How Much Do You Read?

How much do you read? This was a question posted on Facebook as a comment on my review of Theodore Roosevelt’s The Bully Pulpit. The truth is, I read a good deal, but even so, it took me a month to read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book. And the truth is, I enjoyed every minute of it! That might be as good an answer as any for how much to read — as much as you enjoy without interfering with other obligations in life.

rooseveltTeddy Roosevelt found time to read for several hours most days, interspersed through his days. He was known to read a book or more a day. The Art of Manliness has an article on Roosevelt’s reading list — some of which he read multiple times.

What do I do? Most days I try to read for 60 to 90 minutes in the morning in a couple different books. On evenings when I don’t have commitments I do the same, usually with a mug of something hot and listening to some good music. I read most of Sunday afternoons, unless the weather is so inviting that you just have to get out. I usually have a book or two (or my Kindle) in my bag and will “snatch read” when I have some spare moments. I have several books going at once. (You can see what I’m reading on the Goodreads widget on my home page.)

This may be thought odd, and if so, guilty as charged. But is it any less odd that watching three to four hours of TV a night, or a number of two hour or longer movies every week? Or what about the time we spend on the internet or on our smart phones (doing something other than reading)? My point is not to criticize those choices. We choose what we value. One of the things I value is good literature. If you decide to read more, it may mean deciding to do something else less.

I try to read when I can best concentrate. I don’t try to read something overly heavy if I’m listening to music. That is a tug of war. I think I read relatively quickly, although speed is not the issue. If someone is taking a lot of time to elaborate a point he or she has made, I will read that more quickly.

How much to read is as individual a choice as your favorite flavor of ice cream. Years ago, so, someone told me that if you read 15 minutes a day, you can read 15 books in a year. (I probably average 120 minutes a day, and I read about 120 books a year, so this might be a good rule of thumb.) It’s not good to read beyond your ability to absorb what you are reading. It ceases to be enjoyable at that point. For me, that usually comes after an hour of uninterrupted reading. That’s a good time to do something else, or at least refill the coffee mug. So in the end, I come back to the idea I began with, read as much as you enjoy without interfering with the other obligations in your life.

How much would you say you read?

4 thoughts on “How Much Do You Read?

  1. Bob: as a person who has taught reading skills to students 10 to 70 – and excuse my lack of caps, just lazy – i can guarantee you that you read between 600 and 800 wpm. my guess is you do not hear individual words in your
    head (other than names and places that you deliberately want to hear) and you do not move your lips when you read. i know all this because you DO read for pleasure, and if those marks aren’t hit, you can’t. the pity is that this skill is not taught in most schools, so the students do not transition from reading one word at a time to seeing phrases at a time and having their minds understand the words without HEARING the words. hearing the worlds limits you to 200 wpm or so. i have spent a couple of decades getting high school and college students to make this transition (there’s many a college student majoring in engineering or math because they can’t read literature.) the students who teach themselves usually glom onto – in my day – nancy drew or hardy boys. there’s not enough content to make them enjoyable at 200 wpm, so one simply speeds up. i was thrilled when harry potter did the same for a whole generation. and, much as i hate to admit it, the twilight series. would that the skill set was part of teacher training. oh! and another of my peeves is that english teachers tend to have that skill and when they have students that don’t – sometmes most of them – the words lazy and stupid get slung around and i want to hit people. mary alice

    • Mary Alice, good comments. I recall hearing some of this in a student development program I worked with in college. I suspect your are right that I read phrases or lines at a time, moving down the page. Any suggestions for where David might go for help with this?

  2. Mary Alice or Bob, if you have tips on how to learn to read faster, I would be much obliged. I read quite a lot, but I have never been able to read faster than 200 wpm. I have to form each word in my mind. Perhaps this is because I only ever read non-fiction and I have a tendency to read as though I am preparing for an exam on whatever it is that I am reading. At any rate, suggestions on how to speed things up would be much appreciated.

    • I’ve never taken any speed reading courses so I’m not sure what to say here. What I try to eliminate is “inattention” where I end up going over things I’ve already read. I also find that sometimes when slow down, I actually understand less and there seems to be some evidence of this. I do know that our comprehension actually works more quickly than our ability to form the words.

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