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Monday, February 3, 2014

Flashback: How to Read More Books

Novel Goals

So many great books to read—so little time!  How can you get through everything on your “to read” list?

I don’t want to read faster because I like to take my time and savor it. But I do want to read more efficiently so I can get more done. Here are two methods that have helped me.



If you have bifocals and you’ve been reading down your nose with your head cocked up in the air, let me show you a better way!  With prescription reading glasses, you can read “full face” to the book—so much more comfortable and natural. It makes me feel like a kid again, pouring over Eight Cousins head-first! I wear my reading glasses most of the day at work, too, because they are much better than bifocals for working on computers and searching library stacks.

Second—know your approximate reading rate. How long does it take you to read a page of your book? Get a stopwatch and time yourself, either one page at a time, or read several and find the average rate per page. Don’t rush! Your rate will vary with the book, since some pages have more text on them or take more time to ingest. Test yourself on several types of books and you’ll find your range. Mine varies from about 60 to 90 seconds a page.

Why will this help you read more? Because activities that can be planned are easier to accomplish than activities that cannot be planned, or planned only vaguely.

For every book—or stack of books—you want to read, you can form a pretty good idea of how many hours it will take you and then plan accordingly. Without that knowledge, you'll just have to wonder, more or less glumly, how you'll ever get them read, and maybe give up.


This fall I had to read five books in thirty days for work--plus finish House of the Seven Gables just for me. I wasn’t sure at first that this was even possible. But then I added up how many hours they would take, set up something almost like a schedule, and finished them all by their deadlines.

Why not try it? Here's an online stopwatch you can use--you don't even have to make a trip to the sporting goods store before testing your reading rate.

Keeping track of reading rates is fun as well as practical. Want to know how long it took me to read War and Peace? About 26 hours. How long will it take me to read Moby Dick, which I have to do for work also? Looks like about 16 hours. If I read for a half-hour during lunch and another half-hour after dinner, I can finish in a little over two weeks. Even the whole Bible doesn't take so long as you'd think--about 72 hours from Genesis to Revelation.

Now, doesn’t that make reading Moby Dick sound like just a lazy walk in the park? Just think: if you took a vacation from work, you could knock off Moby Dick and War and Peace both in one week! You could be the first person in the history of the world to do that. And with prescription reading glasses, you won't even get a stiff neck.

November 2, 2008

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