if one must inquire.

I haven't really got involved with speed reading, but from my readings about it, and my feelings of possession of great general knowledge, of recent years, i have some advices to give about the subject.

First of all, like all things, there is no magic. Second of all, like all things, there are what you might call tricks, but are not really tricks if you really think about it. The bottom line is, like all things, the result are proportional to your effort, of whatever is your subject of interest.

Such as natural personal differences and endowments such as IQ or perspicacity or physical fitness, some people will naturally be able to read faster than others. Sometimes we'll read about some incredible speed readers, but for the most part they are contrived stories or idiot savant.

With practice, indeed one can achieve faster reading speed. And like all things, for those who have spent time to think about or endeavored on this have some good tips to guide us. Among my feelings, they are:

• Concentrate. You cannot speed read, or even read, if you are not in a focused state of mind.

• When reading, do not read it out, even silently. Try to move your lips, and you'll notice how slow it is than your eyes and brain. Don't bog down your brain with your lip's service.

• When reading, do not develop a habit of meticulousness. For example, don't be like those grammarian morons who's eyes are habituated to spotting spelling errors, punctuation anomalies, style conformities. Instead, develop the mentality, that when you read, your goal is to get the gist of the author's writing. May it be short articles or long novel. If you have the mindset that when you read you must be a careful reader noticing every detail of the author's pennings, then forget about speed reading.

• SCAN! With the above item in mind, scan, scan and scan. This doesn't mean that you should start to skip and skim. Your goal is to get the gist of the writing. Not more. But more importantly, no less.

• Skill of scanning and understanding takes practice. Here we are getting down to the nitty and gritty of technicalities. When you read, grasp the shape of the words, and spot a clause at the time, and move your eyes to the next clause. Like a clock, tick-tick-tick, get a rhythm. Did you know that human eyes move by jerks? So, for each jerk, you should grasp a clause of a sentence. Jerk, jerk, jerk, jerk, develop a rhythm. When you start, with each jerk you grasp a few words. With practice, this may be a sentence. But be wary of the fairy tale of reading half a page per eye movement.

With these, i think is the gist to speed reading. A few notes follow naturally:

• You can't do speed reading when you are down. (it takes concentration and alacrity)

• Speed reading is NOT a physical feat (as in Superman). It is a mentality and habit. Be wary of humbug devices that supposedly train the quickness of your eyes.

• Speed reading does not apply to specialized literary work. For example, when savoring Hamlet, Finnagen's Wake, or examing a Treatise on the Grammatical Unsoundness of the English Language by Example, you don't want speed reading to retard you.

That's it i have in mind now. By the way, my reading speed isn't faster than average. I do not think Speed Reading is something worthy for a name. It's no more significant than, say, Speed Walking. Speed Reading is tied to quackery.

Someone wrote:

As of late I've been really researching on how to speed read. I know that one of the keys things to starting is the need to stop sub-vocalization. This is one of the hardest parts of speed reading. Many people say they can easily see an entire sentence and not even sound out the word and they are able to just comprehend it. I cannot fathom that. I think it's almost impossible. However, if it is possible, I'd like to figure out how I can achieve this as it is a feat in and of itself.

Please, anyone who has sound advice, share the wealth with me and let me know what I need so I can begin my journey of speed reading. Thank you all in advance.


2005-09-16 Addendum:

For some quality info about speed reading, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speed_reading

These days, technology has made it so so that, answers are really at one's fingertip. Before say, even in 2000, there's no such info about speed reading on the internet. If one's interested, a trip to the library is the usual route, and yet requiring MUCH more time and quite some library skill to get the answer as qualitative and condensed as those found in wikipedia.

Let us hope, that infomation (a form of knowledge), and women's tits and pussies (a cause of love), will save us asshole human animals.


I read 〈War and Peace〉 in 20 minutes.

Sorry, You Can't Speed Read By Jeffrey M Zacks And Rebecca Treiman. At http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/17/opinion/sunday/sorry-you-cant-speed-read.html