How to Read Faster and Retain More

How to Read Faster and Retain More

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Some practical advice today. I read a shit-ton. And I occasionally get asked about it, particularly from college students. “How can I read more? How can I read faster? How can I remember and use more?”

Although I’m technically a blogger, writer and internet marketer, I actually see my occupation as synthesizing and sharing information in unique and efficient ways. A big part of that is therefore reading a lot of cool stuff and then being able to share that cool stuff easily.

Most people don’t realize that the way we’re taught to read when we’re young makes us poor readers when we’re adults. There are practical and logical tactics one can utilize to read non-fiction material more efficiently.

In my book Models, a passage that surprisingly drew a lot of attention from readers was the section where I described how I challenged myself to read 50 non-fiction books in 50 days when I was 19-years-old. In the book, I described this experience as one of the most useful of my life. University courses became a breeze. My writing got better. My ability to consume information increased drastically. And I gained tons of new insights and perspectives on my life and the world around me.

What seems to catch people’s attention is that they assume it was some massive feat of will power. It was at first, but within a week or so, I adopted a few strategies to make the whole process more efficient and more enjoyable. Once you get the hang of it, consuming a typical popular science book should take no more than a few hours (exceptions if the book is either really good or really bad).

These are strategies anyone can use and require little practice. You can be up to speed and doing this stuff within a week or two. It will just take some conscious effort at first and a little bit of practice. For the most part, these tips are practical and logical, not some uber-speed-reading techniques.

But before we get into it, let’s start with a question:

“What is the purpose of reading?”

That sounds like a pretty stupid question. It’s so obvious that few people bother to think about it. But why do we even read in the first place?

The answer is the transmission of information. Written language has the magical power of taking an idea from my brain and inserting it into yours, regardless of space or time or whether we like each other or not.

But when we’re young, the purpose of reading is to learn vocabulary and proper grammar. Therefore the way we’re taught to read when we’re young is designed to do that efficiently, not necessarily transmit information efficiently. What we have to do, as educated adults, is re-orient the way we read to consume information and ideas efficiently. Grammar and vocabulary are pre-requisites for this, but not the ultimate purpose.

(Note: In the cases of good fiction or poetry, it’s often not desirable to read the book as quickly as possible, since the purpose of reading it is the artistic merit of the writing itself. For this reason, in the case of extremely well-written non-fiction, or when reading fiction or poetry for pleasure, I forgo most of these strategies.)

Step 1: Shut Off Your Inner Monologue

When we’re kids, we’re taught to read by sounding out every letter and then every word. As we grow older, we continue to read through an internal monologue in our head.

The problem is our eyes are capable of identifying words and sentences much faster than our inner monologue can make sounds. The first step to reading faster and more efficiently is to stop sounding out the words in your head. This requires some degree of mindfulness and I actually think meditation can help with this.

Mastering this, by itself, can double or triple your reading speed within a few days. And when you do encounter a piece of great writing (*cough* like mine *cough*) you can always turn the monologue back on to really enjoy it. I have a handful of favorite writers and bloggers that I always keep the monologue on for, because beyond the information I simply enjoy their style of writing. But most of the time the monologue goes off.

Step 2: Scan for Important words only

FYI: Kids suck at reading.

FYI: Kids suck at reading.

The other habit that is taught in grade school that slows you down later is to pay attention to every word in a sentence in order. But the mind has an amazing ability to fill gaps with appropriate information. So we may as well take advantage of it.

Once you get the hang of reading without sounding out every word in your head, you’ll find yourself beginning to chunk groups of words together into larger chunks of meaning. Instead of seeing “the” “cat” “was” “mad” separately, your mind will register “the cat was mad” as one single piece of information. Once that happens, certain chunks of words will stand out in paragraphs and your eyes will just glide over the filler words without wasting time or energy on their content.

For example, this sentence, “In effect, the cat’s biggest concern had not been the lack of food, but rather the demonstrated lack of care by his owners.”

Will soon register as this, “Cat’s biggest concern — not lack of food — but — lack of care — owners.”

You get 90% of the meaning with about 50% of the words.

I’ll use another example from an article I read last night. It’s from the Harvard Business Review and is about defeating procrastination. This is the first paragraph:

“A recent early morning hike in Malibu, California, led me to a beach, where I sat on a rock and watched surfers. I marveled at these courageous men and women who woke before dawn, endured freezing water, paddled through barreling waves, and even risked shark attacks, all for the sake of, maybe, catching an epic ride.”

But as I read that paragraph, this is what stands out as my eyes scan it:

“A recent early morning hike in Malibu, California, led me to a beach, where I sat on a rock and watched surfers. I marveled at these courageous men and women who woke before dawn, endured freezing water, paddled through barreling waves, and even risked shark attacks, all for the sake of, maybe, catching an epic ride.”

That’s 50% of what’s actually written. But you’ll notice that the relationships between those chunks are all already implied. In many cases the adjectives hint at the action taking place and so reading the verbs is unnecessary as well.

Scanning paragraphs like this takes practice. But this can double your reading speed yet again. And the beauty is that if you scan through a paragraph and don’t completely grasp the meaning, you just go back, slow down, and add the words back in until makes sense. Then take off again.

Step 3: Read only first and last sentences of paragraphs

If we accept that the purpose of writing is to convey information, and if we’re not reading something for the pleasure of the writing itself, then it makes no sense to read any more words or sentences than are necessary to convey the information. That means that there’s no reason to continue reading sentences that describe a concept you already understand.

The fact of the matter is that most non-fiction is not written well. It’s usually repetitive and long-winded. They’ll give example after example of a simple concept you already understood. There’s no reason for you to suffer through this. Especially if you’re a smart and selective reader.

Whenever I read an article, a section of a book, or a chapter where I feel like I already have a decent understanding of the subject matter and am merely looking for something new or something that stands out, I will read only the first sentence of each paragraph. By design, paragraphs introduce new ideas and new topics. And when you limit yourself to the first sentence of each one, you’re limiting yourself to sentences that introduce each idea in the piece of work. If I come across a sentence that piques my interest, THEN I will go back and read the entire paragraph or section. If I reach a point where I’ve lost track of what the author is talking about, then, and only then, I will go back and read the last few paragraphs until I’m caught up to speed, then I’ll move on.

Another option is to read only the first and last sentences of each paragraph. It’s actually startling how much information you can pick up just by doing this. Try it. Dig up a magazine article you’ve never read and go through it reading only the first and last sentences of each paragraph. Only read entire paragraphs if the you don’t understand the first and last sentences.

Then go back and read the whole thing beginning to end. Compare how much information you gained by doing the latter. It’s likely not that much.

Step 4: Skip entire sections, chapters or Even the book itself

I’m amazed by how many people persist in reading crappy books that they’re not learning anything from.

If you are consistently running into shitty ideas, things you already know, or the book is just extremely repetitive (like most self help books), then just skip entire sections. Right now I’m reading Phil Jackson’s new autobiography about being an NBA coach. He had an entire section of the book about his interest in Native American rituals. I’m not interested in Native American rituals, I’m interested in Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. So I skipped about four pages. I’m now halfway through the book and feel like I missed out on absolutely nothing.

As for ditching a book entirely, I usually give any book 10% before I decide whether to finish it or not. If it’s a 500 page book, I’ll give it until 50 pages. If it’s 100 pages, it needs to grab me within 10 or so. If it doesn’t grab me or I find I don’t respect the author, then before giving up on it I’ll check the table of contents and skip to the chapter that appeals to me the most. If that chapter still doesn’t do it for me, then I put the book down and don’t look back. I’d estimate that I end up putting down anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of the books that I start and never read any more than 10-20% of them.

That may surprise some people. But I’ve found that one really good book gives me the value and information of 3-4 crappy books. So there’s no sense on wasting my time on books that are not transmitting the information I’m interested in.

Step 5: Relate any Important information to things you already know

How are you going to remember all of this stuff?

How are you going to remember all of this stuff?

When you start to go through a lot of books, you become concerned that you’re not retaining all of the information that you’re coming across. It feels weird because you can’t consciously recall everything immediately. So sometimes it feels like you read hundreds of pages for nothing. Sometimes you may feel the urge to quiz yourself on what you just read. But then you’re basically just replicating school all over again. And honestly, who remembers anything they learned in school?

The way the brain is set up, the majority of our memories will exist in our sub-conscious and only become accessible in relevant contexts. Ever been in a conversation with somebody and something they say suddenly sparks a memory you hadn’t thought about in years? Yep. They’re down there. They just need to be associated with something useful for them to come up.

This is why whenever you come across a new or useful idea, take a moment to relate it to something you already know, understand or use. For instance, I recently read a book on Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration. Positive Disintegration is a theoretical psychological framework and reading about it was quite dense. It was fascinating, but I ended up having to take some time to relate each of his ideas to personal experiences or other psychological frameworks that I’ve studied in the past. As a result, his ideas are far easier to recall. Instead of trying to recall the theoretical specifics of Positive Disintegration cold, I can remember the social anxieties I struggled with for years and how that represents one of the processes in his framework. That then allows my brain to access the information from the book quickly.

Later when I studied Robert Kegan’s work — another developmental psychological framework that was dense — I then related it to Positive Disintegration. The frameworks are similar, involve five stages, and have basically the same endpoint. My memory of each reinforces the other now because I see how they interrelate. I don’t have to recall both in a vacuum, but I can recall parts of either and soon have the whole of both.

Step 6: Highlight, bookmark, keep a database

But even then you won’t be able to remember everything, or at least not accurately. So it’s important to be able to reference your knowledge.

(Note: This is where it gets nerdy.)

I believe as a study tool itself, highlighting or underlining is overrated if not useless. What it’s useful for is reference. I highlight/underline all important facts or ideas that I want to be able to reference in the future. If there’s a whole section that is important, I’ll dog-ear the page down (with Kindle, you can just add a bookmark).

This won’t actually help you retain anything by itself. The retention and usefulness comes from building a reference database of references.

When I finish a book, I go back and make notes on the parts I highlighted and bookmarked. I then write a short 100-200 word summary of the book and the points I took from it. This takes anywhere from five to 30 minutes. But it’s worth it. I also keep my database on Google Drive, so it’s accessible anywhere (even on my phone).

Some people are really into mind mapping. I never really got into them, but it’s the same concept.

I only do this with the best books that have important information, not everything I read. I’d say only 1/3 of the books I read make it into the database. But it’s been incredibly useful for me, especially in regards to my business. And the best part is, it’s there forever. There are books I read 10 years ago that I’m foggy now on a lot of the specifics. In 10 years, if I ever get foggy on Dabrowski’s theories, I can pull them up at any time, at home, on a bus or train, waiting in line at the airport, and refresh myself.

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64 Comments

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  • Reply

    Elizabeth

    2 months ago

    Goddamn it Mark, why couldn’t you have written this last year, when I was doing tedious read: painfully boring) research for my senior thesis?? :)

  • Reply

    Francesco

    2 months ago

    Hmm, interesting. I’ll pick up a book tomorrow and try some of these ideas. Unfortunately, when I’m researching something for a piece I read a lot of scientific papers which are usually quite badly written, with tons of jargon. Which means that if I read them quickly, I probably won’t understand anything.
    It’s much easier to speed read something well written.

    • Reply

      Mark Manson

      2 months ago

      Not sure which science, but for soft sciences I usually go: Abstract; if interested -> Introduction; if experiment makes sense -> Conclusion/Discussion; if the experiment seems like its particularly good/bad, THEN I read through the experiment itself and data.

      I try not read every word of academic papers. But sometimes you have to. :(

      • Reply

        Paul

        2 months ago

        +1

    • Reply

      Raphael

      2 months ago

      As for efficient reading of scientific papers:

      1) You’re an undergrad student, aren’t you? Most likely you will experience that your reading is going to be way faster, as soon as you develop some basic understanding of the respective topic. You will be able to detect the one or two (usually^^) original / important thoughts in the paper very quickly. When you try to read about a completely unfamiliar topic, it’s all a question of choosing the right resources to start with and read them pretty thouroughly. I think the academic staff at your college should be willing to help you in the first years. Once you have some background with scientific literature you will be able to sort out publications by type (you want to start with latest metaanalyses and / or reviews; then just look for newer normal publications), authors (that’s just feeling, once you get to know them / their work), journals (again, experience, do not just trust impact factors) number of citations and so on.

      2) When you try to decide whether a certain paper is worth to read, it’s important to be very clear about what you look for. Am I looking for a general introduction in the topic? A certain methodological approach? A stimulus set? The interpretation of data similar to yours? This is going to make a huge difference for how and what you read. In most cases it’s neither necessary nor beneficial to read the entire paper, you can just skim for the information you need (first sentence of paragraph is indeed a major help here). When your interest is still pretty broad (new topic you need to sum up for a seminar e.g.), I would advice reading Abstract / tables and or graphs / discussion / then go back and skim the paper for more information on those parts of the discussion which seemed relevant to you.

      3) If you read a paper on a familiar topic, it’s all about selection. If you read a paper on an unfamiliar topic and want to use it to get a good understanding of the topic, it’s about quickly establishing a reference frame, where you can sort in the information you get. This is going to make a really huge difference on how fast you’re able to understand the information, so develop it fast and effectively. How can you do that? For me it works best to start by reading the paper several times, each time more thoroughly. Try to understand how the paper is structured contentwise. When you understand that and have at least a vague idea what is covered in each paragraph before you really dive into it (“this is where the author explains the concept of life events, and here he goes on and elaborates on the possible connections to schizophrenia”) you’re not only faster but also more accurate,

      4) This is not really about reading, but use some good software to manage your literature. Citavi works for me, but you will just need to try out for yourself. “Johnson_et_al_vigilance_eyeblinkparadigm.pdf” is not going to be helpful for you in two years time…

      5) Give yourself some time. Usually when you establish a new working process, it’s going to slow you down at first. Once it becomes a habit, you will experience the full benefits. The more endurance you show, the faster this will happen.

      6) Highlighting is for finding important parts quickly when you look for them later, not for reading. At first you read the paper, then you highlight. When I see undergrad students of mine with the papers I gave them, normally half of each page is highlighted. This is what happens when you highlight as you read. When you have problems to keep your attention on the paper while reading, work on that (should be courses on it at your college) or use your finger or whatever, but do not make you paper a painting.

      7) Roughly speaking I’d say that about 5-10 % of the papers I quote are crucially important, another 20-30 % are important to somewhat important, the vast majority is of minor relevance. Papers of minor relevance are the once I just need a result or a thought on possible explanations for a certain phenomenon from. I don’t read them, I just read the important part and skim the rest to make sure I didn’t get it wrong in the abstract and am going to make a fool of myself infront of my colleagues. I do read important papers, highlight / sum up what I need and use my notes as a reference when writing the paper. Crucially important papers I do not only read, but read them several times during the research process, think about the ideas conveyed and the methods applied, discuss them with friends and colleagues for different perspectives. You need to make your own system to sort papers for relevance and then deal with them accordingly.

      I hope that helps, enjoy your study
      Raphael

      • Reply

        Raphael

        2 months ago

        This is also for humanities / life sciences etc.. You can not read a paper in mathematics like that. My experience is in psychology, to help you sort my comment for relevance ;-)

        • Reply

          Baptiste

          21 weeks ago

          Thanks for the tips, I’m a psychology undergrad, starting to read academic papers and this couldn’t be more helpful. :)

  • Reply

    Donovan

    2 months ago

    I’ve heard some of these techniques before, but since my reading was exclusively that of engineering textbooks and mathematics, I couldn’t apply it. I’m interested in giving it a shot now that I have the free time to read books that I choose to. I’m currently halfway into The 7 Habits, as well as The 48 Laws of Power, both of which I think I will take a minimalist approach to from here on out. I set a goal to read 100 non fiction books in 2013 as a NYR, and I’m pretty far behind, so hopefully this will catch me up!

  • Reply

    M.P.

    2 months ago

    From point #3 on I started reading only the first and last sentences. Seems to be highly efficient. Also, good call on keeping track of the gems so you can reference them later. One of my favorite things I’ve read that I’ve kept as a reference is Seneca’s “On the Shortness of Life”.

  • Reply

    Alex

    2 months ago

    RE: Step 6
    I use Evernote and Kindle to do most of my note taking. Amazon automatically keeps all your notes/highlights in the cloud. So, you can just use Evernote-web-clipper (or CTRL+C – CTRL+V) to paste the page of notes into Evernote, adding additional detail or summary when you wish.

    RE: skipping large sections of the writing
    This is an oft-cited tip but one I do rarely. I think the point of reading is to actually read. If you’re only taking in 20-30% of the information, my opinion is that you’re not reading.

  • Reply

    David

    2 months ago

    Interesting topic, Mark, though not sure why you had to make my hallway bookshelf public like that.

    I’m finding it quicker to read through e-readers. I can magnify the font, put down my glasses, and scan down the page.

    • Reply

      Mark Manson

      2 months ago

      Haha, yes your bookshelf is a wreck.

      And yeah; I find I read faster on Kindle/laptop than glue and paper books.

      • Reply

        sean vosler

        7 weeks ago

        side bar – i love that your profile picture is looking up at the person you’re replying too… epic

  • Reply

    Salaam

    2 months ago

    Nice. I agree on the uselessness of highlighting from an information retention stand-point. It’s too surface level and you need to apply layers of connection in order to properly gain an understanding of a thing. I prefer to highlight as a reference point for the main concepts of a section and then to connect those concepts into a framework, and then craft an analogy for that framework which I then draw a picture of in my notes. Like for example, I’m doing some editing/feedback work on a book right now that has concepts dealing with inner strength and I drew a tree to signify a lot of its core characteristics (grounded/roots in the ground, self-sustaining in the face of failure/leaves re-growing after they fall, etc.).

    I actually do something similar with mind maps as well, where I use pictures for the concepts I want and put’em on pinterest or something for reference.

    And when I read stuff that flows and is not too demanding (mostly fiction) I don’t hear the words or even see them on the pages, its like my body does all that unconsciously for me and I’m experiencing everything unfold in my head… does this happen to anybody else when they read? I’ll read 800-1000 page books like this in days. Its like an automated absorption of information, but only works surface level for enjoyment and doesn’t reach the deeper layers that learning demands.

    • Reply

      Mark Manson

      2 months ago

      I can read a fiction book without monologue, but I’ve noticed I’m unable to enjoy good writing without the monologue. This is especially true for poetry. If I don’t hear the words in my head, it loses almost all value for me.

      • Reply

        Raphael

        2 months ago

        +1

  • Reply

    Alain

    2 months ago

    Incredibly interesting timing: I was just about to make a similar post on my blog, and was going to follow it up with a promise to read a certain number of books in a short period of time to prove the validity of the ideas. The latter part was inspired by you, as I had recently skimmed that section of your book. I still don’t know if I’m going to do 5 books in 10 days or something more ambitious, but I’m gonna start somewhere and when I get good enough….30 books in 30 days. Thanks for this!

  • Reply

    Halo Effect

    2 months ago

    Damn, I need to start doing this… “When I finish a book, I go back and make notes on the parts I highlighted and bookmarked. I then write a short 100-200 word summary of the book and the points I took from it. This takes anywhere from five to 30 minutes. But it’s worth it. I also keep my database on Google Drive, so it’s accessible anywhere (even on my phone).”

  • Reply

    Jock

    2 months ago

    Another improvement is the point where your eye starts reading the sentence.

    You can cut down 30% of your ready time by moving the point of focus of your eye for each new sentence.

    If that is 3-4 words into the sentence rather than the first word your brain is still going to register what the first three words are through your peripheral vision.

    This allows you to skim over sentences faster without losting the effect of data intake into your brain causing you to physically read 30% less of the page and improving your reading time.

  • Reply

    Marky Midz

    2 months ago

    I swear the majority of your posts come up at the perfect time. I just got on summer break and I’ve got a slew of nonfiction books I’m trying to knock out while I’ve got the free time. I’m subsequently going thru many older books I’ve read and typing summaries for my blog that reference many of my previously underlined notes. I like the tip you give about scanning for key words and I think that will really help my cause.
    On a side note I’m interested if you have any advice (perhaps an old post I missed) on integrating personal growth acquired away from home with family and childhood friends. It seems as though whenever I come home from college my dad continues treat me like a kid, but what concerns me more is that many of the friends I grew up with who go to local community colleges have few interests aside from getting high. I enjoy pursuing my hobbies (reading, writing, rapping, running, hiking, gardening) but it can become quite a bore when there is no one to share ideas or have a stimulating conversation with.

  • Reply

    Kman

    2 months ago

    I was going to complain that most of these suggestions cannot be applied to medical texts… but then, you probably don’t want your physician to be skimming in the first place. Great advice for everything else, however!

    • Reply

      Mark Manson

      2 months ago

      Haha, true. I was actually thinking the same thing for lawyers and legal documents as well.

  • Reply

    Gaurav

    2 months ago

    one thing that you can add in step 4 is to google the reviews of the book. that way you will know if it’s a crappy book or not.

  • Reply

    Brendan

    2 months ago

    I read faster on screens because I get “page anxiety” on paper; once I think of it, I cannot help but start a “page countdown.” It doesn’t happen with readers because relatively little fits on the screen, allowing me to consume it all at once. I also sometimes read paragraphs in circles; my eyes dart from idea to idea until I’ve conceived of the paragraph as a whole.

    Anyone else do the same?

    The sequential nature of reading only works for me when I read narratives. With non-narratives I have to do what I just mentioned if I don’t want my reading to slow to a crawl. That’s of course, a rule of thumb. Greek tragedy, for example (which often borders on non-narrative fiction), is all over the place. I can get away with reading Euripedes like a “student,” but cannot get through Aeschylus without chunking.

  • Reply

    Guill

    2 months ago

    Very well. This is a very practical post for me that I will be able to implement right away. I keep reading books and books and I find myself too slow for my taste. The only point from your list that I’ve always done is the last one. Once I’ve finished a book, I go back to my highlight/notes and write a short summary of the book and also a list of todos that I can implement in my life. But I find my database to be messy. For example the summaries of the books give me a way to refresh my memory, but not really to make me feel again what I felt and understood while reading. I need often the stories that were told, like I would tell them to other people. How do you reference that? Just as a page number to a book? I had the case a couple of days ago with “Thinking, fast and slow”. The point on representativeness, if I don’t have the story of “Linda, less is more”, I have a hard time recollecting or explaining it to people. At the same time, there are so many stories in the book that I can’t remember/summarize them.

  • Reply

    GEERT

    2 months ago

    I still don’t think it’s really usefull though

    So it’s basically skimming….

    And I’m sure you can skipp all other tips if you just focus on step 4.

    Is there actually science behind speed reading? I don’t really think there is? This make me even more dubious of it.

  • Reply

    Cameron

    2 months ago

    I know this is a dumb question but how do you turn your inner monologue off? This is basically how I read. You did say meditation could help so I will try that but do you have any specific tips to turn off your inner voice?

    • Reply

      Guill

      2 months ago

      Try first but humming or whistling in your head instead of reading the words. That should give you a first sense of it.

    • Reply

      Brendan

      2 months ago

      But if you’re a musician like I am (a singer no less), humming and whistling tends to draw too much focus, haha. When my inner monologue begins yelling too loudly, I take a finger and draw it across the page (without lifting it). I find a good speed where I still soak up the text. Then I go a little faster; I hear my inner monologue get interrupted. Then faster. The interruptions speed up until the words blend together. Faster. Eventually, my mind’s ear can only make out a river of unintelligible speech. The trick is not going so fast that I reach the end of a page and go, “Uh, what?” This gets easier the more I do it; I still haven’t gotten “good” at it!

      Listen on the micro, but hear on the macro!

      P.S. I believe the actual term for the inner monologue is “subvocalization.”

  • Reply

    Alex

    2 months ago

    Screw picking up girls, I’m gonna pick up books. I saw this cute hardcover at the library today. She had a 5 star rating at amazon. I told her how I really wanted to read her, and she gave me her ISBN number.

    hahah… Good post, I see a lot of merit in learning to take in information so efficiently. I’m gonna master this.

    • Reply

      Nicholas

      2 months ago

      OK, that was cute.

  • Reply

    George

    2 months ago

    yeah, i don’t get this turn off internal monologue thing also, i don’t even think it’s possible for me, like Cameron, i wish you expanded on that :-D give more tips on that. thanks.

  • Reply

    Jed

    2 months ago

    You say these techniques do not apply to fictional works, but what about anomalies such as Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nasea, where the book is a philosophical manifesto (non-fiction), put into a fictional setting (which I believe at the time was done to gain a wider readership; it was initially intended as a non-fiction work, and was the pre-cursor to non-fiction work of his and others). The relevance is I am currently reading it and it’s dense and difficult, and as you stated about Hemingway, my attitude is one of respect but I find myself bored. This is the case I find for Hemingway and other modernist writers as well, though it depends. I wish to procure the philosophical aspects from the book, and ultimately am wondering how you go about a book of this type?
    P.S. I’m also currently reading The End of Men and the Rise of Women by Hanna Rosin and The Old Man and the Sea. Both are much easier to read, and if you have not read the former, I thus far enjoy it very much.

    • Reply

      Mark Manson

      2 months ago

      I’ve recommended both those books on here before.

      Again, it comes down to how much you respect the writing and/or how dense the writing is. If it can’t be scanned and understood, or if it’s enjoyable to read every word with monologue, then do that.

      If you don’t like the book, stop reading it.

      • Reply

        Jed

        2 months ago

        Thanks! I had seen you had recommended Hemingway’s, but was not aware you recommended the other. It’s great.

  • Reply

    Stefano

    2 months ago

    Nice article Mark. One question. Which e-reader do you use (on laptop)? I ask this question especially in regard to the note taking you were talking about (calibre -which I currently use- only supports bookmarks, but no marking).

    Also, I find your observation about the goal of reading very insightful. I would even go so far as to say that indeed Step 1 should be to consciously adopt this new perspective on reading. Because it carries such important implications, in practical matters also. All of the following steps rest on that perspective.

    • Reply

      Stefano

      2 months ago

      btw, I use a mac

    • Reply

      Mark Manson

      2 months ago

      I just use Chrome, Adobe Reader or my Kindle.

  • Reply

    matt

    2 months ago

    When you were reading 50 books in 50 days, did you stop reading any of them as a result of not finding them interesting, as per step 4? If so, did you make up the shortfall with new books, or incorporate the bad books into your 50? And how did you decide on the 50 – did you have a list of books you wanted to read before starting on the first, or did you just pick up one after the other based on your interest at the time?

    My speed-reading has vastly improved over the last year (I used 10 Days to Faster Reading – Abby Marks-Beale), and I want to set myself a similar challenge. My issue is less speed of reading, and more my short attention span and concentration levels, likely as a result of too much TV as a kid and internet as an adult. No matter how good a book is, I get antsy after only 30 minutes of reading. I’m meditating again, so hopefully that helps.

    • Reply

      Mark Manson

      2 months ago

      At first I tried to power through the bad books, but within a week or two, I started setting them aside and starting new ones. I didn’t count them toward my total count.

      I had a huge list of books I started with, maybe 20-30 books, and as I read them, other books would be recommended within them, or new topics would come up that I’d become interested in. So I’d hop on Amazon and order a new batch.

  • Reply

    aaron

    2 months ago

    due to current life circumstance, i “read” via the means of audiobook for about 40 hours per month. i try and make notes as i go then write a summary in relation to other ideas when i finish the book. realising that i could get a lot more read via text but it’s just not practical right now. Constantly get frustrated on audiobook when the narrator is slow. plus some books are just not for audio/listening to while doing other things, e.g finished denial of death recently

  • Reply

    Guill

    2 months ago

    WOW. I had to be back in the comments because, just WOW. Mark, for me, this is the best advice (that doesn’t require reflection) on your blog. As stupid as it might sound, I spent the last 3 years reading a lot of books with the subvocalisation thing and word by word. I had often to read again some parts, and it still didn’t make much sense. Strangely, I’ve never been made aware before about “speed reading”, and I’ve never questioned myself!
    BUT I’ve tried it during the past 3 days and I AM JUST AMAZED!!! Of course by the speed, but also by the comprehension. It’s unbelievable. The important stuff just pops up. If I go back to normal speed, nothing seems to make sense and I want to close the book and sleep. I can grab the concepts in a much better way like this, it’s like focus reading.
    I’ve found 2 apps for iPhone/iPad that seems to train for this kind of things, gonna check them out.

    Thanks again, it’s gonna change a lot of things for me, really appreciate it!!!

    • Reply

      Mark Manson

      2 months ago

      Great to hear. :)

      • Reply

        Guill

        2 months ago

        Just to give a feedback on the apps: I’ve tried “Acceleread” and “Reading Trainer”. The first is free for the 2 first lessons, the second costs money (like 2 dollars I think). Acceleread seems to be very passive, just stare at the screen and try your best. I didn’t buy it. Reading Trainer trains you through 12 different games. Difficulty increases or decreases according to your performance. It’s fun but after a while might be a little repetitive. For some games I kinda feel that it helps, but sometimes your score is more about luck (or non luck) to find a word quickly. One game where I can see a great improvement is where numbers are quickly shown on the screen and you have to retype them. At the beginning you start with 3, then 4, 5, 6. A week ago I got all the 3, some 4, no 5 and no 6. Now I get all 3, all 4, almost all 5 and half for the 6. I feel that by staring in one point I can see more on the sides than before, and I remember the image of the numbers instead of the numbers themselves. Kinda funny and cool. I do the training 3 times a day, it’s about 5 minutes each time I think. I think it’s worth if you read a lot.

  • Reply

    Carol

    2 months ago

    Great suggestions! I have tried them with the 50 Shades of Grey series and it works. 50 Shades seemed predictable and is not what I’d call great writing, so probably best to skim lol I did however try with meaningful reading and it works surprisingly well. Wished I had these tips in college.

  • Reply

    Philipp

    2 months ago

    Thx for that great advice. I once read a book from Tony Buzan about speed-reading, so I knew some of your suggestions before. What was helping me much was using a pen or a finger as a pointer for my eyes.
    Do you think it is possible to read 1000 words per minute and without loosing reading comprehensionor is that a hoax?

  • Reply

    Gaurav

    2 months ago

    Can anybody please give me some tips on how to reduce the internal monologue?
    Thanks

    • Reply

      Guill

      2 months ago

      There are a couple of advices: humming, keep repeating a number/vowel out loud, whistle, sticking your tongue on your palate, etc…
      In my case I found that sticking my tongue helps (I would say about 25%), but reading faster that I can sound and mindfulness (even when sounding, I just acknowledge the sound without “grabbing it” (takes practice)) are the biggest part of the work.

      Also you can probably train online: find a site that flashes words at 1000 wpm, and write them down. You’ll see that you don’t have time to sound them, but can still write them. This will help with the mindfulness.

      Cheers.

  • Reply

    Jam Wowz

    2 months ago

    I tend to get stuck in the middle. It’s either I’ll read really fast and retain very little information, or I’ll retain a ton but take forever to get through the material. Also, the more I retain, the more potential for key pieces to tumble out of my memory, with useless facts often remaining or resurfacing years later.

    Like anything though, once you DO IT, a rhythm is normally found which makes things much easier despite the relative complexity of the task. Being a scientist, I am able to find the aims, conclusions and data presentation from scientific literature in a couple of minutes although reading through the methods section often takes a lot longer. If I want, I can then use the discussion section to find assumptions and previously cited works.

    I learn mostly by experiences and that gets stumped easily in school where rote memorisation rules the day (visual-auditory stuff). When reading I can now relate it to my personal life and experiences I’ve had, or start viewing the text through my own experience. If something seems like a great idea, it gives me something to try or further information to explore.

  • Reply

    Michael

    1 month ago

    Thank you for sharing your insight.

  • Reply

    Slobodan

    1 month ago

    Heh, thanks Mark for this tips, I needed it, I’m deep into hard work.

    Sweet seminar at zurich this year, I wish I could have stay a bit more, next time hope.

  • Reply

    ray

    1 month ago

    Has anyone heard of PhotoReading?

    its basically using divergent eyes to see the page, like you would for a 3d stereogram, this allows you to send the information to your right/creative brain.

    = xxFaster reading

  • Reply

    Gambar Lucu

    1 month ago

    Hello just wanted to give you a quick heads up.
    The words in your article seem to be running
    off the screen in Ie. I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with internet browser compatibility but I figured I’d
    post to let you know. The style and design look great though!

    Hope you get the problem fixed soon. Kudos

  • Reply

    izabellebueno

    1 month ago

    This is cool now i can read for my exam soon tomrrow can’t wait NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!! =)

  • Reply

    Sameer

    29 weeks ago

    Mark — this was really helpful. Could you give us a screenshot or some comments on your database, so we can glean some insights about that as well?

    Thanks!

  • Reply

    Khaleya Spence

    27 weeks ago

    OMGGG so helpful thank you. Now hopefully i will finish the act reading before time runs out!!!

  • Reply

    Drew

    27 weeks ago

    A great free tool to work on reading speed AND silencing your little inner voice is:

    http://www.spreeder.com

    Been doing it a few times a day the last few days and it has incredibly helped with speeds.

  • Reply

    MSPM89

    24 weeks ago

    Like some other commenters have said, it’s quite difficult to implement most of these tips in engineering or math books. Even when they have a basic structure of abstract, hypothesis, experiment, etc., they tend to drop some important or useful details and not revisiting them anywhere else in the text. And of course, every letter and comma and apostrophe in a formula is crucial.

    I have a question though. I can easily grasp the usefulness of these reading habits when the book is in your native language. But what about a 2nd or 3rd language that you still don’t master 100%? You’ve lived in Spanish speaking countries as well as Brazil, right? When you’re reading in Spanish or Portuguese, do all the “skipping” and selection of pieces of text feel as natural as when you’re reading in English?

  • Reply

    Sayed shafiq ahmad

    24 weeks ago

    It’s very usefull for as will as for all students they can read it at least they can find their positive and nagative points of their reading and improve their generall knowledge .
    Thanks
    From markmanson

  • Reply

    Taylor Michaels

    11 weeks ago

    Eliminating the inner monologue seemed to be my personal barrier to reading faster, so thank you for confirming that I needed to get rid of it all together. That inner voice seems to be the stem of many problems for the modern, civilized man. On another note, I wanted to tell you that you shouldn’t have skipped the Native American part of Phil’s book. Rituals are one of the biggest influences we have as humans. Our daily rituals make us. I recommend for everyone to read deeper into that subject. It made a profound change in my life and many other successful people attribute their accomplishments to their rituals. Thanks again.

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