I Am a Pretty Dang Slow Reader

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You know those voracious bookworms who consume books at the rate of which, say, a sweating-heroin-smuggler-at-a-border-crossing’s heart does its pumping?* Okay, them and me stand at extreme opposites of the spectrum. These people—the readers, not the sweating-heroin-smugglers—average between 75-150 titles a year (some even go as far as 250), and how they manage is an enigma I’ll never dissect. And for the longest time, this frustrated me to no end. I’d often sit and obsess over how my list of read-books looks fantastically heartbreaking in comparison to a friend’s. Or how I’ll never catch up on my TBR pile. Of course, there is something inherently problematic about the scenario. I recognized that early on. But not until late last year have I figure it out. The problem lies not in my incapability to read fast; it lies in my self-invalidating because I cannot read fast.

So I want to read faster. But truth is I am a deliberate reader. This is a conscious choice for me. Like, I go from word to word. I don’t skip (which, to my surprise, others do). I keep track of quotations. I tend to reread certain passages I really felt, that resonated with me. And all these, I guess, contribute to why I read quite slowly. Because I do not imply that fast readers aren’t deliberate readers and neither is it the case. Some people I know can practically sell you a book they read and loved four years ago even if they devour books with the urgency with which I drink coffee. This whole business with books and reading is idiosyncratic: why we read, how we read, what we read, and speed is no different.

On a larger scale, I decided, my dilemma touches a universal book nerd problem. Because there is so much self-inflicted judgments out there. “I feel like I need to read the classics.” “Oh, I should start reading more literary fiction.” “I have to read Author X because Reason A.” “I cannot consider myself a book nerd because I read less than 50 books a year.” I tick somewhere in between 30-40 books a year and I’m done being ashamed of it. I own my Slow Reader-ness. I still thrive to read faster but I’m more aware now of what I want to get from the experience as opposed to just piling up titles on my Goodreads shelves.

Do I still want to read faster? Yes. Am I willing to sacrifice any of the contributing factors I mentioned above? I don’t think so. At least not at this point in my reading life. But kudos to Team Read Faster and those who actively seek ways to improve their reading speed! Because it is a truth universally acknowledged that there are a lot—and by “a lot” I mean A LOT—of amazing new releases every month, heck, that’s not even counting the backlists. So read more. Read harder. Read diversely. Read faster. But, ultimately, enjoy the process.

NOTE: This blog entry is inspired by the latest episode of Dear Book Nerd, The Need for Speed. If you haven’t already, go check out this podcast because it’s always interesting and often illuminating (or self-revealing?) and Rita Meade, the host, just has a lovely voice and personality.

Now let’s talk. Are you a slow or a fast reader? If, like me, you read slow, do you see high-volume novels as daunting? What was the longest one you’ve read in terms of page count? Or if you’re the opposite, do you constantly try to improve yourself or is it more of a natural thing? And to you, fellow book reviewer, do you take notes while reading? Does this greatly affect your reading speed? I’m really interested to hear from you!

*Well, yeah, I can never not make a Winger reference.

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads and Bloglovin.

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41 thoughts on “I Am a Pretty Dang Slow Reader

  1. OKAY I AM A SLOW READER TOO AND I HATE MYSELF lol no but really, last year I read 40-something book and this year I aim at 75. I’m reading faster because I get so many ARCs on NetGalley (I can’t lay off the Request button) and there are just too many books I’d like to read!! I’ve never felt ashamed of my “slowness” ’cause f*uck the world okay? haha

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  2. I consider myself to be a slow reader, though last year I managed to read around 70 novels, so maybe I’m better off than most.

    I have a tip. It’s a bit laborious, but it’s worked for me and I use it every time I pick up a book:
    What I do is I’ll read a book for an hour exactly, and then I see how many pages I’ve read. I can usually read about 40 pages an hour, but for some books the number can go down to 24, and sometimes I can manage 50, it all depends on the book.
    Then I see how many pages the book has, then I divide the number of pages the book has by how many pages I can read in an hour. The result is how many hours it’ll take me to read the book, minus one for the hour you’ve already spent reading.
    Here is an example, if I’m rambling.
    Say I have a book that has 480 pages and in an hour I can read 40 pages. So 480 / 40 = 12. Minus one for the hour already spent reading = 11.
    Then divide 11 by the amount of days you want to finish the book in. So if I wanted to read the book in three days I’d do 11 / 3, which equals 3.667, which is the amount of hours you’d read a day, which isn’t so bad.

    You’re not reading faster with this method, but it’s great for timekeeping and management.
    Also, I like doing things in hourly chunks, so maybe that’s why it work’s so well for me 🙂 but you don’t have to :p

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    1. Whoa. That was quite a speech Levi Isaac. But yeah. By compartmentalizing, so to speak, it looks highly achievable. Thank you for sharing your technique dude!

      Here’s another thing, though, now that I looked back on the ones I’ve read so far this year, they’re mostly 2-day affairs! But it’s still one-book-a-week because of the review and fanboying (if I really liked the book, which was mostly the case by far, and I know you’d want to punch me in the face for this but re: Winger). And then there’s reading blogs, as well. So maybe it’s a matter of going from one title to the next so much as reading per se? Idk.

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      1. Yeah, a tip that I cut out from my speech-comment (since it was already long enough) was that I also pick up a book as soon as I finish one. I might not start reading it for a couple hours, but as soon as I finish one book I point to another one and say ‘I WILL READ YOU NEXT.’ It’s worked well so far. No dawdling.

        For this month I’ve also done something I usually never do; I have given myself a monthly TBR. I have worked out that I need to finish a book every 2.5 days to complete it. It’s a great way to motivate yourself to read if you don’t have to think about what you’re going to read next, because you’ve already chosen.

        And finally ( 🙂 ) you have every right to enjoy the books you want to (ie. Winger), but you can’t say it’s good if it isn’t, because it’s not a good book. It’s really offensive.
        But you are allowed to enjoy it 🙂 nobody can tell you you can’t.

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  3. I consider myself as a slow, and I’m trying to become a, medium reader? I don’t know if that’s a thing. I’d say I read around 40 books a year. Well, I read this amount last year, and I decided to reach a 50 books-goal in this year’s Goodreads challenge. Mostly, to challenge myself to read more books, but also because I think there are so many books to be discovered, I don’t want to miss a single one. (It’s so hard, though!) Like you, I really like to re-read passages I find beautiful, in the way they’re written, or simply how a scene unfolds. So much beauty in books sometimes, we should stop more to aknowledge them. I tend to read lots of quotations, too, when I’m finished reading a book, to keep the world and the characters with me a little bit longer 🙂
    I don’t take notes while reading, mostly because I think it would stop me in my tracks. I prefer staying in a book all the while, and rest a bit with the books in my hands, at the end of a chapter, or at the end of the book, to rethink about it. I never take notes until I’m finished, though. I find that, this way, I can enjoy more the book entirely, and think more about the characters and the whole story, knowing everything. 🙂

    Wow, I apologize for this long comment, I really loved this blog post, really interesting discussion! 😀

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    1. I think everyone of us should make peace with the fact that “we’re not ever going to read all the books.” So there’s that. And please, please, PLEASE never apologize for having something to say (except when it’s offensive maybe?) because I seriously love receiving comments. No jokes on that. And it’s interesting how you don’t take notes because I tend to write reviews with more ease and have things to say when I keep track of how I felt at certain points along the way. So yeah. Thanks for dropping by Marie!

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      1. Yes, you’re right, I should make peace with that, and eventually, all the books I need to read, I will read them at one point in my life 🙂 Thank you!
        Aw, I understand, sometimes I’m telling myself when I read, that I should note this, or that, and somehow I get dragged by the story again, and I forget. Not taking notes is a way for me to see, too, how much I have to say once I ended the book, and if I enjoyed it that much, the words are just flowing! 🙂 But everyone has his own way to write reviews, and your reviews are amazingly written 🙂

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  4. There is nothing wrong with being a slow reader. I don’t think a certain amount of book qualifies you as a reader. If you share the love for words and stories, it doesn’t matter how many books you read. There is nothing to be ashamed about it. I think it’s great when people take their time for a book, to really appreciate every single word. I also think it’s great when people manage to read 250 books in a year.

    I’m a bit in between fast and slow reading. It really depends on my mood and the book. Most of the time I slow myself down, because I want to enjoy a story and that works best if I don’t speed through it 🙂 I love taking notes! It makes writing reviews so easy. Most of the times I write everything down when I stop reading, so I don’t disturb myself while I’m sucked into the story.

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    1. Oh is that it? I take notes, too! Helps me a great deal with putting into words how I feel about the book. And, yeah, I now know that there’s nothing to be ashamed of since, and especially because, I still read. Even if I’ll never read 150 books a year, I still read. And most of the time, the stories stay with me and I couldn’t be more happy for that.

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  5. I feel like a read slow but some people said I actually don’t. I guess what I’m saying is, when I’m reading a book and I’m in The Zone, I don’t read slow although I also pore over the words. (My favorite novels have beautiful prose in them and I just want to bathe and lounge around and build my house in their words.) But I’m not like most bloggers who I feel like every single time they’re free. I hate reading having to stop reading so I only read when I can read for hours on end.

    Anyway, I don’t take notes because like I said, I hate stopping. My goal for this year is 75 I think and whatever happens, happens. Haha!

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    1. Thank you for dropping by Dianne!

      I used to be like that, where in I only read if I can read for hours. But part of my bookish resolution last year is to read whenever I can. And so I started squeezing in 1-hour reading during breaks or before I go to bed (and, more often the case than not, this almost inevitably results to staying up later than initially planned. But yeah. This helped me to really read more.

      And oh. I feel like I know you enough to say this: can we not forget that WE FANBOY/GIRL A LOT, too?

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      1. First and foremost, WOW. The grammar on my first comment is ABSOLUTELY hideous. I couldn’t even understand myself. I WANNA CRAWL UNDER THE SHEETS IN EMBARASSMENT.

        MIEEEEEEEELLLL. The amount of time I spend on the Internet is mostly dedicated to fangirling, reading interviews (authors, celebrities, younameit), watching everything related to person X, movie X, or TV show X on Youtube, etc. My life = fangirling. I went from Japanese pop culture, to Korean, and now to books.

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      2. Lol. It’s okay. 🙂 I’m mostly like that as well and it bums me that WP won’t let you edit!

        As for fanboying/girling, you know what, I used to be somehow ashamed of it. Not because I hate admitting that I’m obsessed with someone/something. But, like, I’m afraid I’d come as creepy/irritating to the target(s) of my excitement (if he/she happens to be a person). But Alex London is such a huge influence in this matter. He told me once that I don’t have to apologize, ever, for being excited about stuff. And it hit me that fewer truer words have been said to me! So from that point on, I embraced my inner fanboy and I’VE NEVER BEEN HAPPIER. There is just so much energy to get from fanboying/girling! Especially when you find kindred spirits, and there are A LOT out there. So yaaaay to us!!

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  6. Hmm, I’m typically a fast reader so I’ve never considered this angle before. But I do tend to skim, then jump back and reread if I’m writing a review or just want to refresh my memory on something before moving on. It’s really more of a natural propensity to read the first sentence and move on — I suppose you could say school trained me into it, but I like to let my imagination run free and skimming is great for getting the atmosphere and general plot, but not boxing everything in.

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    1. What’s it like? Like, how do you decide what to read and what not to? How often or do you encounter parts where you’re wait-what-just-happened because you skipped a clue or something? I’m really interested to know more from this perspective.

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  7. I think everyone needs to own who they are, fast reader or slow. 🙂 I used to be a super-speedy-one-book-a-day kind of bookworm, but recently (with bigger books and more activities/schoolwork) I’ve slowed down. It’s neither good, nor bad. It just is. There are pros and cons to both kinds of readers, but I’m okay with that. 🙂

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  8. I totally understand this! I’m actually a relatively fast (quick?) reader, but my TBR pile just grows so quickly that no matter how quickly I read, I can’t keep up. This puts so much pressure on me, and I feel like I always have to put older books to the back burner and keep turning my attention to new releases!
    If someone ever invented a time machine, I wouldn’t even try to alter history. I would just find a nice place to hide in and spend weeks catching up on my reading!
    *sigh*
    Great discussion! I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who feels this way 🙂

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    1. Yes! There’s just SO much books! And I feel like across the bookish community, self-inflicted “pressure” is a recurring theme.

      I don’t even want a time machine. I’d settle for a thing where the rest of the publishing industry would stop for a while, like take a break or whatever.

      Thank you for the visit! If there’s one thing I learned from books it’s that you are NEVER alone. 😉

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  9. Okay….I’m….*gulps* I’M COMPLETELY OPPOSITE TO YOU. I read fast. I skim boring bits. I move on fast fast and faster, and part of this is just because I WANT TO READ ALL THE THINGS AND KNOW ALL THE STORIES. I just get so excited. xD And I’m awful at being slow and savouring things. My sister can make a piece of chocolate last for hours. Me? BAH AHHA AH. It’s gone in a second. I’m the same with books. Hehe. Sometimes I wish I would slow down and ponder more, but, eh, I think at the end of the day we should read however we want (fast or slow) and just enjoy ourselves. xD But I totally think you’re epic for being so deliberate about your reading and really absorbing the books. *nods*

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    1. HA! Interesting fact: while writing this post, I kept thinking, “omg Cait consumes books like candies! Like, she’s super serious with READING ALL THE BOOKS.” But yeah. We definitely have to read however we want. Go Team I-Read-Period! And thank you for thinking I’m epic; you are too!

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  10. I’m a fast reader myself, but I can still relate to how you feel. When you read 100 books a year, you see people who read 150 and you think, well, I can do that too. But like you, I don’t want to give up on the fact that I read every word in every book, and the fact that I make room for very long books. If it was all about the number game, I’d have to stick to shorter books, and that would just be a shame. Great post!

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      1. At the moment the longest this year is Mistborn (650 pages), but I’m currently reading The Karamazov Brothers (1050 pages), which will definitely win longest book of the year if I manage to finish it 😀

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  11. I used to read a lot more and eaisly read between the 100 and 150 books a year, but nowadays I am happy if I reach the 50 – 75. i think we all read differently and that’s fine. In my case I simpyl don’t have the tiem to read 3 or 4 books each week and I am happy when I read some novella’s as then I can feel accomplished and like I read a book in a evening.

    I don’t skip, but I also don’t re-read passages. I don’t read particulary fast, but fast than people who don’t grequently read books. I also don’t take notes, except for when I am beta reading. I prefer to read books that are around 300 pages long as books that are too long take me so long to read and I don’t like that.

    I think it’s normal for a book worm to stress out over the never ending to-read list, there are so many books out there that we want to read and there never will be enough time to read them all.

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    1. Yes, Lola, oh yes. I also keep close to the 300-something-page-count mainly because of my reading speed, which makes consuming larger books take weeks. And, yeah, TBR piles are the bane of bookish people but they’re what makes us look forward to each day as well, right? The day I chop mine into clean cut zero is the day I freak out. Srsly freak out.

      Thank you for dropping by!

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  12. I applaud you for writing this.*applauds* I am and have always been a slow reader. Like you I don’t like skipping words and was surprised when I first heard that people actually do that. I’ll also re-read a small pasage if I think it’s well written (rarely though). It used to bother me that my friends could read faster than me (only cuz they could read WAY faster). My two friends that read are supper readers; I let Friend A borrow a book between 400 and 500 pages and she returned it the next day complete! And Not only that but she had her assignment done and actually slept!! Friend B finished a book between 200 and 300 before the end of the school day.
    I would like to improve on my reading speed but for now I have accepted my slow reading pace

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    1. Thank you! Wow. Friend A really is something. I think it’s completely normal to want to gain reading speed, you know? As long as it doesn’t get to the point where it’s all you ever think of. Like, how do I read as fast as Person X or Person Y. But it’s cool to be comfortable in your own skin, as they say. So happy reading! 🙂

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  13. Loved this! I consider myself a fast reader. It’s hard to read fast when I have lots of homework and deadlines. I actually do take notes. I post it quotes I like, particular passages I want to comment on, with books I own or type it out in the “Update Progress” section of GR.

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  14. This is a wodnerful post and it resonates with me on a lot of levels.

    The thing that bugs me most whenever I consider honing my reading speed is that it usually accompanies the idea that I should start doing EVERYTHING faster. Why just consume all the books when I’m still halfway through 3 different TV shows and I haven’t finished all the films on my to-be-watched list? How am I meant to choose between slamming out 100 reads a year and practising painting or piano, or writing, for that matter?

    I guess you’re supposed to choose a couple of things you’d like to be good at when you’re in school or whatever. But I’ve gotten stuck wishing I could do a lot of things and doing none particularly well. At this point, I read about 30 books a year, watch around 200 movies, finish a handful of TV shows, learn a new song around every month (easy songs, might I add), and write a constant stream of garbage for my own entertainment.

    And I still can’t choose. In among all this, I still have to eat and sleep and exercise. I just don’t have the dedication to fall in love with one thing and devote all my free time to it – sometimes I’d just rather lie down and listen to music – and I’m still trying to get used to that. I’m not a very good completionist, I suppose.

    But I do really, really like books. Among other things. I just hope there’s some merit to whatever lifestyle I’ve fallen into.

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