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How Fast Can You Read A Book?

In my high school exam year, we had to read books… many books. Growing up in The Netherlands, we had to read 8-12 books in Dutch, and a bunch in English. If you were lucky also to have classes in German and French, you also had a list of books to read in those languages. The problem of course wasn’t that we had to read them. The problem was we felt we had not enough time. 

Many of us started reading the thinnest books from the list. We shared summaries. We sometimes watched movies based on that book. These were all fine ideas (except for the movies, they changed stuff and the teachers knew).

All of this was great if you were talking about non-fiction books. You could not do that with your math, physics, and economics books. We had to take our time, or simply read faster. In this article, I will share with you how fast you can read a book… and study it at the same time.

What Is The Fastest Someone Has Read A Book?

Fast Readers 

A few names will pop up when you look for the fastest readers in the world. These are the names of Maria Calderon and Howard Berg. They are generally celebrated as the fastest readers in the world. There are videos in which you can see how fast they are “reading”. 

Maria Calderon claims to be the Guinness Book of World Records title of being the fastest reader. She is said to have read almost 50,000 words per minute in 1968. It was a 3000+ essay that she read in 3.5 seconds. 

Howard Berg did something similar in 1990. He is listed in the Guinness Book reading at 25,000 words per minute.

The Guinness Book of World Records is no longer accepting speed reading as a challenge. I think this says something…

When you look around a little more online, some programs claim to teach you to read this fast, and faster. I am sure you know about the secret technique to “put a book under your pillow and the next morning you read it subconsciously”…

Is Reading 10,000+ Words Possible?

Let’s be honest. Reading this fast is not possible without knowing a lot already. Prior knowledge or scheme is needed to read this fast. I am sure if you write a 5,000-word essay with made-up facts, a speed reader is not able to read that in 10 seconds or even 1 minute. And if they can read it, they are most likely unable to recall the correct information. 

Please note that I am not talking about someone like Rainman. His mental skills are not something people can learn. That is why you should learn to read smarter. Speed is not the most important thing in the world when you don’t know what you are reading. 

Let’s Get Practical

The fastest way a person has read a book depends not only on what you know. It also depends on what type of book you are reading. Reading a Harry Potter book can be done in a few hours. Reading a chemistry book takes longer. 

Studying to learn new things usually takes more time than reading fiction. I usually advise people to take 2 to 4 minutes to study one page. That means reading, understanding, and taking notes. This gives you a reading speed of 75 to 150 words per minute. That isn’t that fast, but it does include everything you need to do to understand the page in detail. 

Studying this way for one hour should enable you to study 15 to 30 pages. Let’s say you can keep up with 30 pages per hour. A full study book should take about 10 to 13 hours of study time. 

I would not recommend you read this much in a day. Your head may feel full after that. Plan to study for one hour each day. You can go through your book in about 15 days. This gives you even time to do exercises, and assignments, and prepare for an exam.

The more you study, the faster you can become in studying. Of course, there is a limit. But… practice improves your skills!

Should You Read A Book Fast?

This brings us to something very important. Is it important to read a book fast? As you can read in the previous section, you don’t have to read very fast to study fast. Studying is much more than reading. When you study about a page per 2 minutes, you can finish your book in 2 weeks by studying for an hour per day. 

Reading speed depends on the book. Your speed is also influenced by the time you have! When you have less time, you are probably more focused. You will read faster AND you will focus on some topics more. 

Reading is only the method for decoding the information on a page into thoughts and facts in your head. The next step is to carefully examine what you read. What do you understand and how can this be linked to present knowledge? You may take a few notes and after that… you “download” (I mean read) some more information from the book

Reading speed is secondary to comprehension. 


Reading a book fast is not a matter of reading speed. Sure, it helps if you can read faster than other people. The most important aspect of reading a book fast is taking your comprehension to a higher level. When you read slowly, but you understand what you read, you can move forward. Reading fast without understanding what you read will reduce your overall reading speed. 

Don’t make it your goal to become a speed reader. You don’t need to read fast. Read with focus. Learn to understand that reading takes part on different cognitive levels. You don’t read a book with good comprehension by focusing on details first. You start by having a broad (helicopter) view. Next, you attach details to that view. This will allow you to read faster with better comprehension. 

The Productive

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