Slow Down – You Read Too Fast

I read too quickly and it stems from the time when I learnt to speed read, scanning the page, picking out the key words, not reading all the letters in each word and so on. This has its drawbacks – I don’t actually read headlines in newspapers properly, nor chapter headings. I’ve realised though that I am never going to be able to read all the books I’d like to no matter how quickly I read.

A few years ago I came across this book – In Praise of Slow by Carl Honore and as I was thinking about slowing down my reading speed I dug it out again. This is not just about reading slowly as it covers many aspects of life and it’s really about living better by striking a balance between fast and slow. I’ve come across this quote in other places:

“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” (Gandhi)

There are some things that just cannot be hurried – they just take time. Hand knitting is an example, although some people can knit at great speed, and because the rhythmic, repetitive movement of the needles is so therapuetic knitting can actually lower the heart rate and blood pressure. I find doing a jigsaw puzzle can have the same effect, provided it is not too difficult. It’s an absorbing pastime that requires concentration and has a calming effect.

Reading slowly is not an easy thing for me to do, especially when I’m engrossed in the story and am impatient to find out what happens next, but sometimes this means that I miss a lot of the details and cannot remember much of the book when I’ve finished it. This is why I like to re-read a book that I’ve enjoyed and often find so much more in it than on the first reading.

I’ve also found that writing about the books means that I’ve slowed down. I never used to take notes when reading, unless I’d been studying for an exam, so this was a new thing for me when I started to write my blog. And going over it again in my mind thinking about its themes also helps. But this book suggests that reading is more of a pleasure if you take your time and read in small sips – much in the same way that Dicken’s novels were first published in monthly installments spread out over a year. So maybe my pitifully slow progress in reading Les Miserables is the best way to read it, or maybe not as I keep stopping and reading other books in between.

There is so much more in In Praise of Slow than slowing down reading and as the pace of life seems to ever increasing it pays I think to stop living my life by the clock and trying to fit in as many things as possible. I shall start with reading slowly.

10 thoughts on “Slow Down – You Read Too Fast”

  1. That sounds like just the right place to start! This book is something I would really enjoy (slowly, of course). I can attest to the therapeutic properties of knitting. A friend taught me to knit a few years back when I was a bit anxious about things. I don’t go fast, but the big needles still click and clack in a rhythmic way and the scarves (the only thing I know how to make) grow in length, which is also satisfying (even though I can never get them to grow quite straight). I like what you say about reading in “sips” and taking time to write a bit as you go along. This is fabulous advice for anyone not on a deadline. And, really, when you think about it, should pleasure reading ever be on a deadline? Thank you Margaret, for a lovely post.

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  2. I tried speed-reading for a while, but it never seemed to work for me. I think that I’d miss too much if I did do that. I also re-read passages as I’m reading sometimes just to make sure I’ve gotten it right. So I can relate to what you’re saying here.

    Also recently I’ve come across this article: In Praise of Incompletion, which addresses that it may even be okay (gasp!) not to finish a book.

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  3. I really appreciate your comments about slowing down reading, and this sounds like an interesting book! I have found that since I am writing reviews on the books I read I’m must more selective of what I read in the first place. It’s nice to have the responsibility factor of reviewing it. I also am hesitant to sign up for all the “challenges” there are out there because if I’m reading just to cross it off a list I’m missing the point of reading the book. We need to read for the sake of reading, not for the sake of crossing the book off the list. But you are right: there are so many books we’ll never read them all. And that is a tragedy…

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  4. I really think I need to read this book or at least look at it. Not that I read so fast, but I keep urging myself to read faster. I think that my pace is probably a good one and I’m looking for encouragement to slow down. Sometimes I feel that I don’t read fast enough so that I can write more book reviews for the blog. That is dumb though. The blog is supposed to be creative and relaxing, not a chore. Thanks for reminding me to slow down.

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  5. TJ, I agree pleasure reading should never be to a deadline. Reading to get a book finished by the time I have to return it to the library is always a chore.

    Unfinished Person, the article sounds interesting – what was it in, can I read it online? At one time once I started a book I felt I had to finish it. Now, I don’t – there are too many other books to read.

    Rebecca, I’ve found that with challenges. They always attract me and then I find I feel obliged to read the books, instead of wanting to read them. Strange!

    Kay, yes, isn’t it odd that feeling of I’m supposed to be writing about a book when the blog is for my own enjoyment and not an obligation.

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  6. Slow … I love that the word is beginning to have a wonderful new meaning in our language. Where once it carried negative connotations, today – particularly in the context you’re talking about – it conjures up thougths of appreciation, savouring, thoughtfulness…

    I have forced myself to slow down with my reading as well, as so many of the books I’ve been devouring have needed to be savoured.

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  7. This sounds like a great book, Margaret!

    I find that since I started blogging about the books I read, I have become much more open to rereading books, both books that I have just read recently and books that I read ages ago. Also, I think that knowing that I’ll discuss the books I am reading has changed my reading, getting me to think more consciously about why I liked the book (or didn’t like it) and trying to put into words my opinion of a book. That last one was actually a reason why I started to blog about books: despite my being ‘good with words’ and having an opinion about the books I read, I felt like I was not always able to point out why exactly I enjoyed a book (or not).

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  8. I’m not a speed reader, but I do feel as if I need to slow down and take more time to think about what I’m reading in order to get the most from it. I agree that reviewing the books has helped because I know I’ll need to remember something about the book once I’m done in order to be able to write about it. I guess my tendency to race through one book to the next is the desire to read all the wonderful books that I have waiting for me. But, like you said, it’s never going to happen, so I guess I should just slow down and enjoy the ones I get around to. Thanks for the great post, and I like your new site.

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