Slow Reading

I don’t know about you, but I’m amazed and fractionally suspicious of anyone who manages to read several books in a week. I was happy to find this article about the joys of reading slowly, and I utterly agree.

If a book is worth reading, it must be absorbed, sentence by sentence, which often means re-reading paragraphs if they are tricky – or if they are delightful.

I only ever have time to get to books I think are going to be worth opening these days, since time seems ever more precious. I’ve found bliss from reading Don DeLillo, a man whose sentences ring with style and finesse, and rereading only sends you deeper. M John Harrison is another, where burying beneath the prose brings you further zen-like realisations, makes you question more about the text and yourself. His words sparkle.

Why is it that people seem to insist on reading so many books a week. Is it to tick them off some grand list to impress their mates? Is it a sign of the times to have such levels of consumption? Are they reading it properly? Or are they reviewers such as this one? Surely taking your time with something worthwhile stirs the soul. The kind of thing that makes summers endless, humid, pungent, sensual things we remember for years after.

I like to think that authors who slave over sentence-craft are rewarded by readers who do the same, who take their time to enjoy the work in their hands. Maybe I’m just a frilly-cuffed romantic fool, but I wish more readers would take their time instead of racing through paragraphs. Sure, books must entertain, but that’s a basic standard. I wonder what other writers think about their work being read at speed?

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About Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.


  1. I read multiple books in a week. But that has to do more with spending evenings and lunch breaks (and every other chance I get) reading, than speed-reading.
    Though I definitely don’t read slowly. If I come across a passage that’s especially good, I may re-read it to let it soak in.

  2. I think I’m secretly jealous of those with time to read lots of books. But I think maybe because I work with words and write them too, I like to pick them apart a lot, even in my spare time — and I just CAN’T do it slowly.

    But you get lots of free time. That’s not fair!

    Do you find that you have to skim passages sometimes to fin lots of reviews in? I always wonder about the pressures of reviewing, than say reading purely for pleasure.

  3. I think I’d probably be a bit more critical if I was an editor. But since this is just for pleasure, things may not bother me too much. (Except for the British vs. American spelling of certain words. heh)
    As for the time I spend, I make that time. I’m reading a lot more now than in years past. Because of the amount of books I receive and because I’m enjoying it more than ever.
    The only time I skim is when I’m getting bored with what’s going on, like battle scenes when I know what the outcome will be, etc.
    I do feel a little pressure with reviews, but only with authors when they’ve personally asked me to review. And by a certain date.
    Right now, I probably have about 6 books to read and review by the beginning of April. Instead of reading faster or skimming (unless I’m not enjoying it), I’ll just find more time to read and completely blow the next couple weekends just reading. Thankfully, reading is still a pleasure, I just have to stay more organized than most!
    I have piles of books sorted by release dates. And come to think of it, I don’t think any are Solaris.. hmm..

  4. Maybe time is the thing then. I need to find more time obviously. Wow, six books by the beginning of April? That’s pressure. I’m not sure I’d be able to enjoy reading so much at with those pressures.

    No Solaris titles? I know we sent out some way ahead a few weeks back. I’ll have a check and see when the next samples are ready to send out. Although I would feel guilty adding to any pressure now…! 🙂

  5. Personally I don’t skim-read, even if the book is boring me. I try to take my time and let the words sink in, otherwise who knows what you’ll miss? This is about the only thing Terry Goodkind has said that I actually agree with.

    Btw, that link to Harriet Klausner, dude she’s not even a serious reviewer. Her ‘reviews’ are full of shit and I suspect she is too.

  6. Agreeing with Goodkind, eh?

    I suspect Klausner may not even be a real person. I love that SF Signal thread though. But I had to throw her in there as an extreme example…

  7. I spend a lot of time on trains (stupid London!) and get through books pretty quickly. Echoing what SciFiChick said, none of them have been from Solaris… 😉
    Just so you know though, ‘The Reef’ ended up being spread over three days and was a slow read 🙂