Slow Reading

In light of my recent post about my reading slump, or more like my slow plodding through Nausea, I came across this article on Guardian – The Art of Slow Reading. How very fitting (I just also want to mention how much I’m in love with the Guardian’s page on books and all things bookish). Slow Reading, much like the movements of Slow Food and Slow Travel, encourages people to savour their read and to take their time. Some great points are made in the article. It not only discusses how the act of reading something slowly is a dying form due to the widespread use to text messaging and micro-blogging (hello Twitter!) but also the slow death of lengthy articles with the writer using his long-ish article as a point in case. One of the best example of Slow Reading is English studies at university where every page and almost every sentence is analysed and thought about. I remember doing this in uni and sometimes it’ll frustrate me so much because the author could have felt lazy or had a bad day and simply stuck that certain word into that particular sentence with no meaning to it whatsoever. On the other hand, it was great way to actually understand the book, the story and the language. Certainly, there is the time and need for speed reading such as plowing through all those research articles.

Reading By A Window - Federigo Zandomeneghi

As a naturally slow reader, and one who doesn’t like to rush through a book (unless it’s a whodunnit), I agree with the points made in the article. Sometimes, because I blog about what I read and how many books I get through, I have to remind myself that it’s the quality and not the quantity that is important. It’s also not, and never has been, a competition. Comparing myself to the other lovely bloggers out there who mange to plow through and review such a sheer quantity of book make the number of books I read pale in comparison. Keeping a count of the books I’ve read this year down the side of my blog might not be the best thing but I do admit to that childish delight of seeing how many books I’ve read this year and the titles. Each year I hope to improve on my number of books read. During very slow readings such as Nausea and Jude the Obscure, I sometime compare how many other shorter, quicker, easier books I would have finished in the same time I took to finish one of those slow reads. Of course, there are so many books out there that are waiting for me to read, as my ever increasing TBR pile can attest to, but I’m always so glad when I finish one of those tougher reads and the experience is undeniably fantastic. I wouldn’t give back the three weeks it took me read The Mill on the Floss and I’m looking forward to spending time curled with Anna Karenina for the first time.

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25 comments

  1. I read the article on slow reading a few days ago and totally agree. I find my concentration span has shrunk with TV and the internet so am trying to limit my time on them and increase my reading time. Difficult but I’m finding that taking my time to read is proving very enjoyable! Great blog by the way. I see you are reading Nausea. I read that at uni and remember feeling rather confused… I have Sartre’s The Age of Reason sitting on my bookshelf but am a little afraid to start it.

    1. Thanks Bawa. I guess another way of putting this is that we’re spreading our reading time rather thinly. There are so many other things to read especially the fast pace of the internet. I know I feel overwhelmed sometimes when I’m catching up with blogs and I skim because there are *just* so many posts.

      Nausea is going pretty well. I’m onto the last few pages and I’m not as baffled by it as I first I’d be. I read The Age of Reason last year, it being my first Sartre, and I was pretty amazed at how much I loved it. I really recommend it!

  2. At times it is hard to remember that you read just for you if you have a book blog, isn’t it? I don’t read as much as many other bloggers, but I still consider myself just as much of a reader. I can’t say I’m a slow read though, spending hours analysing one page is a little too much for me I’m afraid.

    1. I remember we used to read one chapter of a book together as a class and the teacher will get us to analyse it. Surprisingly, it didn’t ruin my appetite for books but I suspect it may have ruined it for others.

      I might have to try and come up with definitions and what distinguishes a slow reader and Slow Reading.

  3. 1. I like to think of slow reading as savoring a book. Did you devour it or did you savor it? Some I like to devour, some you need to roll around in your head.

    2. I need to stalk your archives and see what you thought of Jude the Obscure as I read it just last year!

    3. I see you read M.C. Beaton. She is one of my favorite “devour” reads. Do you just read Agatha? Or also Hamish?

    1. ooh, I do love that cover of Nausea.

      I agree with Claire above : slow reading is about savouring a book, whereas some books need to be devoured. Also, I guess it depends on your frame of mind. Last couple of weeks, I’ve been “devouring” books – a habit that is almost always kept for library books! I do enjoy doing both though… some books are worth taking up all your time, whereas some books are amazing only if they’re read in the blink of an eye.

    2. Hi Claire, thanks for commenting. It’s always nice to hear from new readers 🙂

      1. That’s how I see Slow Reading too (hence the capitals) – a slow and leisurely jaunt through the book. I guess the main question is – have we lost the patience for ‘longer’ books because we can read three other ‘faster’ and ‘thinner’ books in the same amount of time?

      2. You can find the link to the review just on the side bar. 🙂 I loved it and thought it was so profoundly sad for both the characters and Hardy since it was his last book.

      3. So far, I’ve only read Agatha. I’ll get started on Hamish when I run out of Agatha!

  4. I am also a fan of slow reading. I think if you rush through a book, you lose a lot of it in the process. I rushed through each Harry Potter book as it came out – like read them in one sitting, without moving for food or bodily functions – and I can’t remember anything about them now. However books I spent weeks reading and just allowing to seep into me, I can remember very clearly, and they have stayed with me and become special in the way other books I have read just to get them finished have never done. I think when you have a book blog you can get drawn into the almost competitive nature of wanting to get loads of books read, but I don’t see the point of reading hundreds of books if to do so you need to skim through them so quickly, you don’t remember them five minutes later. You need to slow down and enjoy the experience. Much like we do in all areas of life these days – everyone, including myself, is always in too much of a hurry to savour the moment.

    1. Ah, I remember those Harry Potter moments. I remembered nothing of Deathly Hallows because I raced right through it to see what happened in the end. But I always knew I’d read it again after the preliminary reading. 🙂

      I agree with you – the entire point of reading and its pleasures are taken away if all one is concerned about is competing. I remember I always raced through the page if I had to share a book or reading with another in class and then I’d remember nothing of it.

  5. I always try to find the pace that suits the book. Some books do read quickly, even if they’re long, but others require a slower pace. I don’t know that I always get it right, and I can think of some books that I rushed through just to say I was done, but I’m trying to be more conscious of whether I’m really taking in what I’m reading.

    1. I guess one part that the article neglected were different genres of books. Books like whodunnits, thrillers, Harry Potter, etc are written to be face paced but for the ‘slower’ or lengthier books, do we still have the patience to spend 1 month reading through a single book?

  6. Ahh, the joys of close reading 😀

    I don´t think I´m a slow reader, but I do often stop and reread a passage that I like very much. And it really depends on the book. Sometimes I read to savour every word, other times I rush through to find out what happens. But I guess rereading makes up for that (I even reread whodunnits 🙂 ).

    I don´t think nubers are that important, but if I reads lots of books in a month I feel a little less frustrated at the thought of how many books are still out there waiting to be read 🙂

    And now I need to read that article, slowly 🙂

    1. I do that too – I am sometime really taken by the writing and read it again, slowly. I also sometime read far too fast and don’t really digest the story because I want to finish the chapter or paragraph by the time my train stops.

      I love re-reading whoddunits but I have to leave it for awhile so I can, hopefully, forget everything again!

  7. Great post Mae … I am also a bit of a fan of slow reading in the sense that I like to savour what I read. It’s why, really, I can’t get into audiobooks. I find it frustrating to have the story moving on while I want to stop and think. Of course I could hit the stop/pause button but that’s not always easy. I sometimes also feel frustrated though by the books I’m not reading – would love to get through more but I think the main reason I don’t is not because of slow reading (I think you can savour without being particularly slow – if that makes sense) but because I don’t allow enough time for reading. (Like, you know, I blog and things!!)

    1. I didn’t think of slow reading in relation to audio books so that’s a really interesting point. I guess the term ‘slow reading’ can also be problematic because one can still read fast without being particularly slow! They could rename it ‘savoury reading’ or to that sort. 🙂 I agree about time. I would like nothing else to just settle down with a book but there are other things to be done (like going to work!, running errands, running around, things that our fast paced society needs us to do rather than just settling down and read which is considered a passive activity (I got that from An Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett).

  8. Very interesting article – thanks for sharing. I confess I’m bad at remembering to slow down, but it isn’t only when it comes to books. I’m an impatient person and rush through things in general, which can be quite a pity at times.

    1. I’m a dawdler and I’m only rushing when I’m late! It’s interesting to read how the lifestyle of others can affect their reading. Ideas for another post!

  9. I’m a slow reader, too. Most years I average 52 books – that’s a book a week approximately and I work full-time, too! I like to savour a book – not dash through it. Excellent post.

    1. 52 books is what I aim to achieve but I’ve fallen short every year (well, every year since I started keeping track 2 years ago). I always feel bad when I dash through a book, either by excitement or the thrill of it, but I always feel like I’ve read too fast and feel the need to re-read immediately.

  10. What a wonderful, and necessary, post. So often, one forgets that one reads for pleasure. (Substitute ‘one’ for ‘I’.)

    In education, we like to say learning is a journey not a destination, and this applies to reading too.

    By the way, I often felt the same way you did in university; are you sure the author put that word in on purpose? Usually they did, but I still liked the analysis in the long run.

    1. Oh, that quote is so apt and it’s such a great philosophy in general. I always love the ride when reading a great book especially those books that leave you winded and perplexed. Bliss!

  11. I tend to read slowly for fear of missing out what’s not said in between the lines. But I also risk over-analyzing what’s written. A fine balance would be to pay attention to key passages that change tone, or somewhat extract from the plot if it’s fiction I’m reading. I keep a notebook in which I jot down page references and important passages when I deem appropriate. I don’t think I can analyze every sentence written in a book. 🙂

    1. Reading between the lines is what I have most trouble with. I usually just read it, it goes over my head, and then i have to do a double take when something happens further in the book and have to go back looking for clues. Having said, I do love those sort of books though.

      I always admire your note taking skills while reading. Unfortunately, I’m not as good as multi-tasking as you are! 🙂

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