Monday, September 1, 2014

Reading is Fundamental (partially "borrowed" from my other blog,

Hi Everyone,

I will start this blog by quoting my own April 14, 2014 entry from another of my blogs that hasn't yet gotten off the ground:, which I intend to use as an inspirational vehicle for clients of my new music and entertainment business consulting company, Brendan Davies Consulting, which has already had a soft launch and which I plan to really begin to focus on this October.

In, I intend to write about my own self actualization process over the past 16 years since I moved to New York City -- what has worked for me and what has failed, sometimes miserably. One talent or aspect of my own personal intelligence that has been hard-won, and which I am very proud of  (if "proud" is the correct verb to use in this situation) is my reading speed.

Over the past 3 days (August 29, 30, and 31, 2014), I read 16 books. 16 full-length, not kids', not large font, not comic books, but simply 16 standard 200+ page books -- all non-fiction in this case, all pertaining to career change, self actualization, and finding my place in the world at this point in my life. I read 4 on the 29th, 4 on the 30th, and a whopping 8 full-length books yesterday between the hours of 1 pm and 11:30 pm -- interspersed with frequent breaks, a bit of walking around my neighborhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn, and a 45-minute phone conversation with my music business (and life) mentor, Ann Ruckert.

In fact, it was during my phone conversation with Ann last night that it dawned on me to start this blog to chronicle a personal challenge I have decided to issue myself for the month of September:

I will read 100 full-length adult fiction and non-fiction books while still living a normal life over the next 30 days.

Originally, I was going to officially start this journey today (September 1st), but after inventorying my personal library here at my Brooklyn apartment, I realized 2 things:
  1. I am not sure if I have 100 books left around here that I really want to read right now. I did a fairly recent purge at the beginning of the summer and put may be 200 books on the street that I could not sell in my store. Books which I had already read -- or which I had collected over the past 8 years since moving into my current apartment with the intention of reading, but which, due to normal time constraints during a human life (as well as a bit of typical Brendan distractedness), I had never gotten around to reading and which I "knew" deep down that I would probably never read anytime soon.
  2. Many of the books I really DO want to read that I still have on my shelves here are 500, 600, 700+ pages long -- in other words, the equivalent of 2 or 3 standard 250-pagers that most people might picture when applying the term "book-length" these days.
Because of number 1...I am going to allow myself the luxury of starting my literary journey 3 days ago, since I am already on a roll, and 16 books in 3 days is nothing to sneeze at. This way, I can take advantage of the nice unintended start that I gave myself to this project over this past Labor Day holiday weekend. I can also better work within the constraints of my current book collection before needing to scout for more reading material at The Strand in Union Square, or at a branch of the New York Public Library.

Because of number 2...When I say that I intend to read 100 books over the next 30 days, I promise that I really will attempt to do just that. In actuality, though, what I am suggesting is that I will try to average 750 pages per day, or 22,500 pages of standard typeset text over the next 30 days (or really the next 27 days, since I am on day 4 today -- technically).

This said, here is some background on my own personal journey from middle school remedial reader to my current speed of upwards of 1200 words per minute on a good day when my intake of coffee is balanced with diet, exercise, and sleep in just the right proportions.


 Accountability is very important in life, particularly as we set goals for ourselves. We should certainly plan to answer to ourselves for each success and failure, as well as for not reaching certain steps along the way according to whatever timeline we might set for ourselves to achive a certain goal or life plan.

As such, I would like to share with you an email that I sent to my father and my mentor Ann yesterday, discussing the current status of my reading ability and where I hope to take it in the coming months, now that I have measured it in concrete terms and I have a pretty good idea of where I stand with this one talent or ability:

Hi Dad and Ann,

So as you both know, I have decided to do something I have never done in my life -- actually see how good I can possibly be at the things that I am truly good at -- so far...
Since reading is my main portal for knowledge acquisition and self-improvement/"learning stuff," it seems only natural to work on my reading speed first to see where I am currently and to strive for measurable improvements in that area.
2 days ago, I read 4 non-fiction career-change trade paperbacks and hardcover books averaging 225-250 pages each, with reading speeds of 2 point something pages per minute. Yesterday, I read 4 more similar sized, similar topic books again averaging between 225 and 250 pages each, average reading speed 2.5 pages per minute. Today, I read 5 books ranging from 200 to 305 pages each, reading speed varying between 2.25 and over 3 pages per minute.
My guess is that realistically, I experienced 75% or better information processing and comprehension during reading, with few gaps in my understanding of the material, in spite of background music at cafes, etc. For the most part, I read in 50-100 page intervals with several minute stretching or bathroom breaks to clear my head before continuing. My average reading time for a 250 page book appears to be an hour and a half to an hour and 40 minutes.
At my final rate of over 3 pages per minute this evening for a standard sized trade paperback with around 35 lines of print, most books of this size averaging 10-15 words per line, these books would appear to have approximately 400 or more words per page. This means that my final reading speed tonight with 75% or better comprehension was just over 1200 words per minute.

This is encouraging in light of the following Wikipedia excerpt on speed reading [boldface and italics mine]: 
The World Championship Speed Reading Competition stresses reading comprehension as critical. The top contestants typically read around 1,000 to 2,000 words per minute with approximately 50% comprehension or above.
Now that I know my starting point, I am going to strive for over 1500 words per minute at 80% or better comprehension, depending on the genre (fiction/non-fiction, etc.) The best part about working on this skill is that it will improve without me doing anything specific to improve it, other than continuing to read books I was already planning to read as I continue to learn new things and further my own self-actualization.
Any comments or suggestions would be appreciated.
Best wishes and thanks for reading!

To give you all an idea of how my reading speed has developed over time, let me start by saying that in 6th grade, I was considered a remedial reader with a 150-180 word per minute reading speed and parents and school administrators who showed genuine concern for my academic future.

This determined, I took a fairly non-descript, standardized speed reading course during the following summer, with the goal of getting my reading speed to 300 words per minute or something to that effect. Since most adult Americans read in the vicinity of 300 words per minute according to various online statistics, this would have been a very respectable result had I stopped there. Presumably, I would have been prepared for the rest of my life -- reading-wise.

Something happened that summer, though -- something beyond overhead projector reading assignments followed by grueling academic reading comprehension drills:

I began to actually LOVE reading

I read everything. I could not get enough. My parents even let me read my dad's Playboy magazines (purely for academic purposes, of course) -- as long as I promised to read the articles and not just wonder about the interesting photos.

You might say that I was introduced to two guiding "life principles" that summer -- an unslakable thirst for knowledge gained from books, and an equally powerful interest in female anatomy.


Skip forward through teen years of comic books and Stephen King novels -- of reading just about every book I could get my hands on that even remotely interested me -- and I began to develop some techniques on my own that allowed me to coast through many of my classes in college, once I switched majors to something that I loved. More on that later.

After college came a realization that I was reading pretty quickly, and I began to seek out various books on speed reading techniques. I tried most or all of the techniques I read about, and even toyed with the idea of Photoreading five or six years ago, when I accidentally came across the book during an search for another title.

I have since developed my own ideas about chunking and eliminating the need to recognize on a conscious level any articles, conjunctions, prepositions, common words, or other parts of speech whose meanings might automatically come out via context even in their absence;  about using any previous knowledge of the subject matter to manage newly acquired reading knowledge in real time, so as not to slow down the reading process;  about reader expectations gleaned from reading tables of contents and indexes prior to reading actual books (non-fiction only, of course);  about letting language wash over me, all the while confident that the big picture of what I am reading will help any and all details to make sense without me feeling a need to hold onto any one word, phrase or concept during the reading process;  the list goes on...

One exciting development that I foresee coming of my quest for increased reading speed is a parallel increased awareness, not just of information acquisition via the reading process as it is going on in real time during any one reading session, but also of the language acquisition process in general -- and in particular as it might apply to Stephen Kraschen's concept of Free Voluntary Reading: extensive reading to improve whole language acquisition during the overall (intermediate level) foreign language acquisition process, rather than briefer periods of intensive reading during shorter foreign language study sessions.

I am also very excited to see how I can apply speed reading to my own theory of knowledge bombardment during early learning stages, which I intend to discuss at length in this blog, as well as in my foreign language learning blog --

For now, though, thanks for reading!

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