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“Ijust sit in my office and read all day. This is how Warren Buffett, one of the most successful people in the business world, describes his day. Sitting. Reading.He advises everyone to read more, and that’s certainly a goal we can all get behind. Our personal improvements at Buffer regularly come back to the books we read—how we aim to read more and make reading a habit. I imagine you’re in the same boat as well. Reading more is one of our most common ambitions.
So how do we do it? And what are we to do with all that information once we have it?
Reading more and remembering it all is a discussion with a lot of different layers and a lot of interesting possibilities. I’m happy to lay out a few possibilities here on how to read more and remember it all, and I’d love to hear your thoughts below.
But first, let’s set some baselines …
How fast do you read?
One of the obvious shortcuts to reading more is to read faster. That’s likely the first place a lot of us would look for a quick win in our reading routine.
So how fast do you read?
Staples (yes, the office supply chain) collected speed reading data as part of an advertising campaign for selling e-readers. The campaign also included a speed reading tool that is still available to try. Go ahead and take the test to see how fast you read.
(My score was 337 words per minute. Yours?)
The Staples speed reading test includes data on how other demographics stack up in words per minute. According to Staples, the average adult reads 300 words per minute.
- Third-grade students = 150 words per minute
- Eight grade students = 250
- Average college student = 450
- Average “high level exec” = 575
- Average college professor = 675
- Speed readers = 1,500
- World speed reading champion = 4,700
Is reading faster always the right solution to the goal of reading more? Not always. Comprehension still matters, and some reports say that speed reading or skimming leads to forgotten details and poor retention. Still, if you can bump up your words per minute marginally while still maintaining your reading comprehension, it can certainly pay dividends in your quest to read more.
There’s another way to look at the question of “reading more,” too.
How much do you read?
There’s reading fast, and then there’s reading lots. A combination of the two is going to be the best way to supercharge your reading routine, but each is valuable on its own. In fact, for many people, it’s not about the time trial of going beginning-to-end with a book or a story but rather more about the story itself. Speed reading doesn’t really help when you’re reading for pleasure.
In this sense, a desire to read more might simply mean having more time to read, and reading more content—books, magazines, articles, blog posts—in whole.
Let’s start off with a reading baseline. How many books do you read a year?
A 2012 study by the Pew Research Center found that adults read an average of 17 books each year.
The key word here is “average.” There are huge extremes at either end, both those who read way more than 17 books per year and those who read way less—like zero. The same Pew Research study found 19 percent of Americans don’t read any books. A Huffington Post/YouGov poll from 2013 showed that number might be even higher: 28 percent of Americans haven’t read a book in the past year.
Wanting to read more puts you in pretty elite company.