The Fastest Readers in History
The average reader can take in about 250 words per minute.
Really fast readers--at least those competing in the Mind Sports Olympiad--read much, much faster. The champion of the 2005 competition, Anne Jones of England, read 26,152 words in 17 minutes. She comprehended 56.7 percent of what she read--leading to an adjusted 869.2 words per minute. (The third-place finisher, meanwhile, took in 545.4 words per minute, but had an 83.3 percent comprehension rate.)
Going back in time, the British philosopher John Stuart Mill said he could read faster than he could turn pages.
But even Mill, if he wasn't exaggerating, would probably pale in comparison to Kim Peek, who not only can read two pages at the same time, one with each eye, but has also memorized some 9,600 books.
Dustin Hoffman's character in Rain Man was based in part on Peek, who was born with some significant brain differences, including an enlarged head, a damaged cerebellum, and a missing corpus callosum, the bundle of nerves that links the brain's left and right hemispheres.
Reading isn't Peek's only gift; he's also a genius in 15 disciplines, including history, literature, geography, music, numbers, and sports. Though he didn't learn to walk until he was four, and he still can't dress himself, his mental capacities are actually growing, which is why scientists at NASA are studying his incredible brain. Like a lot of us, they'd like to understand how it works.