As I mentioned before, I got interested in the topic of speed reading and bought a couple of books on the subject. One of these books is "Triple your reading speed" by Wade Cutler. I finished reading it a couple of weeks ago and waited with the review to self-assess my progress in speed reading.

Speed reading is quite difficult to measure. In the initial speed-test in the book I scored 280 wpm for a short article. In subsequent speed tests I reached 350-380 wpm on short articles, and 300 wpm on a whole book ("Animal Farm"). I think that it does represent nice progress (not tripling, of course, but a few 10s of %s of acceleration) since concentrating on a whole book for a few hours is much more difficult than concentrating on a short article for a few minutes.

I really enjoyed this book since Mr. Cutler presents techniques which are down to earth. Speed reading is one of those topics where you get promised wonders, pay money to achieve it and after a short excitement period find that you haven't gained anything. In this light, a book like "Triple your reading speed", while having a loud name, stands pretty well overall since the techniques in it are practical, believable, and it contains lots of exercises to test your skills. In fact, the "teaching" phase itself in this book is very short - probably less than 50 pages long. The book explains how expanding the peripheral vision is important in order to catch more than one word with a single glimpse, how sub-vocalization (the act of saying the words "in your head" while you read) is harmful and how to stay focused on what your read withoud spending time jumping forward and backwards. The rest of the book is packed with exercises - short articles that take 2 - 15 minutes to read, with their word count and a comprehension test. This way you can not only test the speed but also your comprehension of the text.

Comprehension is a big topic in speed reading. Skimming is not what I'm trying to achieve - I want to actually read the whole text and understand everything I read. Thus, it's obvious that the reading speed must depend on the difficulty of a text. No speed-reading marketing guru will ever convince me that a normal human being can read a challenging non-fiction book at 1000 wpm understanding everything. It just can't happen - in difficult books I find myself slowed down not by the speed of my eyes seeing all words, but by my brain trying to process the text and understand it. I do recognize that many simpler texts, like most novels, can be read quicker - since there it's the speed of the eyes what limits me.

I feel I learned from this book and have already improved. But to further improve one needs a lot of practice - which is what I'm doing now. In every book I read, I try to adjust my pace to the material and read as fast as I can understand it. I feel my reading speed has indeed improved, and I hope that with further practice it will improve even more.

So this book is recommended - in the sea of charlatan information, it has some solid advice and good exercises to get on the improvement path. Don't expect to really triple your reading speed, though (unless it's really slow, like < 150 wpm), especially while retaining an acceptable comprehension rate.