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March 3, 2019

The Art of Power Reading

by Donna Huber

It is the weekend before my book club meets and as usual, I'm just now starting the book. Thankfully it is a relatively short read - about 220 pages. But still, with only 5 days (I started yesterday), I knew I would need to employ a bit of power reading.

The members of the book club often comment on how late I start a book and still be able to finish it. I think it is due to the years of reading scientific textbooks (in college) and then later scientific papers. Often there is a lot of dry content that I just had to power through (hence the term power reading). I have started to employ this method with some of my fiction reading, mostly my book club reads, but also any book that I have to have read by a certain day.

Now I don't recommend it for regular, pleasure reading. But if you are reading a book that has a deadline, it is good for that. I also find it useful for books that I'm struggling to get into but really want to see to the end (or at least give it my best).

How do you power read?

I usually try to give myself 5 - 7 days to read my book club book. That gives me some flexibility for whenever "life" might demand more of my time.

First, I figure out exactly how many pages there are to be read. This isn't usually the same as the number of pages in the book. You subtract out the acknowledgment, table of contents, author note, and any other extraneous information provided. It's not that I won't read some of that information (I love reading author notes), but it can usually wait until the day the book club meets to be read.

After you know how many pages you have to read, then the second step is to divide the number of pages by the number of days you have to read. In my case this month it was 220 pages divided by 5 days. I needed to read 44 pages each day.

The third step is to start reading. Note that I said the third step and not the last. You will find that some days you can read the allotted amount and other days you can't quite get there. I actually started a bit of the book on Friday night, but it was late so I didn't count it in my calculation but I often have trouble getting a book started so thought it would be best.

The last step is to recalculate each day. At the end of Saturday, I had read 54 pages, slightly over my 5-day average because I started Friday night. So I determined my new daily average by subtracting 54 pages from the 220 total pages needing to be read and dividing that number by 4 days. 220 - 54 = 166/4 =  41.5 pages per day.

How strictly you have to stick to your daily page count depends on how much wiggle room you have. Like I said, I actually started the book Friday night but didn't include it in my calculation. I will also technically have some time on Thursday since my book club doesn't start until 7 pm.

Next time you need to read something quickly you can try my power reading method. I would love to hear your reading strategies when on a deadline.

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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  1. My sister-in-law and I were talking about something similar yesterday, about developing new habits and how you go about it, and I was telling her that once I get an idea set into my head, I'm absolutely committed to it. It's a good thing, because it allows me to do things like stick to a healthier diet, start a cleaning or exercise routine, get tasks done, etc. It's also an enormous pain in the rear, because even when something's not working for me, I tend to still stick with it because my brain has so fully committed. Power reading is like that for me- if I decide I'm going to read something (and if I need to read it within a certain amount of time), I sit down and absolutely plow right through it. I've only recently been rethinking my strategy surrounding this, because I've read through some books that I probably should have DNF'd, since my level of enjoyment wasn't as high as it should be (and at times was nonexistent!). I have used your method before as well, figuring out how many pages I need to read on each day!

  2. Wow! That's impressive. I just have times of the day when I always read - in the morning, during my commute, and 1 hour before bed.

  3. I don't usually get this specific about my process, but I often have to read a book quickly for a deadline. I'm terrible about waiting until the last minute, even with review books!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction