How to Speed Read A Book in Under 1 Hour

What do most successful people have in common? They read a lot. Warren Buffet was once asked what was the key to success. He pointed to a stack of books and said “Read 500 pages like that everyday. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee that not many of you will do it”

He’s not alone. Many other successful people do it.
– Mark Cuban reads more than 3 hours everyday
– Elon Musk learnt how to build rockets by reading books.
– Bill Gates reads about 50 books a year.

The average American reads at least 5 hours a week, the average Chinese reads 8 hours a week, which adds up to 20 – 30,000 hours reading during a lifetime. We spend countless hours throughout our education.

The average person reads around 200 words per minute. But there are people who can read at ten times that level 2000 words, and the world speed reading champion Anne Jones can read at 4700 words a minute. What are they doing that we can’t?

Imagine how different your life would be if you could read just twice or three times as fast? How much extra time you could have to read more or do other things. You could learn twice or three times as much in your lifetime with the same retention rate. How much more could you learn? What kind of an advantage would that have given you at school? and what kind of advantage can that give you in your career?

Did you know its possible to read any book in under 1 hour? So far this year (March 11th) I have read about 30 books and I can explain how I learnt to do that and read at a rate of around 800 words per minute.

How to read any book in under 1 hour

How fast can you read?

Before you start learning how to read fast, take a test to how fast you can read. You can take a test here:
Or you can do it manually by counting the words you are reading and setting a 1 minute timer.
Now you know how fast you can read, keep reading, and come back to take the test later.
How can you increase this reading rate?
Stop Sub-Vocalising
Think back at when you were taught to read and try to remember how you learnt. You probably learnt to read by first speaking the words out loud and your teacher would then check if you were learning correctly. You then learnt by muting your speech. You still thought of the sound of the words, but in your mind. This is called sub-vocalisations.

Sub vocalising the words puts a huge limit to how fast you can read at 200 words per minute.  Your eyes are designed for images. Converting images into sound is not efficient. Imagine if your computer converted every image on your computer into sound for you to process it!

To break through to higher speed reading you need to start seeing the words rather than making the sound in your head. This might be a difficult step to imagine but keep this thought in your mind as we go to the next step and I’ll show you how to stop sub-vocalising.

Fix Your Fixations!
The average reader will start their eye on the first word, and move to the next word, and keep moving. It will look something like this:
fixations of reading

But this method is is slow and inefficient because your reading speed is limited by how fast you can move your eyes. To fix this, you need to make fewer fixations per line, and start using your peripheral vision. Your eyes have a huge amount of peripheral vision that you can learn to use.

First you should start by doing some exercises to read by using your peripheral vision. You can use this programs online to learn to expand peripheral vision. One such program is:

When you have become more aware of how you can read using peripheral vision, you can learn to put this into practice while reading.

Many people read a book from the first word of the first page and move to the next word and continue throughout the book.  If you start with your eyes on the first word, you are wasting a lot of peripheral vision on the margin area which is blank. You can first start small by starting from the second word and finishing at the penultimate word of each line. Over time you can learn to look at each line in two or three fixations by taking snapshots.

An example is below:

reading eye fixations

The first few times your comprehension may not be as high as before but with practice it will get better.
This trick alone will massively increase your reading speed, and by doing this you will find that you can read without sub vocalising the words.
You need to practice this and the process will get quicker with more practice.

Now you can get started on strategies to read a book in under 1 hour.

Whats the destination
Reading a book is like taking any kind of journey. First get clear on where you want to go – what’s the destination? Then you do a plan – you check a map or use a sat nav. You don’t just start walking and hope you’ll end up there. That’s not efficient. It’s the same with reading, you need to be clear on what your result is, then have a look at how the books laid out, to find the best way to get there.  Often you can find there are quicker and more efficient ways to get to your destination.

Why do you want to read?

You need to have a target of what you want to read for. Normally you want to read something that will help you to do something or understand something. The first step is to be clear about what the purpose of reading is. Is it to help you to grow your company? Help you to understand a scientific problem? If you are reading for sheer pleasure then what is it that you find pleasurable about reading? First start by writing this goal down or have it in mind. Someone who is reading for to understand the how a car works will read in a very different way to someone who is reading to help generate ideas for a business problem they are facing.

Planning – 5 minutes.
With this goal in mind the second step is to plan and prepare. Spend 5 minutes planning can save a huge amount of time. First go through the front cover, the back cover, and read the table of contents. You can learn how the book is laid out and which parts of the book will be the most important to achieve your target.

You can then skim through the chapters you think are most important and read the first line of the introduction and conclusion, and take some snapshots of individual words that jump out and interest you. You can think of questions that will pique your interest when you come to read it a second time.

The Reading – 50 minutes

As you get started on reading you can go through the parts of the book that will help you find the information you need. You can read the first part of the paragraph and skip parts that are not relevant to your goal, and using the principles of fixations.

The 80:20 Rule and Law of Diminishing Returns

One of the keys to reading a book in under 1 hour is to put a timer of 50 minutes on how long you are spending reading. Parkinson’s law is that work expands to fill the time available. If you limit the amount of time you have available then you can read far more quickly and efficiently.  At first you will miss a lot of information, but it will force you to read much more efficiently over time.
To work out how much of the book you should skim Vs read, you can just calculate your reading rate per minute, and the total words for the book. As an example, if you can read 600 words per minute and the book is 60,000 words, then it will take 100 minutes to read the book. To read it within 1 hour you should skim around 40% of the book, and you can read 60% of it.
The 80:20 Rule (Pareto Principle) named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto was that 80% of the income of Italy was received by 20% of the population. The same principle can be seen in many other areas. Many people produce 80% of their output in 20% of the time. The same can be applied to reading. You can learn 80% of the information of a book by reading 20% of it.
You will often find that the key parts of the book are summarised in certain parts of the book, such as the conclusion and the first line of each paragraph. You can skim by reading these parts and working out what is most important,

After you have been reading a few times and you will find that you have got the same amount of value in 1 hour than you did in 5.  But this exercise forcing you to read a book in under 1 hour will force you to read more efficiently and effectively.  After doing this a few times you can still go back and read a book in 3 hours if you have the time. You will find that you will read much more quickly than you did before.

Remember what you learnt
Now its no use reading quickly if you forget it quickly. Thats why you can use some techniques to improve your retention. Here are three techniques to improve retention:
Make Your Own Images
The first technique if you need to remember of images, concepts etc., is to use the technique of creating your own images of what you learnt. As you go through each chapter, or concept you learn, you can create an image in your mind of something that it relates to in real life. Memory champions will connect new information to things they know previously.
Memory Palace is called the Method of Loci, you can learn more about it online such as here., according to Roman legend, was invented by Simonides of Ceos 2,500 years ago and is still being used by memory champions today.
The idea is to tie the information you learn to a place such as your home. You can create rooms in mind, and create a story related to those that connect the new information to a story in your home that relates to it. For example a shopping list of 20 items can be included as a story in your mind, starting with bananas and carrots and bread, milk, apples etc.. Try to exaggerate or make crazy ideas in your mind. You drive home in an orange car that is made of a carrot with a green tail, you arrive home and see a baker who is a monkey with bread and eating a banana. Open the door and you see a cow under an apple tree being milked but also eating an apple.
The more outrageous you make it the better. It will be easier to remember. The more vividly you can imagine it the easier you will be able to revisit it. Create crazy connections between each image of the story. The action of creating and playing with this information helps to remember it.
Make Notes
The second step is to make notes of what you reading. Just be creative to underline, highlight and write at the end of each chapter the main points. This can help if you go back to review what you read before.


Teach Others – 5 Minutes

The final step is to teach someone else what you read. The act of explaining to someone else what you just read will help you to crystallise in your mind what you learnt and helps you to understand it more fully and remember it.

How fast can you read now?

We have gone over the following principles:
 – measure and monitor your word per minute reading rate
 – stopping sub-vocalisations
 – fixing your fixations
 – getting clear on your target for reading
 – making a 5 minute review of the book
 – reading the key parts of each chapter and ignoring the irrelevant to your target
 – memory palaces
 – teaching someone else
Founder and CEO at China Admissions. Originally from UK🇬🇧, based in Beijing. Studied at Peking University & BLCU. Preparing for HSK 6. Hope we can help more talented international students have the same amazing experiences and opportunities that I have had
Richard Coward

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