For the past four years, I have consistently failed my reading challenges. There are a number of contributing factors. It’s partially because I tend to set unreasonably high goals for myself. It’s partially for lack of trying and too much going on in my life. But yet another one of those is the fact that I can’t seem to pick up the pace when it comes to reading.
I’m a slow reader. And it’s not something that’s bothered me too much in the past (even while all my other reader friends zip through book after book as I tread my way through one), but as I see myself already falling almost ten books behind on my reading challenge this year, it’s made me think.
For one thing, it makes me question myself as a book blogger. And it’s also made me question if I can really call myself a voracious reader. After all, all other voracious readers and book bloggers I know can consume and pass through at least three books a week if they really try. And while I certainly do read more and enjoy reading more than a handful of my friends, I feel like without that element of quickness, describing myself as a voracious reader is a bit misleading.
Reading slow, purposefully or not is one thing that’s made me struggle with my perception of myself as a reader, but in brainstorming some reasons for why I don’t mind it (the joys) and why it bothers me (the woes), it’s given me some perspective on why I think this way, and even opened me up to different ideas about my reading style. I’ve listed them below, and I hope that it’ll open you up to exploring your own “reader’s identity” as well.
I have come to appreciate some aspects of being a slow reader. Even though it takes me a little longer to finish books, I tend to remember the books I read a little better. I have a habit of reading in bursts. I’ll pick up a book, read about halfway through and then put it down for a bit. This means when I come back to it, I usually have to skim through the part I’ve already read to get my bearings and remember where I was with the story. And doing this tends to make the story stick a bit better.
I’m not saying I remember every story I’ve ever read perfectly, but this help me when I’m reflecting on the story, remembering why I read it, and other impressions it left on me. I have a few friends who read books so fast, they can barely remember a thing about the book they’ve just read once they’ve finished it. Their method works for them and that’s fine, but when I finish a story, I want to remember why I liked or disliked it. I want to remember as much of it as I can.
Yet another benefit to reading slowly is that you’re maximizing the time you spend with books and characters you love. Ever sunk into a book that you just can’t get enough of and wished it could last even longer? Guess what, reading a book more slowly can do that! And sure I suppose this can work two fold and mean that you’ll also be spending time with characters and books you really don’t like. That’s just unavoidable sometimes. But it does bring me to my next point.
Being a slow reader makes you pickier about what you read since you know you’ll be spending a lot of time with it, and because of this, you’ll be more likely to pick up books you’ll like. I should say this doesn’t mean that you don’t explore new books or move out of your comfort zone with your reading. But you’ll certainly think a little harder about what you want to read and spend your time with. And while it’s impossible to know whether or not you’ll really like a book until you’re nose-deep in it, it still is nice to have an idea of whether or not what you’re looking at next will be perfect for you.
And then there are the bad things about being a slow reader. For starters, it makes it hard to keep up with the books that are coming out, and easy to get overwhelmed with your reading list. I have no shame when it comes to expanding my book collection, but one thing I don’t like about it is wondering to myself if I’ll ever really get through all of those books. I know it’s not a race, but every added book makes me scratch my head a little more when I contemplate how, when, and if I’ll get through the latest stack.
Not only this, but reading slowly can make it harder to keep up with reading challenges, be they self-imposed, or book club deadlines. I desperately want to finish my 52 in 52 challenge this year, but again, being nearly ten books behind will certainly make that a bit harder than I anticipated. And I’ve been wanting to join a book club, but worry that even if I did a low commitment one, I might not be able to finish the books on time (which, admittedly, also has to do with my procrastination tendencies and my dislike of having other people tell me what and when to read things). Either way, reading slow doesn’t help with these.
And lastly, there are just some books that seem to take forever, and if you’re reading one of these and you don’t particularly like it, sometimes this can cause you to lose your reading mojo. I suppose this particular “woe” will apply more to someone like me who feels guilty if I don’t finish the books I read, but it can be hard to recover from this. Losing your reading mojo is one of the largest contributing factors to making you read even slower.
But even in the face of all these reading slow woes, I have come to realize one thing that stays true no matter what: it’s always better to read slow than to not read at all. So you shouldn’t put yourself down no matter what your reading quirks and habits may be. Just go on and finish that book. And then the next one. And the next one.
So what about you? Do you consider yourself a fast reader or a slow one? And do you see the benefits of either method? Do you like how you read, or wish you could change it up? Let me know in the comments!
Photo found here.