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How to Read Books Faster

I read really fast. I’m usually reading 3-5 books at a time, and I finish a book about every 2-4 days. (Anything longer than a week usually means I am having a difficult time getting into the book.) So you can say I’m hardly the person who would need a method of reading faster. But when a friend told me of a way to read books faster, I was both skeptical and intrigued.

Almost everyone I know loves audiobooks. But I’m a visual learner, and when I play audiobooks, my mind starts to wander; the audio becomes background noise. People extol the virtues of playing audiobooks or podcasts while doing other things like driving or cleaning, but I find I pay more attention to the task at hand than to the recording.

So, what’s this secret? How does one read books faster?

The “secret” method is to get both the book and the audiobook, and to follow along with the printed words while playing the audiobook at 2x speed. Sounds simple enough. So I gave it a shot, and this is what I learned:

Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown
Braving the Wilderness
, by Brené Brown

The first book I tried this with was Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness. It was the March pick for an online book club I was/am a part of, but because I don’t buy a lot of books, I placed a hold at the library. And needless to say, it didn’t arrive in time for the book club. I decided to use this book as my first experiment because I didn’t particularly care about reading it. With my low expectations, I enjoyed this book very much.

It takes a while to get used to this method of reading. The voice is a lot higher at 2x speed than it is at normal speed. And I had to be completely present, because if I had to go back and reread a sentence, I would miss the next three paragraphs.

 

You Are A Badass, Jen Sincero
You Are A Badass
, by Jen Sincero

Book 2 of this test run was You Are a Badass, by Jen Sincero. My friend (same friend) had been trying to get me to read this book for a while, but it wasn’t really interesting to me so I was putting it off. I actually checked out the audiobook before this; like usual, I started drifting as I listened to it. But the audiobook had some really good points (the parts I actually heard and processed), so I thought it would be a perfect book to try this method on.

I started really getting into this way of reading; you can finish a book in 2-4hrs! And I loved listening to authors read their own books, they know exactly where the inflections and pauses should go, for maximum effect.

 

Awkward, by Ty Tashiro
Awkward
, by Ty Tashiro

I was struggling to get through Awkward, by Ty Tashiro, so two chapters in I decided to get the audiobook. It was great help, because I’m not sure how many months it would’ve taken me to finish this book. I don’t think I would’ve given up on it, but it would definitely have taken many moons.

What I learned with this book is, the listen-reading (as I’ve taken to calling it) helps me process information better. I have mildly dyslexic tendencies (more so with numbers than letters), so sometimes my words trip over themselves. When my eyes are reading and someone else is repeating the words to me at the same time, I tripped over fewer words. It also helps that I’m being present (or, forced to be present).

 

I'll Have What She's Having, Rebecca Harrington
I’ll Have What She’s Having
, by Rebecca Harrington

This book I picked up completely for fun. I went through a phase at the turn of the decade where I read a lot of Old Hollywood celebrity biographies; when I saw this book, I immediately thought it was going to be a quick and fun read. It was a short enough book that I didn’t need to speed read, but I was also having a lot of fun with listen-reading, so I got the audiobook for this as well.

Listen-reading Rebecca Harrington’s I’ll Have What She’s Having made me realize that I didn’t need to use this method as intended (to learn something); it can be fun for itself as well. Also: I definitely prefer the author reading their own books. Awkward wasn’t read by Ty Tashiro, and while I don’t know what Ty Tashiro sounds like, there was a different feeling with that book than I’ve had with these other three. (Though, that can also be on account of gender, maybe men read differently than women? Too many variables to say for sure.)

 

Contagious, Jonah Berger
Contagious
, by Jonah Berger

I really didn’t need to listen-read Contagious, by Jonah Berger. It was a very easy read, and I was extremely interested in the subject (I’m considering a marketing focus for my MBA). And it was quite fascinating to put words to common sense ideas – common sense isn’t all that common, if you think about it. But we often take these things for granted and don’t think about it. It also makes you reevaluate your own thoughts and actions.

I actually read faster than the audiobook narrator. At 2x speed. So this method doesn’t work for every book. Though to be fair, the narrator did read slower than all the previous narrators.

 

Thoughts

Like I said in the intro, I don’t really need to read books faster. But this is a fun way to read books! I prefer to use this method for nonfiction; the original idea was to help people read business books more quickly. (I should say, for the record, that I’ve never listened to a fiction audiobook as an adult.) This works best for books you need information from, instead of books you’re reading for enjoyment. I’m also curious to see if this would work with ebooks (cuz we read screens more slowly than we read pages).

Are you going to try this method? Let me know how it went for you!

 

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Photo by Susan Yin on Unsplash

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Comments (2)

  • Allison 10 months ago Reply

    This is so interesting! I’ve never really considered doing this, but I’m going to try it, especially with nonfiction books. I’m a pretty fast reader as well, but I sometimes have trouble getting through nonfiction, even when I want to read them. I’d usually just rather be reading fiction. Maybe this will help me finish them faster, so I can get them read but also get back to fiction.

    Lily 10 months ago Reply

    Yes! It’s intended for nonfiction! I enjoy reading fiction a lot, so I don’t ever feel the need to speed through them (I imagine most people read fiction for the same reason). Hope it works for you!

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