Speed Reading

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

I’ve been reading books since I first learned how to read. In fact, I’ve been devouring books since then. It’s always been about finishing one and going straight on to the next one. I don’t remember a time when there wasn’t another book to read once the current one was finished.

Some people have told me I’m a fast reader. I never really thought about it in this way. I do get through a lot of books – average count is about one a week. But I spend over two hours a day on public transport, going to and from work, and most of that time is reading time.

I do prefer books that are plot driven, and the vast majority of the books I read fall in the genres of crime and horror. The nature of these genres generally demands a suspenseful plot, and when I am reading I am focused on getting to the end of the page so I can turn over and find out what happens next. So maybe I do read fast. I never thought about the fact that I might read faster than other people, until recently.

Every day I take the train into London Victoria, and then I have two stops on the underground to work. I am on the underground for precisely four minutes. I’ve been doing this journey a long time – trust me, I know how long it takes. Four minutes is generally not long enough to get back into my book, in my view – by the time I’ve jostled with the crowd to gain access to my bag, get out the book or the e-reader and find the right page, it’s time to get off the train. And I’m generally standing on the underground anyway, which makes it even more awkward. So more often than not, as I’m hanging onto a pole being jostled around on the subway train, I’m standing next to someone who is sitting down, reading a book of some sort. Being a nosy sort of person, and as there’s not much else to look at on the underground, I’m reading over their shoulder. I’ve started to notice that in those four minutes I am reading their book over their shoulder, the person doesn’t turn the page. I get off at my stop and they are still on the same page they were when I got on four minutes ago. I’ve read that page four times over in that time.

So I’m starting to think maybe I do read faster than most people. I don’t pick up every detail of plot; I’m wanting to know what happens on the next page, instead of focusing on every detail on this page. I probably don’t savour a book; I devour it.

This has always been the way I read, and I never thought there was anything wrong with it. There are a lot of books in the world to read and we’ve only got so many years to read them, so I don’t want to spend too much time on each one. Most of the books I read I don’t remember much about a year or so later. The books that make a particular impact do stay with me – and they are the ones that are featuring in my ‘My Life in Books’ series. Books that I can still remember, because they made an impact.

I read so many books that sometimes I’ll pick one up and be halfway through it before I remember I read it before – some details seem familiar. But because I don’t remember every detail, I can re-read books and enjoy them again, because I don’t remember much about the first time around. This is another reason why I like Goodreads. I can log all the books I read and the log will job my memory about what I’ve read and what I thought of it. And of course it also lets me keep a list of everything I’ve read, which appeals to my anal nature.

Anyway, got to run. There are still more books out there to read…

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1 comment so far

  1. Robert "Sharky" Pruneda on

    I too love Goodreads for similar reasons as you. I like being able to not only keep track of what I’ve read and enjoyed reading, but also to keep track of books that I found interesting, but can’t get to just yet. Sometimes I’ll download the sample to my Kindle just so it’s there ready for me to read it and remind me that I found the synopsis interesting. I’m not a very fast reader (I’d say I’m about average), but this year I plan to get through more books than I ever have in a year because, as you stated so well, there are so many great books I want to read and I only have so many years to read them in.

    Here’s to a year of good reads. Cheers!


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