Agatha Christie read 200 volumes every year, while Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg get through a volume a fortnight. President Theodore Roosevelt read a volume a day, and increased this to two or three when he had a quiet night. But how can mere mortals get through more?
Harriet Klausner – a school librarian who died last year – was either one of history’s greatest speed-readers or someone somewhat economical with the truth.
Klausner clocked up a staggering 31,014 Amazon book reviews, sometimes reading six volumes a day. But not everyone could accept that accomplishment, with a group of critics forming to debunk her claims.
The speed-reader defended herself by point out that some of the romance novels she reviewed were so short and simple they could be polished off in an hour. And Klausner offered a simple explanation for her enthusiasm: “If a volume doesn’t hold my interest by page 50, I’ll stop reading, ” she told the Wall Street Journal.
Klausner’s accomplishments may seem to be in the realm of fantasy but many of us do wish we could read more. Finish more volumes. Cram in more knowledge. Appreciate more literature.
Distracted by Tv box situates, football matches and Twitter trends, we seem to find it increasingly difficult to fit reading into our lives.
John Sutherland is an author, volume critic, columnist and emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London.
In 2015 he read approximately 150 volumes.
“Quite a lot, ” he suggests, “probably as many volumes as I had hot dinners.” Employing a tablet enables Sutherland to skip through pages at lightning speed. “That route you don’t have to rely on a dampened forefinger – and health risks of giving the next reader tuberculosis, ” he laughs.
A professional reader’s livelihood depends on their ability to race through words. Last year Sutherland finished a new volume approximately every 2.4 days. “I turn four pages at a time if I have to, ” Sutherland tells, “whereas most people like to enjoy their read. Even I tend not to read more than one volume a day unless there is a firearm pointed at my head.”
The time it takes to read a volume, particularly a dense classic like War And Peace, currently the basis for a relatively brief BBC TV adaptation, can be off-putting.
As a schoolboy, Tony Buzan was given a secret speed-reading test. He was pleased with his score of 213 words per minute. “I believed, wow, I must be a pretty fast reader. But then I asked a girl in my classroom and she had scored over 300. I was crushed.”
Buzan decided to improve his skills. He practised speed-reading at home and researched the physics of the eye, as well as learning about fixation( also known as eye focus) and chunking( grouping words together so they can be read as a single chunk ).
Buzan discovered that he could read more quickly after physical exercise. Before long, he had doubled his read speed.
Now a speed-reading and memory consultant, Buzan believes the number of volumes we read is important. “Instead of read, tell, 1,000 volumes in my lifetime, ” he tells me, “I might now read 2,000. And that could change my life.”
Tony Buzan’s tips for reading quickly
Learn how to use your eyes to read faster Become physically fit, to give your brain more oxygen Learn how to memorise chapters and even whole volumes Read about the brain and its functionings Form a speed-reading and analyse team with friends John Sutherland, Literature professor Image caption