Random Thoughts: On Being a Slow Reader

I am always amazed when people assume that I read quickly. When I express concern over my very large reading pile and people say, “…but you’re a fast reader!” I am stunned. Because I have no idea why they’d think that of me.

I am a slow reader. An incredibly slow reader. I’ve come across fast readers, but I most definitely am not one of them. At year-end I heard of someone who claimed to have read over six hundred and fifty books in 2011. Even before I started blogging I could never have imagined reading even half that quantity of books in one year. Last year, my ambitious goal was to read one hundred and fifty books, and I didn’t make it.

And while I am a slow reader, I in no way want to change that fact. Even though I can only top out at reading fifty pages an hour, that’s a pace I’m happy with. If it’s only forty pages, I’m fine with that too. It may not be great for book blogging, meeting deadlines, or reaching my reading goals, reading as slowly as I do, but it is a pace that lets me enjoy the books I’m reading the way I want to.

I have the ability to read quickly. I do it all the time for work or if I’m checking out online posts. I could probably up my pace to one hundred and fifty pages per hour if I chose to. Maybe more if I felt like speed reading. But why would I want to do that?

I’ve been reading for many, many years. And the way I read lets me escape into the world the author is creating on the page. In my mind I envision the characters, I envision the world, just as if I were a voyeur. I see every little detail – from the buildings to the grass to the cars in the parking lot. I hear the wind howling through the trees. I hear the sound of the blade as it slices through the air…. or the sound of blood-stained grass as it’s being munched on by a demon.

As I read, I live all of these things. They become the world that builds itself around me for the time that I am connected to that story. So, I couldn’t imagine wanting to speed that up, cut that time short, create less of a world just so that I could finish a story early.

I love the feeling of spending eight or nine hours, or more, with a book and then discover that the real world around me has changed from day to night, that I’m no longer in the faerie realms, that I have not traveled to the underworld and back but am sitting in my living room. The books that let me escape so completely from the reality of my environment are books that I treasure. They’re the books that make me want to read. That make me completely okay with losing that large of a chunk out of my day.

I love knowing that there are readers who take the time to savor a book, to devour each page in a way that it will forever stick with them. And I envy those that can do just that at a faster pace than I do.

Of course being this type of reader is a wonderful thing if I were just a reader. But I’m not. I am a reviewer and a blogger. And reading slowly is counterproductive. As a slow reader I am not able to accept as many review books, and those that I do accept, I’m usually behind on. And while I am often tempted to breeze through a book, to ignore my need to make a connection, I fight the urge.

Because once again it comes back to the reason why I choose to blog about books. I do it because I love books. I love to read. And I love to read slowly. I want to share my love of books, but know that if I picked up the pace, I wouldn’t love them as much as I do.

For me, getting the gist of the story isn’t what reading is about. For me it’s falling in love with the characters, letting my heart break when theirs do, suffering along with them when they are in pain, and being terrified for their safety when they’re at risk.

I want to join them on their adventures, even ones that are less than pleasant. I want to see their world through their eyes, experience it as they do. And imagine just what they’re going through when they do. And I could never make that kind of a connection if I read rapidly.

When I’ve heard stories of reviewers from editorial media who skim books, or just read certain parts of a book to get the idea of the book in order to write their reviews, it breaks my heart. I can’t imagine how their reviews would properly express their true feeling for the book if they only glanced at the story. I’d much rather read a two sentence review from someone who savored the book, fell madly in love with it and was at such a loss for words they couldn’t properly express just how much that book affected their lives.

I’d much rather meet a reader who only read ten books in a year but could tell me about each and every one of them, than someone who read five hundred and couldn’t even recall the author’s name for even one of them.

If I was told that in order to keep blogging I would have to read faster, I would simply choose not to blog. I’m not ashamed to admit that I am a slow reader. In fact, I am proud of it…. Of course I wish I had more time to read, better time management skills, better ability to say no and the smarts not to bite off more than I can chew…. Somehow I don’t think any of those things are going to see major improvement anytime soon.


But, I would love to know what you think of slow readers. Are you a slow reader? Do you choose to savor your books? Do you feel the need to race through a book to meet a review deadline? Do you choose to miss your deadline so you can enjoy the book the way you want to?

How do you choose to read?

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