How to Read Twice as Many Books in Half the Time

Effective speed-reading is not a myth, and you can train yourself to do it. But first, take some time to slow-read about how it works.

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The Method

There are a lot of words just waiting to be read. And with the right technique, you can effectively tackle everything, from your email inbox to that stack of magazines that's threatening to fall over: it's time to start speed-reading.

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The technique behind speed-reading involves clustering multiple words together and eliminating subvocalization, the act of saying words in your head as you read them. The philosophy: Your brain can still comprehend words if you don't repeat them in your head one by one. So really, you've been spending more time reading than you need to be. Speed-reading takes practice, but with the help of a few apps, you can eventually master it and read more than ever.

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The Apps

Acceleread

The Format: Speed-reading courses that present information in varying flash card formats, followed by comprehension tests. They're designed to increase your word-per-minute rate while maintaining concentration.

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The Takeaway: Acceleread's great if you want an academic approach to learning speed-reading: it provides you with progress-tracking analytics, increasing course levels, and specific activities that work together to improve comprehension and concentration. Consider this app if you're willing to set aside some time in your day to really devote yourself to the fine art of speed-reading.

Speed-Read

The Format: A single game that flashes words across the screen, and then asks you to repeat the sentence you just saw. As you go up in level, the words flash faster, and the full sentences get more complicated.

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The Takeaway: If you're going to be playing games on your phone anyway, you might as well play a game that will give you a useful new skill, right? Right. If you're super-serious about learning to speed-read, this game might not be the most comprehensive path, but it can be an easy supplement to an app that actually tests your speed-reading progress.

Outread

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The Format: A feed that allows you to speed-read saved articles from the internet (or classic books, if you'd like) with the help of a moving highlighter that trains your eyes to read words in clusters. You can adjust the speed and size of highlight to your own preference.

The Takeaway: If your backlog of articles to read is giving you serious agita, it might be time to download Outread. The app syncs with Pocket to help you practice speed-reading content you've been meaning to read anyway. Instead of taking a game-like approach, Outread helps you to immediately put speed-reading tactics into use IRL. It doesn't test your comprehension but rather leaves it up to you to determine whether you need to slow down or speed up. Practical!

The Bottom Line

Take your time...or don't!

For me, speed-reading is a tool that's not altogether extremely necessary in my life right now. It's a technique I could have used when I was assigned to read the entire Iliad in a week in college, but today, reading my stack of New York Times Magazine issues is much less urgent. Subvocalization makes it easier to really savor a novel word by word—but sometimes, there are things that need to be read and need to be read fast. So for those, get speeding!

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