Reader Friday: Slow or Fast Reader?

No one could ever call me a skimmer. Rather, I take my time while reading.

It’s mind-boggling to me how some readers are able to devour multiple novels per week. I have a friend who reads one novel per day and still finds time to write. Sadly, that will never be me.

Even when I get lost in the story, I can’t help but see the underlying craft. And I delight in the skill of other writers, highlighting passages (on my Kindle) or adding notes when it sparks an idea for my WIP.

Would I love to read faster? Absolutely. But when it comes to craft, I seem not to possess an OFF button.

What about you? Are you slow or fast reader? 

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About Sue Coletta

Member of MWA, Sisters in Crime, and ITW, Sue Coletta is an award-winning crime writer of psychological thrillers. She also writes true crime: PRETTY EVIL NEW ENGLAND hits bookstores by Nov. 1, 2020 (Globe Pequot, trade division of Rowman & Littlefield). Feedspot & honored Sue's blog with the Top 100 Crime Blogs on the Net award (Murder Blog sits at #5). Learn more about Sue and her books at

40 thoughts on “Reader Friday: Slow or Fast Reader?

  1. Slow reader here. So slow that even when I try to speed up, I end up all the same rereading interesting passages, to savor the language.
    But at least I have good memory. I rarely reread a book. I mean, of fiction.

  2. I have always been a fast reader. When I was 15, I read Leon Uris’ Exodus in one night, finishing just in time to go to school. It was well worth the lost sleep.

  3. Slow reader. I LOOOOOOVE to read and this is one of the bummers of adulting. I *could* devour a ton of books a month as a kid, when the only time consumer in life was school. My favorite memory is coming home with stacks of books from the library that were almost as tall as I was (okay, that’s not much of a challenge given that I’m short. LOL!).

    And I read the whole book. I don’t skip things. And, since I read more non-fic than fic, it’s probably even slower going because I’m always highlighting notes in the text that I want to refer back to, etc. (I wish footnotes were easier to deal with in Kindle–I’d rather just have them at the end of the chapter instead of e-kicked to the back of the book, which is a pain in the neck. But I digress….

    • Totally agree, Brenda. Remember the book mobile? It’s a shame they’re not around anymore.

      I can’t read nonfiction on my Kindle. Jumping back and forth to footnotes is a pain. It’s so much nicer with a paperback/hard cover.

  4. When I find a novel that delights, I read it gleefully. If it resonates after a week’s time, I read it another time. This reading is my attempt to pull back the author’s curtain, to see how the choices made it so pleasurable. I want to bottle that magic and copy it somehow in my scribbling.

    • Love how you let the novel resonate for a while before diving back in to study its craft, Doc. I’ve never considered that before.

  5. I listen to audio books while I do life’s chores. Take in minimum 3-4 novels a week. Some, like any book, will be rejected within a few chapters. Others, I’ll fall in love with and have to buy a 2nd-hand hard copy so I can highlight and make notes in the margins. If they’re not available 2nd hand, I’ll buy new and use sticky tabs instead.
    My library service (where I work part-time) has a constant stream of new releases, and classics, in all the formats. I love to audition books that way, and get all the publisher new release newsletters, giving me plenty of options to catch my interest. X jay

    • The one problem I have with audiobooks is bad narrators. The novel can be amazing but if the narrator isn’t great, s/he can ruin the story.

  6. My reading pace is probably average but the time I have available to read is limited. I’m lucky if I can finish a novel a month. That’s why I try to stay away from anything longer than 300 pages.

  7. And is it just me or does anybody else have the problem of all your digital book holds through the library all coming available at once? ARGH!!!!!!

  8. Slow. Because usually there’s only one time per day I can read for pleasure, and that’s right before I sleep. Which only lasts about 20 minutes. *Sigh*

  9. “I took a speed reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.” – Woody Allen

    I took Speed Learning 30 years ago, so I pre-read and move fast through non-fiction. I take my time with fiction, and if I like the style I’ll stay with the book. If the style isn’t anything to write home about, I speed up to get to the end. That is, if I’m interested enough in the plot to keep reading. I’m not reluctant to set aside a novel; life’s too short and the TBR pile isn’t getting any smaller.

  10. Fast, especially the first time through. Several novels a week is not unusual for me. But then I will reread often, especially lately. Studying plotting and outlining how books I think are similar to my WIP–I’ll outline all the scenes (action, back story, humorous relief, etc.) then compare to my outline to see if I’m on track. I especially am studying how red herrings are worked in subtly, so the clues are there but don’t give it away–that’s tough!

  11. Still slow, although ages ago I took the Evelyn Wood course that helped with non-fiction textbooks. My son, a lawyer/cop, is a voracious reader, sometimes ten books per week. I could do that with some thrillers, but not a pithy piece with prose to savor. As they say in politics, it depends.

  12. I can read 150-200 pages of fiction an hour with full retention. Quite a bit slower with nonfiction. The speed was a necesssity back in university and postgraduate years. I was an English major specializing in 19th Century American and English novels. Those puppies were monsters, and I’d have three or more to read a week on top research, papers, and classes. I would never have survived as a slow reader.

    My problem right now is I’m burned out on reading. I was long before the Great Quarantine. I swing back and forth on this, and I’m getting burned out on my other entertainment so we’ll see if my numbers this years are about average or not.

  13. It’s hard for me to judge my reading speed. I don’t skim, so compared to the skimmers I’m slow. Also, remember those reading tests back in elementary school? I was always told I wasn’t good enough (not fast enough, but not good enough whatever that meant). So that is always at the back of my mind. According to my teachers, I’m slow. Buuuuuuuut…. I can finish a novel in a few days. If it’s a hundred pages, and I have more than an hour to read, I can easily finish in a day (can you tell I read children’s books?). A nice four hundred page books takes me a few days.

    • Carving out time to read is a problem for me, too. An hour here and there isn’t enough. I love settling into a novel with my feet up and a nice cup of tea. No better way to spend a rainy afternoon.

  14. I’m a skimmer and my wife, Rita, is a “savour” – like she savours every word. It’s painful to co-read a piece on the screen because I read as fast as I scroll and she takes in every word. It’s no coincidence she has an iPad and I have a PC and we don’t share devices 🙂

  15. This seems like two different issues. There’s reading speed (as in words per minute that your brain can take in), and there’s skimming because the story has lost forward momentum or there’s a particular kind of scene the reader doesn’t like, ie, gory, sex, whatever. I rarely skim. If the book has sections that aren’t worth reading, I’m likely to put the book down and move on to something new. I’m a medium fast words per minute reader, the curse of which is I spend almost as much time looking for new reads as reading what I’ve found.

    • Me too, K.S. Choosing my next read takes forever. I often download several samples before I decide on which novel to buy. For once, I have two lined up that I’m really excited about (a rarity for me). 😊

  16. I tend to read fiction fast but slow down on non-fiction, especially craft of writing books. If I love a work of fiction, I’ll re-read it to try to understand how the author made it work.

    I like to read fiction on my ipad, but non-fiction on paper.

    • I do too, Kay. Reading nonfiction as an ebook is a pain. Most of the historical research I conduct is via computer, as many of the old trial transcripts are digitized. I much prefer paper for all other nonfiction. For fiction, I love my Kindle Fire. 😊

  17. I used to be a fast reader and was known to read a book a day. Sadly, that is not the case now. I have time to do it since I am retired but I also have cataracts. I need to get the surgery and plan to whenever non-essential surgery is permitted again. I read on my Kindle where I am able to increase the font but even with it increased my eyes tire and cloud over very quickly so I’m only able to read a chapter or two at a time. This is very frustrating to me since I love to read.

  18. As a teenager, I was a fast reader – I read Lord of the Rings over a long weekend – but I’ve slowed with time/age. Now, LOTR would take me a few months as I’m down to one book per month on average. Perhaps, I savour the words more – or my writer’s brain goes off on tangents. However, my writing takes even longer – one year per draft or more.

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