Should I Stop Speed Reading? A Discussion on Fast Reading

Sometimes, I might read too fast. I’m a naturally fast reader, and normally don’t think anything of it. Until I pick up a book I read on my kindle. When books are on my kindle, they don’t seem big. Just a few swipes more, and you’re done. 

Then, you get the paper copy. And it’s gigantic. Your brain screams, HOW!?! How did I even read that in one day? Or night? Or afternoon? 

Order of the Phoenix is one of those giant surprises. I read the Kindle version in one afternoon/evening. Six or seven hours of reading and it was done. Then I pick up the actual book, and guess what, that thing is HUGE. Nearly 900 pages long. 

How did I read that it in less than 10 hours? No idea. Well, I do have some clue. Straight reading for too many hours.  

Less you think this is an isolated case of madness, I have even more recent examples. Friday, I picked up Ruin and Rising, a nearly 400 page long book. I finished dinner at Chick-fil-A around 6, settled into a chair, and read. At 8:30, the book was done. 2 and half solid hours of reading, 400 pages devoured. 

So, is this a good thing? Is fast reading really a bright idea? 

I’ve read quickly for as long as I can remember. I might be an expert on it. I know there’s some pitfalls, and some upsides. You’ll probably disagree with me – that’s ok. (But only if you tell me why)

fast reading

To know the plot! 

So this is the main reason why I read books so quick. I just want to know what happens. Who lives, who dies, who tells their story. Intentional hamilton reference. Yep, I was singing it. 

I don’t like being in suspense. Not for a whole book. Or an entire book series. 

I don’t like risking falling in love with characters who are killed off. Lousy answer, I know. And if I read super fast, I’m not going to become too emotionally attached. At least not in the first read. I’ll let myself really feel the characters a second time through. 

Rereading isn’t annoying

If you read really quickly, you don’t tend to mind rereading. Why? Because you didn’t spend a long time learning the book, sol learning more about it isn’t annoying. In fact, you probably should reread the book, just because of all the little details you WILL have missed reading sofas. 

Of course, I know nothing about missing any details. #photographicmemory Not really, but I like to pretend I know everything about every book I’ve ever read. 

If you know a book so well by reading slowly, why reread it? The point of rereading is getting to know a book better. But if I take a long time reading it in the first place, I don’t know that I’ll need to reread it. Maybe this is just an excuse.
After all, I’m not sure I’ve ever really slowly read a book. So I don’t know about this reason.

side affects of fast reading

So, yes there are downfalls to reading too fast. One, no one ever believes you. You really finished your homework? You really read that book tonight? 

Yes, I’m not lying. I like reading. I don’t need, or want, to lie about my favorite hobby. 

Also, it’s super hard to understand slower readers. Though I know I should. And I’m trying. I really am. But please, read faster. Beccause I want to talk about the book with you!

But besides the general lack of belief, there’s some other real reasons reading too fast is not the BEST idea. 

Missed details

Ok, this is really, really hard to admit. But you don’t catch everything. Or if you do, you forget it. 
Taking Order of the Phoenix as an example. Three things I totally missed

Why Harry could suddenly see the Thestrals

So, Thestrals are a big deal in the story. Especially toward the very end. But I totally missed why Harry could see them. I knew Luna could, and she told Harry why. 
But I eventually had to google it, because I just could not remember. 

Luna and Neville Friendship with Harry

Luna and Neville are suddenly friends with Harry. That threw me off. I was reading so fast, I didn’t pick up on their relationship growing. And then they were fighting together? When did they even become buddies? I knew they were part of Dumbledores Army, but the whole army didn’t try to fight Voldemort together. Why Luna and Neville? 

Umbridge’s Downfall

I must have skimmed this part. Umbridge arrests Harry, Snape refuses to help, and Hermione leads everyone into the Forbidden Forest. 
Then Umbridge is gone, and they fly off to the rescue. 
What happened again? Did Umbridge die? No, she shows up in book seven. Ergh, why didn’t she die? 

There’s probably a whole lot of other details I missed, but these are just three big ones. And if I had been reading it slowly, I might *cough* would have remembered. 

There’s no thought about the plot

When you’re reading super fast, you never stop to really think through the plot. Until the book is done. 
Right now, I’m reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. I read 176 pages in one sitting, and stopped. Completely stopped. 

I put the book down, went to bed, and attended class the next day. All without touching the book again. 
And I found myself thinking through the plot. Was the angel the girl’s dad? Why were the monsters raising the girl? 
What’s with the bone necklace? 
What are the 26 languages the girl knows? 
Ok, lots of questions. I’m a journalist, it’s my job to ask questions. 
And most of the time, I don’t think of questions till after I finished the book. I’m not wondering how things are going to turn out. No genuine, day long, suspense. 
This is a new experience. But I like it. Trying to guess what happens is fun. And if I’m wrong, the author is doing a great job. Guessable plots aren’t fun. But working through possible plot angles is intriguing and engaging. 

And now, the important question –

how to stop fast reading

Are you a fast reader like me? If so, you might know, it’s very hard to slow down. To force oneself to read slowly. Agony. 

But I’ve tried a few ways. Some work, some don’t. 

Read two chapters each evening

Because you can’t read just one chapter. Ever. It just doesn’t work that way. But reading two chapters is helpful. Enough to be more than one, but not beginning to read it all. Three chapters and I nearly can’t stop. But two is a better place to actually stop. 

Read paperback instead of Kindle 

Kindles are lovely. They make reading at 2am very convenient. 

But I also don’t realize how much I’ve read with Kindle. I look down, and boom, 80% done. And why not just finish when I’m already that far into it? 

Paper reminds me how monstrous a book really is and how it should be impossible to read a story in just one day. Should be. 
See all this paper? You need to take your time reading this one. 

Don’t read new releases at midnight 

If I start a book at midnight, chances are I’ll finish it. My brain is overstimulated, so sleep becomes impossible. The story just keeps me awake. 
And new books, well, they are very hard to put down. The combination of Kindle, reading, and late hours is disastrous. 
So, I’m not planning on ever pre-ordering new releases on Kindle again. I’ve done it once, and read a 500 page book in 5 hours. And went to sleep close to 6am. Bad idea. Very bad. Yes, I also was up by 7:30 for a 9am final. you read that right, final exam. And I made an A – reading = smart.

Instead, I’ll preorder a paperback, realize how monstrous this sequel is, and read a chapter or two at a time. Think about the story. Savor the details. Grow with the characters. 

At least, that’s the plan.
And it’s working, so far.

Well, maybe. I’ve picked up Tower of Dawn and read only 200 pages before having to attend a scholastic meeting. Since the rest of my evening is crammed with homework, it’s impossible for me to read more. And I have an 8am class so not reading past midnight. 🙂 Update: I finished Tower of Dawn before finishing this post. About 4 hours over 2 afternoons.

let's chat

Are you a fast reader? 

Which do you prefer – reading super fast or very slowly? Or maybe I should ask which type of reading annoys you the most? Do you plan out a book and buddy read with people? I’ve heard this can help you read books slower. I did once – and accidentally finished the book in 3 days. it was a 3 week buddy read! Opps…

Which books could you not put down? And did you finish them in record time?  It seems like every book I pick up is irresistible… that’s why I’m reading it so fast. Apparently, I jsut choose really good books to read. 

What advice do you have for trying to read books slower…

and why should I read books more slowly? 

Elizabeth signature

 

A Redheaded Texas Gal. I love the woods and thrive where there’s green grass and room to grow. I dream of living in a used book store and wearing period costumes to work everyday. In the meantime, I’m studying Journalism and Political Science, and trying to follow Jesus wherever He leads.

  • ladypalutena

    (Just FYI, it’s side effects, not side affects!)

    I’m a fast reader. I always have been. I was that kid that would blow through a week’s worth of reading homework in a night in elementary school because I couldn’t wait to find out what was going on. One of my teachers photocopied the pages and gave that to me every night instead of the whole book so I wouldn’t read ahead! That was one way to slow me down, I guess.

    I usually find myself reading faster when it’s a book I really enjoy. I remember starting “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah and finishing it in one night because I couldn’t go to sleep before it ended! I did the same thing with “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr, even though it’s nearly twice the size of “The Nightingale.”

    On the other hand, I also taught students how to speed-read last summer, so I know how to do it properly. (I’ve since gotten even faster in my reading, with very little skimming/missing important plot points.) I /have/ gone so fast that I’ve missed things before, but if I realize I missed something, I can usually just go back a couple of pages and read things again.

    I get faster if I reread a book. I have friends who don’t reread books (heathens!), but I enjoy coming back to the story. If you missed something the first time around, chances are you’ll see it the second!

    • Elizabeth Hunter

      I’ve never taken a speed-reading class, I’ve always just been such a fast reader! My teachers fussed at me for reading ahead, and I always promised myself not to, but keeping to that promise was hard!

  • I am such a speed reader. I have been my whole life. I read the Wind in the Willows in about two days and the Lord of the Rings in a week (but only the first time). I think speed reading is a blessing and a curse. It can be helpful to get a lot of books done if you love reading, like I do, but it can also have many of the side effects you mentioned.
    My biggest problem with speed reading is missing things. I’ll be so engaged, and flipping the pages so fast, that I miss something important, like a character dying (it has happened). Funny story: in The Hobbit there’s a line about Beorn falling upon the goblin’s rear. I read the line as Beorn fell upon his rear, so I had an image of a giant bear sitting down really hard and knocking all the goblins over.
    In the end, my thoughts on speed reading is it depends on the book. If it’s something you don’t mind absorbing completely, or you have to finish it fast, then it’s okay. But also take time to savor books and get all the details.

    • Elizabeth Hunter

      Very true! There’s been a few books I’ve intentionally savored, just because I don’t want to miss any details. Otherwise, I’m prone to finishing giants way too quickly.

  • Oh, I LOVE this post! (Btw I didn’t know that you were a Hamilton fan!! YESSSS. And I have a near-photographic memory, haha!) I am actually a pretty slow reader compared to other readers and it SUCKS. I’m trying to read faster (I read like 1 page in… 1 minute) but my brain naturally slows the “digestion” of words so that I understand EACH and EVERY one of them. (WHICH IS POINTLESS BECAUSE I FORGET EVERYTHING ANYWAYS.) I really would love to read faster — but I do agree that reading slower has its benefits! Especially with comprehension. BUT IT TAKES SO MUCH TIIIIIIME. Great post!!

    • Elizabeth Hunter

      Ah, thanks! And yes, I listen to Hamilton non-stop. I can’t help it 🙂 Can anyone not be a fan?