Speed Reading

Here is another excerpt from a work in progress- I’d love some feedback on it to help me with developing the next stages. I have have quite a bit more in scribbled notebooks, but everything is at first draft stage, so lots could change. If you want to read the previous excerpts that I have posted they are Word CountThe King James BibleBrave New World, The Spoken Word, and The Gutenberg Printing Press

Today I had a book stolen. It was a book about a computer game. It had twenty-one thousand nine hundred and two words. I have never had a book stolen. 

The world record for most words read per minute was set by Stephen Berg and stands at twenty-five thousand words per minute. 

Stephen Berg would have read the stolen book in fifty-three seconds. 

I saw the boy put the book under his jumper. I told him to stop, but he didn’t. 

On rare occasions, I have read up to seven hundred and ten words per minute. Factors which may affect the speed at which I read my include typeface, punctuation, font size, page layout, paper quality and thickness, time of day and light quality. Style and subject matter rarely cause issue. 

When the boy stole the book, I was two hundred and twenty-one thousand four hundred and eighteen words into a fantasy novel. 

I am a fast reader, but I fail to understand how anyone can read twenty-five thousands words per minute and take it in.

There is a possibility that they look at a page and scan for keywords. Or, maybe they don’t see anything. 

I don’t phone the police. I don’t phone Patrick.

I have been asked if I take in the words I read. I calculate the ratio of text I take in to be ninety-eight percent. I calculate that thirty-seven percent is committed to memory verbatim and can be recited several years later. A further nineteen percent could be paraphrased as required. Twenty-two percent can be synopsis-ed. The remaining twelve percent is forgotten. This is usually down to poor writing. 

I remember every word of the stolen book. If I were to play the video game, I believe I would demonstrate sufficient mastery. 

I don’t phone Patrick. I don’t phone the police. 

It took me thirty-eight minutes to read the stolen book. I read it on a tuesday afternoon in March. I began at three nineteen.    

The boy just laughed, but I do not understand why. The boy just laughed as he pushed twenty-one thousand nine hundred and two words up his jumper. 

I don’t phone the police. I don’t phone Patrick.

When someone is caught stealing, they should stop stealing. This boys did not. 

Twenty-one thousand nine hundred and two words up his jumper.

He laughed as they ran down the street. 

Image Credit

12 Comments Add yours

  1. I am always curious on how people can read that fast. Like you, I wonder is it just keywords that they captured, and interpreted the overall story based on just keywords. I didn’t quite understand “I don’t phone the police. I don’t phone Patrick.” but surely the repetitive sentences caught my attention to read further. I enjoyed the article. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for that. You’ve hit on my intentions, I’m glad they came across! I hope you enjoy the other parts.


  3. Chris Hewitt says:

    Ignoring the fact I haven’t read any of the other parts yet and was missing a bit of context (e.g. Patrick). I liked the way it ping-ponged between the obvious confusion the narrator had of the theft and that specific reading detail. It left me wondering if the narrator had some form of autism. Specifically the obsession with detail, inability to comprehend the thieves actions and the repetition of the “I did not call” phrase. Slight issue with the number of boys, “This boys did not.” and “he laughed as they ran down the street”. I’ll take a look at the other parts and revisit.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for your feedback, it is very comprehensive. I take on board your comments about the shifting of tenses, and I can see how that might cause confusion. It was a style choice, but possibly when it gets redrafted I may look at changing it. In terms of finding out more about the boys, I’m hoping that through the other excerpts linked at the start of the post I am building up a sense of a character who struggles to notice anything about people, and instead is solely fixated on numbers and books. I could look at providing more background to the scene though. Thanks for your comments though, it’s great that you took the time to read it and let me know what you thought. 🙂


  5. Marcela says:

    Hello! So, I do think at least for me this would work better if (1) the present tense was not introduced in “I don’t phone the police. I don’t phone Patrick”. It is confusing to me, since I understand the narrator is telling us about something that already happened that day. Isn’t it too late to call the police or Patrick? So I get this feeling of being stuck in a moment in which the boy is frozen with the book and so is the narrator, while the truth is that this already happened – now, I am not a native speaker, so this might be the cause of my confusion-, (2) I knew just a bit more about how this boy managed to grab the book and just a little bit more about him (or them?); something that gives him more existence (or something like that).

    I know how important feedback is. Otherwise, I like the information given here about the narrator and what goes on in his mind with respect to speed reading and the calculations he does. That’s cool :).


  6. Thank you 🙂 I love finding out the little things that people enjoy.


  7. ceponatia says:

    “Twenty-one thousand nine hundred and two words up his jumper.” loved this line

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Thanks for your Feedback – It is much appreciated. You are obviously correct- about the difference between reading fast and speed reading. The excerpts are early drafts from a bigger piece that I am working on, written in the first person. If you haven’t already read them, the links are at the top of the post, I’d love your thoughts on them.


  9. Wakeupkitty says:

    I thought one boy stole the book not boys. Reading fast and speed reading is not the same. There is no need to read each word written to understand what it is about.
    Patrick? Who or what is Patrick?

    Liked by 1 person

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