article in The Guardian this week about the speed at which some people read, and whether it is possible to absorb great literature when speed reading. The editorial says that if an author (Flaubert for Madame Bovary is the example that springs immediately to my mind) agonized and tore his hair out while writing to ensure that he chose just the exact right word, then shouldn't we as readers give him the courtesy of spending time reading the words he chose instead of rushing over them?
There are many bloggers who read over 100 books a year. There are challenges set up for reading over 100 books, or to read books by 50 new to you authors, or read at least 50 books from your library. I can't participate in those because I don't read quickly enough. I am probably one of the slowest-reading bloggers I know, as I never have difficulty keeping up with my reviews; I only read one or two books a week, so it's easy to review all of them.
That said, I don't know how you fast readers do it! I often feel the pressure to read faster, do more, keep current with everyone else. I read for pleasure, yes, but at the same time, I feel like more recently as I read, I wonder how soon I can finish a book and move on to the next one. If it takes me longer than I expect to read a book, I start getting worried.
And that makes me sad. I don't skim books, but I wonder if I am missing nuances and important ideas. For example, in The Blade Itself, by Joe Abercrombie, the beginning of the book mentions Shanka and flatheads, both of whom are enemies of one of the characters who is escaping a massive battle scene. First, I thought the Shanka and the flatheads were the same thing. Then I wondered if maybe the Shanka were people and flatheads were some sort of weird biting animal- what I was reading and comprehending just didn't make sense with what I was reading. I went back once and skimmed the section again to see if I could figure it out. Still didn't really get it. So then I just kept reading, hoping, as I often do, that I'd just get a spark of "Oh, now I know!" later on in the story.
Why did I do that? Why didn't I keep reading until I figured out the difference (or lack thereof) between the Shanka and the flatheads? I just gave up. Is it because I was worried of spending too much time on one aspect of the book? I don't know, but the possibility of that being the reason has my mind.
And why am I often so scared of picking up a really long book? I am intimidated by big books often, not only because they're hard to carry around with me but because it takes so long to read them. But why does that even matter to me? If I just ignore the longer books on my shelf (and there are many), then what am I really saying? That I appreciate authors making the effort towards writing and publishing a staggering work of writing with complex characters and plots, but... I don't want to read it if it takes too much time on my part? If I had been like that in high school, I'd never have read one of my favorite classics, The Count of Monte Cristo. How many other really long, amazing books am I missing because of my propensity to shy away from the door-stoppers?
I don't know if I'm the only one with these habits, but they bother me. I don't like stressing out about my reading, or about the speed of my reading, or worrying about how soon I can read and review a book so that I can start the next one that's staring down at me from the shelf. Reading is still fun for me, but it just has so many new aspects to it that didn't exist before. I am not so naive as to say those will go away if I want them to, but I do want to bring back more of the magic.
I hope that in 2010, I feel comfortable slowing down, really savoring the books that I'm reading (if they're worth savoring). I have taken steps to do this. I am starting a read-along partnering with one of my friends in St. Paul, MN in which we pick a classic to read together over several weeks and discuss it together over email as we go along. Our first book is Nikolai Gogol's Dead Souls. I am doing the same thing with Zibilee for the book The Bone People, another book that really intimidates me (and I hope to do more with her since she's awesome).
I want to challenge myself with my reading- read more books off my shelves, read more books out of my normal genres, and read more classics and non-fiction- but I also want to bring back that connection to the book, to the author's words, and to my experience of those words. I've been neglecting that part. I just want to stop rushing and enjoy myself.
What about you? Do you have a similar problem, or do you like the pace at which you read?