Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Speed-Reading vs Slow & Leisurely: What's Your Reading Style?

I remember reading a tweet back in March 2012. I forget who it was, but she was all, "I've read 87 books so far this year." WHAT? Surely she meant a rolling calendar year, right? I was wrong. This blogger had legitimately read 87 books in three months. It is now September, and I still haven't read 87 books for the year. Some bloggers' goals are 100 books for the year. Some have 30 or 40 as their target number of books read. Then there are some seriously lofty goals like 250 or 300. The latter number? That would be a book a day. Meaning you'd only not read a book SIXTY-FIVE DAYS out of the year. You're my hero, basically. I read 107 books in 2011. Right now, I'm at 76 books for 2012. But I look at some of my friends (ahem, Anna. April. Maybe it's something with the As, who knows?!) and I am flabbergasted at the amount of books these ladies have read!

Sure, different things come into play. Work, sleep, eating. But other than the essentials, there's spending time with family, friends, spouses. And, of course, those mundane tasks no one likes doing: cleaning, laundry, mowing the lawn. And for those of you who are parents out there, taking care of your kiddos. But despite many of these things, some people still get a whole heck of a lot of reading done each year.

I read primarily YA. YA books, staking a guess based on my bookshelves, tend to be around the 350 page average. The Hunger Games, for example, is 99,750 words (source) on 374 pages. If my iPhone calculator is correct, that's roughly 267 words per page. According to this online test, I read 430 words per minute and answered 2 out or 3 questions correctly on comprehension. So that means I read slightly slower than the average college student. But I do think the fact that I was consciously aware that my reading speed was being tested had an effect on my words per minute, so I'd stake that I read even slower than that.

Here's the part where I'll probably make a fool of myself, because I suck at math. If The Hunger Games had 99,750 words on 374 pages, and I read (for optimism's sake) 430 words per minute, and there are 60 minutes in an hour, I should be reading 96 pages an hour, meaning I could read The Hunger Games in 3.89 hours.


Of course, various aspects of life got in the way amidst my reading experience. But did I have 3.89 hours where I could have uninterruptedly read the entirety of The Hunger Games? YOU BETCHA. That being said, I don't think I would've had the vivid mental and emotional experience that I had if I read at that speed. You see, I don't just see the words. I like to speak them in my head. I read with emotion, emphasis, when I see a passage where our heroine's heart is being ripped to shreds, my mental narrator puts EVERY OUNCE of emotion that we can squeeze out of ourselves into that experience. Not to mention I will read and reread lines or paragraphs in order to solidify the image in my head. Or hey, even if the particular scene was super hot or sad or whatever. This drastically reduces the number of words I read. If I were to speed-read, or just scan the words, I would have no freaking idea what I just read. Guaranteed.

As an average reader, that is my experience. I'd love to hear from others. How many words per minute do you read? Speed-readers, what's your reading experience like? First off, I bow to you. Secondly, how do you do it? Do you self-narrate with emphasis like a freaking Oscar-winning actor? Do you hear Morgan Freeman's voice in your head? Or are you more focused on just seeing those words and somehow you're still fortunate enough to comprehend the majority of what you're taking in? And you average and leisurely, steady readers: how do you devour your favorite book? Do you tend to reread your favorite parts or backtrack?

I'm ever so interested to hear. DISCUSS!

PS. Please feel free to correct my math in the comments section ;)


  1. I'm a slower reader too. I read more than anyone I know personally but still I read quite slow. This might be because I read in public transport and next to the TV as well (which is a bit distracting). My goal is to read 60 books this year and I am still 6 books short but this year has been really hectic work-wise so it's no wonder that I read less because some evenings I just fell into bed without reading my usual few pages before sleep.
    Just like you, I tell the story to myself while reading and I also imagine the setting and everything which must take more time than plain reading and rushing through a book :)
    I find people who read one book per day a bit spooky. Why do they have so much time? But as long as people read am a happy booknerd :)
    Devouring books is one of the best things I can think of and being a slower reader is perfectly fine with me.
    Btw, I will go now and read some more pages before I need to tackle my to-do list for today.

  2. I read 498 per minute but I'm not sure how accurate this is based on the fact you KNOW your being timed and tested. It's like test conditions - scary! I also got 2/3 questions correct. I've only read 66 books this year *sigh* and have to agree with you, how is it humanly possible for people to read THAT fast? You know what? I bet their aliens, it's the only explanation. Their probably even friends with Daemon Black and that Luxish gang. Aliens + super abilities = fast reading powers! Wish I could join their gang.

    When it comes to rereading my favourite book, I'm more prone to be laid-back and have a relaxing attitude. I might devour it, savour it or read it between other books since I've already read it previously, it just depends.

    This is such an awesome post, Jen, thanks for sharing! ♥

    P.S - I'm not all that good with maths and instead of looking at that mind boggling formula, I think I'll spend the time reading ;)

  3. Well, that was humiliating. I got 136 (or 186) words per a minute. I am SO SLOW! However, I got 3/3 for comprehension. But I was reading around the speed of a third grader. I think I need to bury my head in the sand!

    That being said, I read slowly for pleasure. I wish I read somewhat faster so I could read more books, but I honestly don't really see that happening. I am content with what I am.

    And unlike some of the other posters here, when I know I am being time, I tend to go slower. I don't know why. Probably because I am always aiming at the perfect score on the "test" after the speed reading. That is pretty ridiculous.

    Anyway, I say to just read however makes you comfortable. If you want to read faster, there are speed reading test available. If you are fine with your speed, then that is good!

  4. So this is totally one thing I just confessed on the blog -- I FEEL so inadequate as a blogger because my reading counts are SOOO low compared to other bloggers. It's crazy! And I know a lot of it is because I am easily distracted by the shiny Interwebs and also because I AM just really busy in general but I do wonder if I read a lot slower than others. I'm nervous to test myself to see how fast I read. When I was in elementary and middle school I know I was an above average speed reader. Who knows if I am anymore! lol. However, I do know that I have the tendency to like to savor what I'm reading and I like to picture what I'm reading. Soo who knows! All I know is that I feel very like a dunce in the blogging world lol

    Great discussion!

  5. Ok, this is an awesome post. I LOVE IT.
    According to the test, I read 313 words per minute and got 2/3 questions correctly. Honestly, though, I felt pressured and read quicker than I normally would (because I re-read passaged all the time) and I guessed at the answers.

    My count is high right now and I happen to be ahead of schedule according to the goodreads thingy. BUT...that's because I have about 3 books going at a time, including an audiobook. I read EVERY single chance I get - in the car on trips, in the carpool line, listen to audio while I cook and clean, and every single night before bed. I usually read a little before everyone wakes up in the morning too. PLUS, having three children - I read when they read since they are required to read books for school AND them SEEING me read is very important because it fosters their love and excitement for reading. So while my goal is set high I feel it is easily attainable for the amount of reading my household does together anyway. BUT...I'm not really a fast reader. I just read all throughout the day, every single day.

    Those goodreads goals aren't really important anyway! I'm just glad you're getting a chance to read more now that you've graduated from school. I always felt bad when I was reading good stuff and you were reading NCLEX study questions. :/

    GREAT post.

  6. This is an awesome discussion.

    I've always considered myself a fairly fast reader, but I don't feel that way compared to many other bloggers. I also tend to skim read, which can lead to confusion or faster reading.

    Like you said though, a lot of factors can contribute to how many books someone can knock out in a year. I've had to up my Goodreads goal twice this year, and am way past where I was last year. This makes sense though, if you consider that I spent half the summer unemployed and with nothing better to do than devour a book a day.

  7. I have read so much more this year by simply listening to audio books and reading for at least an hour each day. I can normally read a good side book in a day if I have the day off but on other days I might not read at all so I gave myself the goal this year of reading for st least an hour a day. I split it up if needed but I always get my hour in. For audio books I love listening to them while I clean. I get absorbed into the story and completely forget I am cleaning. My house looks spotless and I got to read at the same time.

    My boyfriend dies not like to read at all so he bought me a reading chair so we can spend time together in his office while he does work stuff or plays on his computer. I also will occasionally pick a small, quick book off my shelf to read if I feel like I am in a little bit if a slump to get me mofivated to read :)

  8. HAHA did you write this post because I told you I read four books between Saturday morning and Sunday night? :)

    I got 374 minutes, and I was nervous so I was going slow, and 3/3 on the questions. Dude, you know I can speed-read...I'm at 140 books this year, and I SWEAR I don't spend a lot of time reading. FOR REALS. My parents sort of trained me to do this (and to read upside-down) as a child. What can I tell you?

    Anyhoo, it's not a competition, don't look at anyone else's #s, same as blog stats! I forbid it!

    1. Err I meant 374 words per minute. You know what I meant.

  9. Holy moly, Jen, do I resonate with this post. I'm at about the same point as you for books read this year, and I just don't understand how other people can read so fast! I just cannot do it. There's no way. I, like you mentioned, read and put emphasis on what's being said, imagine the voices and emotions. It's so hard for me to separate myself from doing that. I'm really hoping I can hit my goal of 115 books this year. Le sigh. Haha -- let's keep on keepin' on with all of our feelings and hearing the characters in our heads. ;)

  10. I got 316 words pm. Gee! That was a hard page to read. haha. I do get a lot of reading time in between my lunch hour (which I spend reading most of the hour) and then my 2 way commute of 45 minutes a piece. I don't really read too much at home unless I AM OH SO INTO IT. I was always sort of a fast reader, and I'm not sure why but there are definitely some books that you just KNOW you have to take your time with.

    I think there are just too many factors that go into numbers like this. I'm about 112 books in for the year and that does include quite a few adult titles. I agree that YA tend to go faster, but I do reach that same speed with adult books too -- it just depends on the writing and the subject matter.

    Thanks for posting this. It's really interesting. :)

    Also I must point out that sometimes I'm nervous I'm going to just tire myself out with reading because of the amount of books I do devour... and it's really helped to change up the genre and stuff like that.

    I honestly think the ability to have a great/stand out blog depends on the time/issues you bring up about the book after you are done... not how many you are reading and spitting out reviews for. Ya know?

  11. Hmm I got 486 WPM and 3/3 questions right. I could read War & Peace in 20 hrs lol...no thanks!

    I know I'm a fast reader, but I wouldn't say I'm speed reading. I've read 95 books for the year out of my goal of 130, BUT a good 25-30 of those are small YA books like the Baby-Sitters Club and such. My longest so far for the year was 1Q84 at 925 pages and that took me a good month at least.

    I think it's up to each individual person to decide if they're reading too slow or too fast. I feel like I'm at a high comprehension rate and more importantly, I'm enjoying my reads, so I'm okay with my speed.

  12. I got 397 words per minute and 2/3 questions. I feel bad about the wrong question, so I'm telling myself English is not my native language. Which is stupid, because 397 is pretty fast and you don't have to remember everything in a book. Sometimes I even forget the MC's name! (well, only if it's a I pov).

    Great post! I have some GR friends who are really fast readers. But 87 books in three months :O, wow! I would almost say I don't believe it. I've read 84 books so far this year. And I'm pretty happy with it. My goal was 75 for the whole year, but I upgraded it to 100, maybe I'll do that again for 120.

    But sometimes it's just nice to read slow, you can enjoy the book longer! :)

    New follower!

  13. I got 324 wmp. Funnily enough my boyfriend and I were talking about this sort of thing yesterday. I am quite a fast reader and can finish a book every 2-3 days (and usually do). My boyfriend reads about 55 pages a day when he's "on his game".

    I think it's not about how much or have fast you read but what you get out of it. I'm super proud when my boyfriend reads because he's not really much of a reader so to hear him talk about books passionately, even if it takes him ages to read one, makes me insanely happy.

  14. I got 336 on that test. I FEEL SO SLOW.

    But in all honesty, when I am in the zone with a book and am totally feeling it, I read very fast. Plus, I have very good reading comprehension, like I'd always score in the 99th percentile on standardized tests. I just picture everything in my head kind of like a movie while I am reading, but I happen to read fast, ya know?

    Plus like Asheley I read every spare minute and usually have an audiobook going during my commutes and chores. That's why I am at 176 for the year and that includes a few adult reads. PLUS I put a ton of pressure on myself as well. So while tearing through books is great, the pressure is not.

  15. I'm an especially fast reader, though I haven't taken that test to find out my actual words/minute. For example, in the past week I read six books. I got sucked into a series and couldn't put it down! But, I also read A LOT! I'm only working part-time right now, I'm single without kids, and there was a holiday in there. This was an adult series with the books averaging 350 pages each.
    I've never particularly paid attention to how I narrate in my head, but if something is particularly funny, I'll read it out loud so I can hear the intended snark.
    Part of the reason I read so quickly is because I can't wait to find out what happens, but I won't read the end first and ruin it. I usually then go back to the beginning and read again at a more leisurely pace. I sometimes find things I missed the first time through.

  16. I guess I would be a speed reader (I've read over 200 books so far this year) but I think part of that is a commitment to reading absolutely whenever I can (over breakfast, at lunch, literally whenever) as well as choosing short books with short chapters. I feel like I read faster when the chapters are only 2-5 pages-they also tend to have cliffhangers which means you have to read the next chapter ASAP!

    Sometimes though I do miss out on details, which I figure I'll either catch when I reread or maybe weren't so important in the first place.

  17. @Bookworm - I totally agree with you about the short chapters thing. This is what happened with the Dan Brown books. The chapters are all like 5 pages and so you think *just one more chapter* and next thing you know, WAY more time has passed than you thought would. When you are reading books with longer chapters, you are more likely to think "23 pages is too much and I will put the book aside now."

  18. I got 292 words per minute on the test. This does not surprise as sometimes I intentionally read sentences more than once. I've read 85 books so far this year and that's a lot for me--I know it's partially because a handful have been graphic novels or short juvenile fiction. I've also had to go on some long road trips and that's part of it.

    Everyone is talking about how they feel about their reading number compared to other bloggers. Since I'm a librarian, recommending books to people is my job, so I try to keep up. I just do the best I can.

  19. I love when bloggers do posts like this, because you realise you're not the only one and feel so much better! Like many, before I encountered the blogging world, I thought I was a fast reader and read a lot of books. Nobody I know in real life comes even remotely close to reading as many books a month/year as I do. However, since I started reading book blogs, I don't even think of myself as a big reader any more, because the number of books some bloggers read make me look like an illiterate slacker in comparison. I have had my moments of envy, because there are so many books I want to read and I wish I could read them all RIGHT NOW. Imagine looking at a stack of 5 books and know you'll read them all in 5 days!

    The most I can read is about 100 pages a day, and as most YA books are 300-400 pages, it averages out to 2 books a week. It's always been my goal to read 100 books in a year, but I've never made it because there are always some weeks when I'm super busy, or I'm burnt out on reading, or one book takes me a month to read for whatever reason. My usual tally ends up being 96 or something - so close and yet so far. At the moment, I'm on 63 books for the year. Something that's allowed me to read more books this year is getting into audiobooks, so if you haven't yet, I really recommend you do. It means you can squeeze reading into so many other parts of your life.

  20. I've read over 160 books this year, but consider myself to be a slower reader. If I read too fast, I don't take in a lot of the details. I just have a lot of time to read! I still manage to spend time with the husband and to do OTHER things from reading, which is nice. Reading is a leisure thing for me and it helps me relax.

    I think I'd read a lot less if I tried some other genres, but I'm pretty stuck with YA and Romance right now, with the odd contemporary book.

  21. I have a goal of 250 books this year, and I'm on target with over 180 so far. I do read pretty fast, I got 945 wpm on that little test-y thing, which 3/3 on the questions. I've always read this fast, I sometimes feel embarrassed when people bring it up. I feel like I have good comprehension and retention, although my internal narrator is definitely not Morgan Freeman, too slow! ;)

  22. When I was a teenager and didn't have much to do, I could read a lot in a day. But now that I'm married, have a house to keep clean, lots of other chores to do and I have a 17 month old I don't read as much.

    Lately I've been in a rut too, so I was on the same book for 2 weeks!

    I can read a book in a couple of days now though if it's a normal day and I'm in the mood for reading.

    My goal this year was 60. I'm slowly making my way back up to 100. I've only read 52 books this year, nearly 53. Normally I would be close to 100 nor or if it was a really good year, about at 100.

    I just took the test you linked and it says I can read 467 words per minute, making me 87% faster than the national average. I didn't know that! That is a really cool test.

    And I know a lot of people on Goodreads who have read SO many books this year. It's madness! One of my blogger friends had read 30 books already by the end of February because she took a week off from work to read!!

  23. I'm a few days late to the discussion here, but I had to leave a comment.

    I read just like you, Jen! That is, I read as if I am speaking it aloud. I pause at the periods, commas, etc. I also have to make dialog sound right in my head. If I read it a certain way, and it doesn't sound right, I go back and read it another way (again as if it is being spoken aloud) so that it works with the character.

    I'm not sure how many words per minute, pages per hour, I read, but I know it is not a lot.

    There is a teen girl that comes into the library where I work, and she will read three books in a day! I don't know how she does it. I certainly couldn't. And she seems to comprehend all the books she reads. It's amazing.

    I'm glad to know other people who read slowly, like I do. Great post!

  24. I am most definitely a slow reader, no maths needed. I would have said that this might be because English is not my first language and 90% of the books I read are in English, but I don't think I'm faster when reading books in Greek... But I like that it takes me a while to finish a book, I don't breeze through books so fast that I risk forgetting the plot or characters easily. So what if I don't have impressive stats at the end of the year?

    PS Your math is correct ;)

  25. Dude, I read books exactly how you described! I narrate it in me head and often read lines over and over again so I can get a better picture in my head. I've come to terms with the fact that I'm not that fast of a reader and am okay to just mosey along at my turtle speed ;P

  26. I was 235 words per minute and 6% slower than the national average. LOL Now I see why I am always behind in my reading challenges.

  27. I got 403 words per minute and 3 out of 3 questions right, so I am pretty fast. I think I only have my self-narrator on for some of the time though. If I'm properly absorbed in the book, I don't self-narrate, but if I want to pay attention to particular bits, I do. I've been thinking a lot about reading speed for a while now, as mine seems to have slowed considerably over the last few years. I have a theory that I'm reading slower because I'm reading more books by different authors than ever before. I used to stick with one author for a while and devour their entire ouvre before moving onto another, and I think this helped me to read more quickly in the past. When I pick up a book by an author I've read before, I seem to read it faster than I would a book by an author that is new to me. It's like my brain is used to their style and the rhythm of their words, and I just slip back into it.

  28. I will speed read on titles that captured my interest but ended up being lame. So in that case, I will speed read the rest so as to at least know the general idea of how it ended and so forth.

    But if I truly adore the book, I don't have the heart to speed read it. I have to backtrack to favorite passages, re-read imagery sections, and pause whenever I come across a particularly delicious word !!

    So...if speed reading, it'll take me between 2-3 hours to finish almost any book.

    If taking my time, it'll take me about 5-6 hours to finish a 300ish page book.