I am interested in books by academics that examine the following. How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading is the only relevant one that I found.

Suppose a reader to be deciding which books to read about a topic. Why do some readers:

  1. judge some books easier to read than others?
  2. comprehend some books faster and retain more than others?

  3. What do authors (not) do that affect 1 and 2 above?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I attempted to clarify question and focus on underlying question (especially in title). Feel free to edit further $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 3:44
  • $\begingroup$ A book is never harder or easier to read in itself. It wasnt made that way, it just depends on your Learning skills and how well your brain feeds into the information to process it at a certain pace making it easier or harder to take in. Your life choices affect your reading abilities. Some kids read slower because the age they needed to start reading wasnt met. And now they struggle with Certain books. The book itself was made for enjoyment and knowledge to fuel your brain. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 17:59

1 Answer 1


This question is open to some amount of opinion as there can be differences due to education level of the person reading the material etc. However, there was a study by the American military in order to make their technical manuals as easy to read as possible. The study was started by Rudolf Flesch with his Reading Ease evaluation, known as the Flesch reading-ease score (FRES) test, and Flesch later worked with J. Peter Kincaid to develop the Grade Level evaluation for the United States Navy, known as the "The Flesch–Kincaid" (F–K) reading grade level or Flesch–Kincaid readability test (Kincaid, et al. 1975)

Using the total number of words, syllables and sentences in the text, the formula for the Flesch reading-ease score (FRES) test is

$Score = 206.835 - 1.015 \left(\frac{total\;words}{total\;sentences}\right)-84.6\left(\frac{total\;syllables}{total\;words}\right)$

The readability tests used by schools is the F–K reading grade test. The "Flesch–Kincaid Grade Level Formula" instead presents a score as a U.S. grade level, making it easier for teachers, parents, librarians, and others to judge the readability level of various books and texts.

Using the total number of words, syllables and sentences in the text, the Flesch–Kincaid (F-K) Grade Level Formula is

$Grade = 0.39\left(\frac{total\;words}{total\;sentences}\right)+11.8\left(\frac{total\;syllables}{total\;words}\right)-15.59$

Scores can be interpreted as shown in the following

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Kincaid, J. P. Derivation of New Readability Formulas (Automated Readability Index, Fog Count, and Flesch Reading Ease Formula) Memphis:Naval Air Station Memphis [US Navy Unclassified PDF]
Available at: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a006655.pdf

  • $\begingroup$ I recall a significant objection to this scoring, (I was actually in the military and given these "technical orders"). The objection was in the organization of the information, and intuitive associations with other information, (pattern recognition). So, it was conjectured that the text's own effects that reinforced pattern recognition were a very high consideration. If I could remember that study, I would provide my own answer. However, it is still a valid objection that this Flesch formula does not consider "organization and presentation of information" as a primary contributor. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 23:22

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