How long does it take you to read…

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss an infographic about how long it takes you to read a variety of popular books…..

My husband recently suggested I had the “super-power” of being a very fast reader. In fact, I think I’m a pretty typical reader, speedwise. (And if I were lucky enough to have any super-power, I’d far rather be invisible at will.)

But, the very next day, it surprised me to discover a massive info graphic purporting to tell me exactly how long it would take me to read a wide variety of popular books. Titles evaluated included The Great Gatsby, The Color Purple and The Life of Pi.

Briefly, I was excited to learn that I could read Crime and Punishment in less than 12 hours. (Somehow, I’ve read at least 52 book a year and never yet managed a Russian novel.) But when I studied the graphic more quickly, I realized they had made it a simple math equation. They believe most people can read 300 words per minute.

Clearly, the authors of the infographic know nothing about readability. Some writing is easier to read and other writing is far more difficult. More difficult always = slower. It’s been many years since I read Little House on the Prairie but I know it didn’t take me long (not 2.89 hours). And it’s been many more years since I read Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well. I know that one took me far longer than 1.51 hours.

Also, you cannot tell me that it takes longer to read Eat, Pray, Love than Sense and Sensibibility…. Seriously?

I like infographics but this one struck me as particularly lame. It doesn’t take a degree in calculus to divide a book’s word count by 300.  If only the infographic authors had thought to run some of the texts through the Hemingway App. Then they could have provided a far more realistic estimate of required reading time.

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