Super-readers and the Rest of Us

I asked a question recently at the Bob on Books Facebook page about how many pages a day people read. Most people were in the 25 to 100 page range. But I was surprised by the numbers who read 200, 300, and in a couple cases 500 pages in a day (Warren Buffett is one reputed to read 500 pages a day). I call them the super-readers. There are also some who listen to up to 8 to 10 hours a day to audiobooks. I’d put them in the same category.

It was interesting that the super-readers generally read novels, some reading one or even two in a day, and where people distinguished between fiction and non-fiction, they always read more pages of fiction.

Some of this probably depends on the number of words on the page. Mass market paperbacks often have lower word counts per page (not always), which might account for the ease of reading so many pages. And some books are page turners while others, you plod through.

My own reading tends to be on the heavier or denser side (with exceptions!) and most days, I read 100 to 120 pages, which was kind of middling for this group of respondents, but still on the high side in the general population. I usually finish three or four books in the week. I have increased the number of books I read since I’ve begun reviewing.

Season of life has a good deal to do with this. One of the super-readers, at least, self-identified as a retiree. Sometimes those who read choose not to do other things, like watch TV or videos or spend significant time online. Young, working parents often don’t have much time to read, other than read alouds! Sometimes, visual impediments slow down reading as well.  I would suggest that this ought to be one of those no guilt, no shame zones. I just don’t think you encourage someone to read more by making them feel bad that they only manage to read ten pages a day, if that.

Nor do I think those who are “super-readers” should be made to feel weird. Now, if they do this to the neglect of good self-care, care for important others, or neglect of obligations, it might be time to re-examine that super-reading lifestyle. Again, no shame here–probably none of us are perfectly “balanced” in our approach to life–and sometimes we need to make adjustments–more sleep, less food, more exercise. Sometimes other adjustments mean adjusting our reading habits as well. My father always said, “life is a series of adjustments.”

As I’ve probably said in other posts, the real issue is whether our reading is forming us into healthier, more flourishing human beings. It means perspective that takes life with just the proper amount of seriousness and not more. It means fostering imagination that broadens the options at hand as we approach the task of living. It means having the information we need to make good decisions. It means better understanding where we’ve come from to have a sense of where we ought go. And sometimes it means diversion that enables us to return to our daily tasks with fresh energy.

Mortimer Adler said, “In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.” That, for me puts all this about page counts and reading goals in perspective. However, for those who would like to read more, or more consistently, here are a couple articles, one encouraging reading 20 pages a day, the other 25, something most readers can do in around a half hour. My own suggestion is read as you can, try to take in what you read, and do it each day. Chances are, you will notice yourself reading more over time. I have.

 

One thought on “Super-readers and the Rest of Us

  1. Reading should never be drudgery (outside of classroom requirements!), or in response to a a guilt trip. Reading should always be profitable, usually enjoyable, and ultimately rewarding. Some books are tools, usually useful, sometimes even a blessing. Other books are like a cool drink on a hot day, refreshing, invigorating. All readers are not the same, and all reading is not the same. That is to be expected. There is a time to go fast, and a time to slow down. Some we gulp. Some we sip and savor.

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