I'll admit that the title is slightly misleading. There are several questions I always end up getting asked by different people and depending on the situation I have several different responses (ranging from laconically sarcastic to deeply serious replies). Then there is the comment/question of 'you can't just be (insert age here)?! I thought you were (add 10 years) old!'
However, when people find out that over the past few years I've read over 150 books a year they tend to ask me one of two questions. The lesser asked question is: well, don't you get tired of reading so much (or: don't the books blend together in your mind - a variation on the same theme)? To which the answer is yes and no. But that isn't the question I always tend to get asked. No the question I always get asked is: 'how do you read so fast?'
So I thought I'd make a post to answer this question. The answer to which has three basic parts.
The first answer is that it is a genetic ability in its own way. I believe some people are born with a propensity and talent for particular areas of skill. For instance, I've never had a drive to want to race horses - or any talent in that area, but some people seem to be born into the skill. Others are born with large feet and lungs and become champion swimmers. In some ways I was born into a family of readers with almost everyone in both my mother and father's immediate family capable of high levels of comprehensive reading. So obviously I was brought into a situation where the ability to read plenty of novels quickly was apparent in the family and also a situation where such skills could be learnt. And this is not something that people can necessarily help.
The second answer is one that people can work at (if not as great a degree as the third and final answer). This is to say that I learnt to read relatively quickly because I read so much. My mind and eyes have worked out a way of thinking quickly together so that I can fly down a page. It is like how one can learn to speed type or catch a ball that rockets through the air. The more time you practice the skill sets required to participate and do these activities the quicker you become at doing them. Of course everyone still has different speeds that they can do any activity at no matter how many times they do them...
This leads me to the final answer I can provide: that I unconsciously learnt strategies for reading quickly. And these strategies resulted from reading so many books as mentioned above. One strategy is learning how to skip words on a page (words like 'the' and 'a' and 'or' and even 'and') incorporating the words that you would not see as regularly and unconsciously filling in the gaps as you go along. Of course this is something I learnt unconsciously so I don't particularly see how you could practice this strategy. Unless one was to write sentences without certain words and practice filling those gaps in as you read... The other strategy I have is to set a target of pages that I want to reach before putting the book down. This mainly works if I have time to read leisurely in and allows me to say 'I wish to read 50 pages' or 'I'd like to get to page 360 today, meaning only 50 pages would be left.' It's a goal that helps you mow through tougher and thicker books that would otherwise leave you reading slowly for months.
A third strategy is to take regular breaks - the more you rest your reading, the more you can push in one go I find. And the final strategy I use is to have several books going at once. That way if one book isn't grabbing your attention, you move on to the other one and see if you can come back to that other book later.
So finally I must say: happy reading, however you read!