How Fast do you Read?

This is sort of a post to address a question that’s come up frequently not only in the comments section and on social media, but also in my emails with authors.  It seems to be a question on the tip of everyone’s tongue for me: How fast do you read?  I guess it seems pretty crazy to most people that I review almost a book a day.  So first off, let me start with my life story.

I was a very reluctant reader, but that’s an entirely different story.  However, once I actually got reading I took to it like a fish in water.  My elementary school had an excellent reading program, but they liked to keep everyone in grade one and two on the same level.  The program lasted for grades one and two and they never, ever advanced any grade one past level 13 because there were 26 or 27 levels.  So even if I could proficiently read aloud from a book in a level the first day I got it, I would have to read almost all 20 books in the basket for the reading assistants to even consider moving me up.  (These were picture books, mind you.)

Still, I managed to reach the last level by April or May of grade two and that began my mother’s bitter fight with the school to get me some challenging books.  I believe that was one of the only fights she ever lost with the school because the reading assistants would not pass me until I read every single book in that level, which carried me on to the end of the year.  It was incredibly frustrating for an already frustrated and thoroughly bored eight year old.

I really started to shine in grade three, when the school librarian finally let me read whatever I wanted.  That was the year I read the Harry Potter series (well, as many books as were out at the time), the first Narnia book and so many others.  Since I, like many bookish people, didn’t really have many friends, books became my friends.

There’s not much to tell after that.  I’ve kept on reading whenever I have the time, despite working six days a week and trying to have a social life.  No, I’ve never taken any speed-reading courses or read books on speed-reading.  I just read really quickly, I guess.  For those of you that are wondering, I’ve broken down my average reading time below:

I average about 100-120 pages per hour, depending on the level of the book.  For something as involved as Colleen McCullough’s The First Man in Rome it’s more like 90 pages per hour, but something simple as Abandon by Meg Cabot it’s more like 130 pages per hour.  Middle grade novels can be as much as 200 pages per hour, but that speed is really stretching my reading comprehension skills.

The average young adult book I come across is 300-400 pages long, so at around 110 pages per hour, I can get through it in 3-4 hours.  For a book like The First Man in Rome (which is about 1100 pages) that means I can read it in 11 hours, or about a week of reading if I prioritize other books I can review more quickly.

Reading is my talent, just like some people are really talented athletes or musicians.  My question to you guys now is: how fast do you read?  Do you know?  Or how many books do you read in an average week/month/year?

31 comments

  1. Zen A.

    You’re pretty fast! I never measured my reading speed, but if I had to guess, I would say I can read between 40 – 80 pages per hour, depending on the complexity of the book! 🙂

    • Carrie Slager

      That’s a pretty respectable speed, Zeinab. Obviously writing your own books, you probably don’t have as much reading practice as I do. Writing is more of your talent.

  2. Thomas

    It’s great that reading is your talent and that you’ve had a passion for it all your life! My reading speed is about the same as yours, I think – some books I can breeze through while others (especially nonfiction that doesn’t interest me) takes longer.

    • Carrie Slager

      Yes, nonfiction is often a lot slower. It really depends on the author, though. If their style is verbose and wordy obviously it takes longer than someone who gets to the point and writes in a very entertaining style, like Egyptologist Toby Wilkinson. To be fair, though: I’ve read some pretty slow fiction books as well.

  3. Lily

    It’s great that reading is your talent. It’s a productive one at that 😀 My reading speed is probably 75-100 pages an hour. I think I’d be faster if I didn’t have so many distractions 😀

    • Carrie Slager

      It’s certainly helped in the academic world to be a quick reader! 🙂 I find myself a lot more distracted lately, but even so I can still maintain my 100 pages/hour speed if we’re talking cumulative. Ah, darn life infringing on my reading time!

  4. lmccj

    I’m about 60 pages per hour but, I probably don’t have 5 hours per week to read. I often have to reread parts of books because I’m reading so infrequently I don’t remember the story.

    • Carrie Slager

      That’s too bad. I hate when I get really distracted then come back to a book a while later and have to reread parts. I’d rather just finish most books in one or two sittings. Life doesn’t always allow for that, but I do try.

  5. Phillip McCollum

    Much like you, my reading speed depends on the material. Some things, I just want a gist of what’s going on and don’t need to savor every word. For certain authors, I like to spend a little more time digging into the words and sentences they use. I don’t think I’ve ever timed my reading, but I think I may try that sometime.

    • Carrie Slager

      True, I do find myself skimming more when I just need to get the gist of things. But for authors like Margaret George or Colleen McCullough, I like to read a bit slower to immerse myself in the fascinating world of ancient Egypt/Rome.

      I’ve never quite ‘officially’ timed my reading. Sometimes I look at the clock, remember the time and then see how far I am approximately an hour later. The majority of the time I’m 100 pages further in the novel, so that’s my reading speed. It’s actually a worthwhile thing to try if you can find an hour to read uninterrupted.

  6. Grace

    School librarians were lifesavers to me back in the day, and I think they might have had something to do with my current career choice. There’s one in particular who always had such wonderful recommendations for me that took me out of my comfort zone and challenged me to think in different ways.

    If I were just reading and had no other responsibilities, I could easily finish a book a day. Of course I also have work, grad school, and a social life, so it depends how busy I am. My general rule of thumb with review copies is to try to read/review them within a month or two. However, if I fall behind, I’ll still get to it eventually.

    • Carrie Slager

      Review copies can be a challenge. I get through print ones in a week, maybe two because I choose to make them a priority. But I can see where grad school would definitely keep you from reading as much as you want. The electronic review copies I’m not so good at getting to because my eyes hurt when I read on the computer screen for too long.

      • Grace

        I was trying to do everything for a while, and then got to a point where I just couldn’t keep up with everything. Now that the semester’s over, I’m looking forward to finally having more time.

        I’m slower with electronic copies as well, but for me it’s mostly because I like to read in the bathtub, and water and electronics don’t mix. 😛

  7. lipsyy

    Wow, that is fast! I’ve always thought I read quite slowly. People think I read quickly because I get through a lot of books but I really don’t, I just spend a lot of time doing it. I probably do about 50 pages an hour I think. I have tried pushing myself and reading quicker but I just don’t enjoy it as much. Especially if it’s a really good book, I like reading it slowly and savouring it.

    • Carrie Slager

      There’s absolutely nothing wrong with reading slowly! Especially if you find that you don’t enjoy books when you read faster. I think people think I’m crazy when one day at work I show up with a 1,000 page book to read during my break, then show up with a different book the next day. I also spend quite a bit of my time reading, so I know what you mean.

    • Carrie Slager

      Fair enough. It’s easier to read faster through books we like because we want to know what happens next. Books we don’t like, well sometimes reading them can be painfully slow going.

  8. Author Unpublished

    My reading speed currently sits at 549 wpm. I go through about a book and a half, sometimes 2 books a day if I have nothing pressing to do. Most books take me about 3-5 hours to read ^^ The trouble is finding the time where I don’t have anything else to do in order to actually sit down and read XD

    • Carrie Slager

      When I have a rare day off, I can go through about 2 or 3 books, but since I don’t have as much time off as you I sort of ‘binge’. Then when I’m really in the zone and have no other obligations I read about 4 or 5 books and schedule all my reviews for the week. During those weeks I like to focus on longer, more serious novels than I usually read to challenge myself. 🙂

  9. The Masquerade Crew (@MasqCrew)

    My reading speed is totally inconsistent. I’ve been known to finish a book in a weekend (3 days) but other times a book will take me weeks. Lots of distractions, lack of desire, among other things contributes to the problem. I can’t usually read hours on end. I have to take breaks.

    Hence why I don’t consider myself an avid reader.

    • Carrie Slager

      Thanks for commenting Mark! I can see why you’re not an avid reader: you’re so ridiculously busy. Reading is my way of coping with my physical pain, I guess. Everyone copes in different ways.

  10. Jemima Pett

    I’m much the same as the Masquerade Crew. It depends on how much time I’ve got – how much I want to read that particular book, and whether I’ve got time. I read the last Harry Potter in 6.5 hours making myself slow down – because there is only one First Read! I took breaks so I could absorb what I’d just read and figure out what might happen next – I mean, after the build up, you needed to readjust your theories!
    But I find too many books dont keep me enthralled enough to sit down and enjoy them like that. Butterfly mind, or something like that. I often take a few days to get to the midway point then finish it in one sitting. It depends on the book. 🙂
    I used to read a lot of books on holidays when I commuted by car, and then when I commuted by train I used to read two or three a week, just on the train. Now I don’t commute and I’ve had to find that time to read again!

    • Carrie Slager

      I could never, ever read on the train or bus! (Well for one I live in the middle of nowhere where the only buses are school buses.) I get terribly, terribly motion sick if I read on anything but an airplane. I envy people with long commutes that don’t involve driving themselves.

      As I read more and more I find that it takes a lot more for a book to hold my attention. If I can predict the plot within the first few chapters, it’s not as enjoyable as a book with a premise I’ve never seen. Of course it depends on the book.

      • Jemima Pett

        I can’t do buses or cars for the same reasojn. I get sick as a passenger even without reading, and add reading and it’s almost instant. I went to school on London tube trains, so the effort of doing homework in time for school probably cured me!

  11. Kelley

    Man, I feel slow now. I read YA books at about a page a minute, so usually about 60 pages an hour (sometimes around 75). Adult books take me about 2 minutes per page, depending on how interesting they are or how small the text is, lol.

    • Carrie Slager

      Yes, the text size definitely matters! Same as the size of the actual page and how the publisher chooses to space it. But for the average YA book with average font and spacing I read 100-120 pages per hour. It also depends on how much I like the book or how often I stop for complaining breaks (‘This book sucks!’ *keeps reading*).

  12. James Kennedy

    Really interesting topic.. and it’s interesting too to see the range of speeds at which people read. I read books at a vast range of rates—my current book and the last one were super-slow (both are Chinese proverbs books) because there’s so much meaning to understand—I’m also trying to memorise as many as I can before I take them back to the library 😛

    You’ll be pleased to hear I have just started getting into YA fiction (reviews are on another blog). When the blog owner allows me to re-post them, I’ll put them up for you to share! Reading speed for YA fiction was much faster than my usual.

    I don’t have a super-fast reading speed like you do. I just devote lots of time to reading!

  13. Jeri Walker-Bickett (@JeriWB)

    I’m an average reader at best, though interest-level and the nature of the reading greatly impacts the speed I am able to read at.

    • Carrie Slager

      Fair enough! 🙂 Sometimes it’s nice to just slow down and enjoy a book, other times you can’t help but read fast because you have to know what happens next. It all depends on the individual.

Leave a Reply