Sarah Weinman, a Los Angeles Times columnist, reads at an incredible speed, completing 462 books in 2008, in fact. I'm astounded when I hear of someone reading even 200-250 books a year, so 462 books in a single year is not a number I ever expected to hear - but the most amazing thing about that number is Sarah's explanation of how she does it (from the Los Angeles Times):
I've been trying to analyze my reading method to see why I've almost always been able to do this (well, I started reading at the age of 2 1/2; I don't think I was speed-reading back then, but I became aware I could read fast when I burned through eight "Sweet Valley High" books in one evening when I was about 9.) A lot of it has to do with my music background. I studied voice and piano fairly seriously during my elementary and high school days, and as such, I became very attuned to rhythm and cadence and voice. So what happens when I read is that I can "hear" the narrative and dialogue in my head, but what's odd is that I'm both aware of the book at, say, an LP rate (33 1/3 revolutions per minute) but in my head it translates to roughly a 78. I've tried to slow this down, but realized that my natural reading rhythm is freakishly fast when an author friend asked me to go through the manuscript of her soon-to-be-published book for continuity errors. I sat in the La-Z-Boy at my parents' house with a pencil, went through page by page making notes but also enjoying the book, and had the whole task done in about 3-4 hours. This was a 350-page manuscript too, so roughly 80,000 words. Take away the pencil and the editor's hat and the reading speed would probably be close to 90 minutes. What also seems to happen is that I read a page not necessarily word by word, but by capturing pages in sequence in my head. The words and phrases appear diagonally, like I'm absorbing the text all in one gulp, and then I move on to the next sequence I can absorb by paragraph or page. It's like I'm reading from a whole-language standpoint instead of phonics -- that's the only way I can figure out how to explain it.The closest thing I've ever heard to something like this is the way a friend of mine, who has perfect pitch, describes the way she can always name the exact note she is hearing: she sees each individual note as a different color. She actually identifies each key by the consistent color she automatically visualizes in her mind every time she hears it. I'd love to have either of these talents but... of course I have neither.