Book: The Speed Reading Book

Just motivation to read
220 pages, ★★★

Tony Buzan is rivalled only by Steve Jobs and Ron L. Hubbard in terms of cult status. When reading Buzan, it’s the reader’s responsibility to take necessary precautions not to be fooled by his magical promises.

The Speed Reading Book shows, via many detailed steps, how reading speeds of 750 words per minute can be achieved (on a few occasions, he inflates this to a superhuman 10,000 words per minute). He starts be telling you to forget everything you were learned in school, and uses self-tests throughout to demonstrate that speed-reading comes at no sacrifice in terms of comprehension.

The cult of Buzan is welded with revolutionary optimism. Like revolution, many of his life-changing claims are total fabrications. If, like me, you’re wary of such extremes, then interpret this book as the Platonic Ideal of what reading should be. Let this book inspire you like fiction.

For me, this book was the realisation that I should start reading like an old man (with a lamp and a stick), start reading with a stopwatch, and with proper lighting and a desk that’s 8 inches higher than my kneecaps. It taught me that reading slowly doesn’t make me understand more. It also made me realise why the iPad is so amazing to read books on (because screens attract eyes like magnets, and because it makes reading with your finger on the page look cool and not retarded).

This book is smaller than the mere 200 pages from cover to cover. Large parts are imported from other sources or repeated multiple times. Read it fast. ★★★

3 thoughts on “Book: The Speed Reading Book

  1. I read this book in my first year of University and your review took me straight back to that time. I had exactly the same thoughts and learnings as you seem to have had. 11 years later and I still read with a pen because it takes my speed from 270 to 640 words per minute, just by eliminating the regressions. But Tony swept briefly over the speed-reading parts, throwing random patterns at us with no real effort to explain how these should be used.

    I actually had better luck with the book ‘Breakthrough Rapid Reading’ and occasionally hit some incredible scores (1200 wpm+). Krump takes a much more practical approach (a nice contrast to Buzan’s theoretical tome) but his techniques are still limited by a lack of attention to eliminating sub-vocalizing. I know that when I am ‘in the zone’ with my reading, I see words much more than I ‘hear’ them and reading is much faster, but to do this consistently after years of ‘bad habits’ is very difficult.

    Perhaps the problem overall with these types of books is the ‘do this in a month’ approach. Speed reading will take several months of concerted effort to make any real headway and probably well over a year to achieve really good results. I personally believe that until speed-reading trainers stop spinning the idea that it can be taught quickly, the books should be re-named “slightly-faster reading”. I mean ‘yes’ some may argue that doubling one’s reading speed is good, but it is not the World-Championship level that people like Buzan are suggesting can be attained in a brief time with their methods (wasn’t it 10,000 WPM he was suggesting?).


    1. I’m pleased to hear the benefits of good reading habits have lasted as long as 11 years! A year sounds about right. I would be very pleased if I keep up reviewing books at this rate for a whole year… let’s see!

      To be honest, I didn’t follow Tony Buzan’s theory to-the-letter. Rather, I kept a few of his rules in mind when reading (notably “50cm between eyes and book”, “shine light on the book”, and “you can read fast!” (mere encouragement). The last one (the encouragement) comes largely from the book’s overambitious nature. The “10,000 words per minute” claim (which nobody has ever attained), and the self-flattering title (“Speed Reading”) motivated me to read more purely because I didn’t take it seriously. Had I taken it seriously, I would have been disillusioned. That’s why I say, “Let this book inspire you like fiction”. Don’t all books of this genre work precisely because of their over-optimistic approach?

      I think I discovered two more rules by myself: “clear your mind of everything that’s stopping you from reading/understanding what you read”; and “drink an appropriate tea to help you empathise with the author”.

      I’m currently reading Steve Jobs’ biography. I share many characteristics with Steve Jobs (and even made many of the same mistakes), so this book needs a Pu’er tea. Pu’er tea acts like a paperweight in your stomach, which stops you from jumping up, throwing up, or throwing the book down. With the tea, it’s a very gripping read. I hope to review it tonight 🙂


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