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On Slower Reading

November 4, 2014


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Lately, I’ve noticed that I read more slowly than I used to, although I haven’t made any effort to change my reading approach. I was never a speed reader; I read the number of books I do because of the amount of time I have to devout to reading rather than a particularly quick method. But nowadays, it sometimes takes me twice as long to read a book as I’m inwardly expecting it to! I’m not sure what lead to the change, and so far I’m just observing rather than trying to change my reading behavior, but it is a bit odd. I’m not sure I’ve heard of voracious readers losing reading speed before.

That being said, slower reading is a blessing when I’m in the middle of a book I really love. I get to savour it and make it last even longer! And as I now abandon books I’m not enjoying, there isn’t much of a downside there. Of course, I don’t read as many pages as I used to, so I don’t get to as many books, but I imagine I get the same amount of pleasure and knowledge out of it in the end. No matter how quickly I read, I’d never be able to read all of the books out there, even all of the excellent books. When I was younger, that knowledge would induce a suffocating panic, but now, I just luxuriate in surety of a lifetime’s wonderful reading still out there, waiting for me to discover it. And then discover it again and again.

Have you noticed any changes in your reading speed? Any ideas about causes? Do you wish you could slow down or speed up?

22 Comments leave one →
  1. November 4, 2014 4:54 pm

    I don’t want to be a Debby Downer, especially as I gather from your note on commenting that you’ve had some health challenges, but the only time my reading got slower was when my thyroid decided to pack it in. You might mention your change in reading speed to your doc. That said, it is lovely to savour words, isn’t it?

    • November 13, 2014 9:25 am

      Oh that’s interesting Sally! I will mention it at my next appointment. :)

  2. Amanda permalink
    November 4, 2014 7:15 pm

    I’m generally a slow reader. I don’t think I’d want to change my reading speed, but it would be nice to have more time for reading. Some books especially poetry I like to read slowly in order to take it in more fully. Have you read any of Leslie Marmon Silko’s poetry. I found a collection of Native American poetry at the library earlier this year entitled Carriers of the Dream Wheel. Some of Silko’s poems were in there. The book was from the 70s I think. The pictures that went along with the poetry were awesome.

    • November 13, 2014 9:26 am

      I’ve read some of Silko’s essays & a novel, but none of her poetry. I love her other stuff though, so now I want to give it a try!

  3. November 4, 2014 10:42 pm

    Interesting post and fascinating thoughts, Eva. Could relate to most of it. I have noticed a big slump in my reading speed from last year and this year and I am not able to tell why. I have always been a slow-to-moderate reader, but these days I have become a proper slow reader. (It sounds silly to use numbers while reading, but I thought I will mention it – I used to read around 30 to 50 pages an hour, depending on the kind of book I am reading, but now I read just around 20 pages). For my part, I have given up on the fact that I would be able to read all the books I want, but I want to enjoy every moment of my reading. Slow reading really helps in that.

    • November 13, 2014 9:27 am

      Isn’t it strange? But yes to enjoying every moment of reading.

  4. November 4, 2014 10:55 pm

    Yes, in the past couple years my reading speed has slowed. I’m not sure what it is but I used to allow a couple days per book (wide variation depending on size and difficulty) and now I need 3 or so – on average. I was a bit happy at first because I felt like I was getting more out of my reading but now I’m not sure. I think I’m just older – I retired 3 years ago.

    • November 13, 2014 9:27 am

      Perhaps your brain has decided that now that you’re retired you can take things more easily? :)

  5. November 5, 2014 12:29 am

    The only difference I’ve noticed is that iI read much quicker on an e-reader than when I have a physical book in my hands. I’m frequently astonished by how many books some other bloggers seem to read. It used to bother me thinking that I needed to speed up but now I’ve realised that its more about quality reading than quantity.

    • November 13, 2014 9:28 am

      I read a bit more quickly on my Nook too I think!

  6. November 5, 2014 5:56 am

    I’m usually a fast reader and I think I’ve detected a pattern that if a book is taking me a very long time to read (whether it’s long or short is almost immaterial), it means that I’m not really smitten with it or not in the mood for it. So either I should leave it for later or else abandon it. (Like you, I am a bit new to the idea of abandoning books…).
    I also find that if I want to review a book or reread it, then I am much slower, because I have to think, reread certain passages, underline things etc.

    • November 13, 2014 9:29 am

      Oh I started abandoning books a few years ago, and I don’t regret it at all. :) My indicator that I should probably give up is when I start doing chores instead of reading. lol

  7. November 5, 2014 8:11 am

    As a kid, I read really fast, usually reading a book in a day. I also did a lot of rereading and found that even on the fourth or fifth reading there were passages that I didn’t remember having read before! So it’s probably a good thing that I’ve slowed down, though I rather miss it. I miss coming home from the library with an armful of books and not having any doubts that I will have time to read them all.

    • November 13, 2014 9:29 am

      I read quickly as a child too, gulping everything in! But then, most children’s books aren’t written for their prose style. ;)

  8. November 5, 2014 3:07 pm

    Love your attitude towards your slow down–it is lovely to think that you now just get to spend more time in the books you love! Do you find you read different types of books at different speeds? I’m such a slow reader period, but even more so with most nonfiction. And I have slowed down over the last several years–it’s because I’m so distractible now, so less able to concentrate and focus. But *why* I’m so much more distractible in the past 5 or so years than I used to be, I don’t know. It is what it is, I guess.

    • November 13, 2014 9:30 am

      I definitely read different types of books at wildly different speeds! I’m only distractable if I have my phone too close to me. ;)

  9. November 5, 2014 9:31 pm

    I always thought that I read fast but then one day I realized I’m more average to slow. I don’t think my speed changed, I think I just came out of denial. I wish I read faster only to get through more books in a lifetime but I’m not really into the whole speed reading thing so I’m trying to be more okay with my slower pace. It bothers me more at certain times (like during the readathon) but when I’m lost in the middle of a book I don’t notice. Thanks for posting this. It’s interesting and helps me feel less out of the norm.

    • November 13, 2014 9:30 am

      You’re definitely not out of the norm Jess! :)

  10. November 6, 2014 6:33 am

    It depends on the sheer volume of the book, the language, themes, subtext, whether it’s full of descriptions (gee, some Romanian classic authors I am looking at you, the plain was magnificent, we get it!) or filled with action and suspense.

    Personally, I am a slow reader. I read every day but I have this voice in my head that narrates everything for me and slows me down and I can’t make it stop.

    In my teens, I held competitions between myself and the public library (it wasn’t enormous but it had the classics and in different languages, including Zola in French yey!). The ladies there knew me and often agreed to let me take one extra book over the 3 book limit. I wasn’t a speed reader though, just a sitting in my bed for a long long time reader (honestly, being sick with the flu was a relief because I got to finish Ada and Ardour -and that one is highly metaphorical in a sense).

    When we panic about the many many options that we have, we tend to return to the same old things we love (movies, music, books). It’s just comforting in a sense. I am no longer a teen with so much free time but I stopped worrying about all the unread classics and I appreciate every new to me and exciting book. I love recommendations and yes, when I’m really into a book I read the same page twice just to savour it more, I have to stop myself from turning a few pages to find out what’s the conclusion of a tense dialogue and I am sad when it’s over.

    Great post! Think about your slowing down as a treat. If books aren’t just that, I don’t know what they are then :).

    • November 13, 2014 9:32 am

      Jo I agree that different books require vastly different paces! :) I can’t believe your library had a 3 book limit though. I’d have been there every day, or at least every other one.

  11. queenofthepark permalink
    November 9, 2014 1:46 am

    I certainly abandon books much for frequently and usually happily than I did before. It is a great relief and I know as I age that my reading time is limited, so I want to really enjoy my reading and not waste the experience in any way.
    As another dastenvensish wrote I too find I am more distractible, much more so. And I don’t like it!!
    Another fascinating post Eva

    • November 13, 2014 9:33 am

      I agree that abandoning books is a relief!

      Since I’ve moved, I keep my computer turned off unless I’m actively using it. I’ve found that between that and keeping the phone out of reach, I focus much more easily on my reading.

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