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.