The Need for Speed // Why Does Reading Speed Affect Us?

The Need for Speed // Why Does Reading Speed Affect Us?

I guess you could say it’s natural and part of the society’s competitive nature that one could assume that if you’re good at something or that you at least enjoy it a lot, that you would do a lot of it.

I think most of us may have felt it – that nagging guilty feeling that we could be reading more or that we’re not reading and/or finishing books fast enough. However, reading shouldn’t be a race but instead something to be enjoyed.

It occurred to a week ago when I managed to get a friend to get a library card and borrow a book (bringing more people into the reading occult mwahaha). She kept mentioning ‘omg you’ve read so much and you read so fast, I probably couldn’t do that in 5 years.’ It inspired me to write something up because even if you love reading and I guess you’d say you’re experienced at it, doesn’t correlate with the ability to read hundreds of books every year. It isn’t like being a competitive swimmer where your time is your defining statistic on how good you are at swimming in a category, reading; like I told my friend; is to experience stories and enjoy yourself in a new little world. It does not matter how many you read every month or every year.

So, today I wanted to open up the discussion on why most of us sometimes feel like we need to read more and more and more, faster than ever.

I think this is very prevalent for content creators, especially for bloggers like myself who generally like to finish books to create content for their blogs. What’s important to remember though, is that if book reviews are the bread and butter of basic book blogging, book reviews don’t have to be the only type of content on your blog. This discussion is an example of this – I personally try to come up with creative blog topics to share other than reviews because to me, reviews can get a little boring and I’d love to have more conversions with other bloggers and book lovers.

This tendency to want to read faster can also be seen amongst reading enthusiasts on social media. When you see amazing people like Cait (@paperfury) reading dozens of books a month (amazing! well done.) compared to what you may be reading – it can sometimes hurt the ego. It can feel so disheartening to not have read a book or haven’t read enough of your monthly TBR at any point in time. I know I’ve seriously felt it when I’ve been busy, on hiatus or going through hard mental health times or when I just don’t feel like reading.

And it’s, unfortunately, a fact, that this apparent comparison between reading abilities and preferences on social media can make you feel stressed, behind others in an invisible race, and more. A comparison that needn’t be made or even discussed for that matter because it doesn’t matter. Many times we are busy people, living our lives, working and doing other hobbies we enjoy that we don’t have hours and hours to read a book even if we want to. It doesn’t make you any less of a reader based on facts like how many books you’ve read or how often you read.

To give some extra context on why one’s speed when reading hobbies is absolute rubbish, the idea and concept itself of speed reading has very little scientific evidence. It is said that most people generally read at a rate of around 250 words per minute, this can apparently increase up to 700 words per minute if we skim read, listen to audiobooks or visually read books (without reading it in your head if that makes sense). That little voice in your head talking right now while you’re reading this, is actually pretty essential to understanding what you’re reading and enjoying it too. What is obvious is that if you’re trying to read faster, your level of comprehension of what you’re reading lowers.

What’s the point in reading a book faster if you don’t understand what you’re reading?

Reading should be a fun activity for book enthusiasts like us, and it seems silly to force yourself to read something faster just to increase how many books you’ve read this month or how many pages you’ve read today, only not to enjoy it cause you didn’t catch half of the world-building or missed on an important piece of character dialogue.

As much as I love them, I feel like readathons are also one of the culprits here. It’s always such a fun challenge but my goodness does it depress me a little when I can’t finish all the books I planned to read in a ridiculously small time frame.

Why else do you think many people think they should be able to or try to read faster? Let me know in the comments.

PS: how cute is the photo above? It’s one of the many photos I took on my trip to Seoul, South Korea. This one is in a small bookstore capsule at the Gyeongui Line Book Street in Hongdae/Hongik University Campus where they had shelves of books with no covers as a ‘blind book date’.

Until next time,

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Anjana
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The content, phrasing and storyline seems to play a part too! I am usually a fast reader but go even faster with some authors and for others I have to consciously slow down in order to actually absorb stuff. Non fiction slows me down waay more than anything else and ‘chicklit’ goes by faster than most. Does genre effect/alter your reading?

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