How To Speed-Read Faster Than the Speed of Light

Unlike Naomi Klein, I am actually very good at not only judging a book by its cover but I can completely read a book from beginning to end just by looking at its cover.

And you can too!

(Naomi Klein trained alongside me in the speedreading slums of Mumbai where to read slow meant certain fast death. We both survived but took vastly different paths to use our mastery to help the world.)

I was in the bookstore today. Naturally I went over to the business section to see if they were carrying any copies of my books. If they had any of my books, my plan was to then go to the manager, Bono, and tell him I’d be happy to autograph them. Bono would then look at me in a sort of confused way as if to say, “You?” and then say something like, “we just ran out of magic markers.” And then I would say something like, “oh, they don’t need to be magical at all. I’m not going to cast a spell on the books.”

Then we’d both laugh a little and that would be that. And as they say in the ancient texts of Hinduism, because of that simple interaction, that book store manager and I were probably mother and daughter in a thousand trillion lifetimes together.

But unfortunately they were not carrying my book.

So I took the above photo of the books on display. And while I was standing there, I read them all. Light that was reflected off of the surface of the moon when I started reading all the books on the table had still not arrived on the planet Earth by the time I had finished reading them. Thats how fast I read these books. And how fast you can read them also.  I’ll tell you quickly what they were about.

First off, “Faster, Cheaper, Better” is the most obvious one. Its a 280 page metaphor about very embarassing sexual moments in my life at the ages of 5, 16, 17, 21, 33, and 42. They compare those moments to how the Internet is making all commerce faster, cheaper, and, with age, better. Its a very embarassing book about me though.

Next, “Super Boom” is by a friend of mine. So, by definition then, its excellent. It has a bunch of indisputable statistics about how the market and capitalism are going to keep flourishing until the Dow hits 38,000. No…Wait…Wait for it. Ok…I read a tiny bit more. 38,820.

Next, the books: “The Ten Trillion Dollar Gamble”, “Dice Have No Memory”, “The Asylum”, “The Crash Course”, “In Too Deep”, and “Bust” are all about a crazy bunch of kooky, hard-partying bankers who made a ten trillion dollar gamble, didn’t realize for some reason that dice actually have no brain cells so hence have no memory, went crazy while doing it and had to check into an asylum, took a crash course in English as a Second Language, got in too deep for their own good, and all went bust, bringing down the global economy with it. We learn about their childhoods. Their moms didn’t love them. Their bosses yelled at them. They were trying to prove something to all the bullies who laughed at them and the girls who called them ugly in seventh grade. They wanted to make just one more big payday because $15 million wasn’t enough, and to top it off, all of these books were also completely about me.

And I’m suing all of them. Because all of the facts are wrong. Let this be one lesson from this article: when you get in the mud with a pig like me, I end up happy and you end up covered in mud.

Ok, now for some self-improvement books:

“Tell To Win” is about how people relate to stories. So to make the sale, tell it with a story, not just a feature list of the product or service you are selling (ok, I cheated. Claudia read a blog about this one and said to me, “Have you heard about ‘Tell to Win?’ Deepak Chopra recommended it. Its about telling a story to make the sale.”)

“Enchantmant” by my old friend and Chief Warlock, Guy Kawasaki, is about how as a young boy he went to study with little-known martial arts expert Bruce Lee and Bruce Lee’s trainer, Yip Man (master of Wing Chun), learned the powers of enchantment to sell fabrics at a Middle Eastern souk under the powerful tutelage of Steve Jobs during the “years wandering in the desert” and ended up having a blog about how to cast spells on books using magic markers.

Finally, my favorite book of all “The Business Wisdom of the Beatles”. I love the cover:

Note they are reading the Financial Times, a prestigious pink paper which I wrote for for many years.

So I have to assume that the book is about how they got a lot of business wisdom reading my column.

“But you werent writing in the 60s?” you might ask.

And I would ask back, “do you really think that matters to the Beatles? Have you even seen Yellow Submarine?”

You might say, “ok, ok, but did you really read these books.”

And I would say back, “just tell me one inaccuracy in my summaries.”

“Ok, but how did you do it? In the title you said you would tell us.”

Yeah, and I told you. Weren’t you listening?


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  • pjc

    Am I the only one who wants to see James Altucher and Naomi Klein in the Thunderdome?

    2 pundits enter. 1 pundit leaves.

  • eki anjangsari

    i love the book cover, but how the content?

  • PatD

    just recieved my copy of your book today…from amazon….
    Cover is not as offensive (block my eyes) as the author AK suggested..
    yikes….I guess I dont get writer criticism….

    off topic….
    how did Pickr get so messed up???
    even answers is gone….
    ( I know you dont post there but you maybe just view for fun)

    maybe I need a kick -in-the-butt …
    to move on from there….
    and quit trying to pretend its something its not…

    this will give me more time to read your book…!!
    and many others…

  • Mbolter1981

    Love your columns but, um, yeah…this one not so much. Maybe I “wasn’t listening” (cause I was, well… reading) but the Title seems a lie.
    Ok…time to go read some of your old columns – I really have become a fan. : )

  • HolyPuppy

    Man you are so high but it’s a good thing

  • Guest

    I read books the very same way.

    At Borders the other day, I read what seemed to be close five million books on how to lose weight and get in shape in less than a nano second.

    • Sooz

      please tell me you lost a couple lbs in that nano~sec..ha

      • Guest

        Nah, I ended up gaining a pound or two when I read the entire ultimate cupcake section, (only three million books on that topic).

        • Sooz


  • James,
    I think we are kindred spirits. While you can read a book at light speed, I on the other hand can write a book at light speed by just coming up with the title. I have written millions of unpublished books by coming up with great titles. I think the big houses are reluctant to publish a cover with no creamy filler in the center.How Zen would that be? A colorful cover, with a dynamic tile that contains absolutely nothing. Heck that probably already describes the entire Borders business section. Maybe, just maybe, with my fingers crossed, if this article goes viral! It could be my big break. I owe a great debt of gratitude to you and Naomi for keeping my dreams alive.

    • Sooz


    • Thats a good technique. I need to work on writing books at the speed of light.

  • Sooz

    I have a dear friend that just dialed me up from Toronto. He’s only there for business. Straight away I said ,”Could you dial up Babs and tell her to re~write her Wiki?” Man ,oh, man more about lineage then..hmmm, I don’t know what?(the 1st photo posted looks a bit like B.S…lol)

    I’ve always told my children that you can’t read a book by it’s cover and you have proved me right and wrong, J.A.

    • Sooz

      He laughed..although, he had ‘NO’ idea who I was talking about..

      • Sooz

        B.S.(just in~case)= you know, the one and only ‘Funny Girl’.

    • Sooz

      wait a second, I think it’s ‘Judge’ a book by it’s cover.

    • Sooz

      I was going to write that Ms K’s wiki had ‘More lineage than the book of genesis’ but thought it would be a slight stretch..LOL

  • here’s a cover

    • Definitely on my reading list.

      • wish i could read at warp speed, but i do get to enjoy a book sometimes for weeks without having to find another and each chapter of JAM could produce a list of 10 surprising things on its own. This morning at 11 yr old JAM and a buddy he knew from school hitch-hiked to NYC alone and had a great time. crazy or just unbelievable.

        if you do read it and notice his view regarding a writer reading criticism of his work you may stop bothering with it. Interestingly his wife used to fire off responses in his defence.

  • Anonymous

    The magic marker schtick was fantastic…also, Barry wrote the forward to SuperBoom…its good stuff

    J to the B

    • Wow, I didn’t know Barry wrote the intro to that. I’m looking forward to actually reading the book (even though, uhh, I already read it above).