Are You A Speed-Reader? // and why I am a slow reader

Let’s be real, we bookworms don’t have enough time to read all the books we want to.

Never watching TV again, quitting our jobs, and devoting all our time to reading books won’t put an end to our never-ending TBRs. (Don’t go rushing to your boss with your two weeks just yet, pal.) There’s always a hot, new book we need to get to or an old classic that we’ve neglected.

Honestly, it’s a fortunate problem to have, to be able to read and have too much to read. But still, with all problems, no matter how negligible they seem, we search for ways to mitigate them.

In the case of the insurmountable books on TBRs, bookworms have taken to speed-reading.

Some people are naturally quick readers—they have the awesome (and scary) ability to hulk-smash dozens of books off their bookshelves every week. Others are auto-didactic and spend years training their eyes and brain to scan pages of stories so that they can finish them faster and faster. Still, there are the laboring bookworms who haven’t and can’t hone the craft of speed-reading for one reason or another.

I’m a part of the laboring class of bookworms 🙋, aka the slow readers, and here’s my take on this topic:

speed-reading or just skim-reading?

Growing up, whenever the topic of reading quicker came up, teachers would give the advice to “read first and understand later”. Articles about speed-reading also dictate that to read faster, you should skim the text instead of reading it word for word. Scanning for key points of a story, like character development, dialogue, and big plot events, is enough to grasp the gist of a book. Plus, our brains can apparently process writing faster than we give it credit for, and skimming allows us to put it to the test.

Yet, while I think this technique of reading faster without losing reading comprehension works sometimes, many times I think back to a chapter I blinked through and think, “What even happened?”

Again, skim-reading is certainly something that needs to be practiced until it feels like speed-reading, but what are the effects of all that skimming in the meantime?

I am not a speed-reader because I can’t understand what I’m reading when I try to read faster.

For one thing, it’s hard to enjoy a story when I literally don’t know what I’m reading 😅.

But, there’s also more room to completely miss out on beautiful or critical world-building when I’m jumping from dialogue to dialogue for the sake of focusing on absorbing the meat of the story. What if there’s a quote that would have resonated with me, but I missed it because I was scanning for the “important” elements of the book? It makes me think about how books aren’t meant to be reduced to a string of dialogue or major plot points to be swallowed up without being chewed.

Segue to the next point >>>.

paying respect to the author’s creation

I’m back-tracking a minute to share the Ted Talk that inspired this whole post:

In this talk by Jacqueline Wodson, Woodson shares how she was an avid read growing up, reading to learn about new places and to escape the stress of where she was. She didn’t just read though—she read slowly. She found that when she read slower, the world she knew faded away and all she did know for the moment were the pages in her book. Woodson expressed that authors spend years building stories out of specially chosen words to educate or entertain us, and taking our time to read books in their entirety is the least we can do as the audience.

I’m a slow-reader like Woodson, and one of the reasons I read slower is because I enjoy books more when I take my time reading them.

And that’s sort of the point. Reading is a leisurely hobby, and there shouldn’t be pressure to read faster and more for the sake of feeling like a legitimate blogger or bookworm. It’s easy to get caught up in hitting and exceeding reading goals that somehow, somewhere, we forget to actually to appreciate the experience each book has to offer.

When I speed-read, I forgo sub-vocalizing, or the act saying the words I read in my head, to finish the book faster. I fail to melt into the world of the story because I don’t give myself the time to remove myself from my world where I have the ever-present itch to swiftly mark books as “read” on Goodreads. But, these books I end up quickly knocking off my TBR and onto my “read” shelf often get pegged with three, or even two, star ratings. Maybe they aren’t terribly good books to begin with, but the nagging thought in the back of mind that I just need to finish this book definitely diverts some of my attention away from what could be a more captivating story.

the perfect time

Mood readers can agree that timing is everything when it comes to enjoying a book. I know that, as a mood reader, I usually wait for the perfect time to read a well-anticipated book so that I can give my full attention to the story. Now that I have a weekend off, the stars are finally aligned, the seasons have changed, and the dead have risen, why should I rush the moment?

I read slowly because I want to savor my time with the book.

For example, even though part of me is irked that I’ve been reading Neil Gaiman’s The View From the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction for two months now, I also know that this isn’t a book I can rush if I want to get the most out of it. The stories in the book have already inspired me in dozens of ways (including this post entitled What is Genre?), but there are things I would’ve missed if I sped through the book and read certain sections at different times of my life in the past two months.


𝓸𝓿𝓮𝓻𝓪𝓵𝓵

I am not a speed-reader because:

  1. I can’t understand what I’m reading when I try to read faster.
  2. I enjoy books more when I take my time reading them.
  3. I don’t want to rush through a book once I finally find the time for it.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with speed-reading. If you find that you can conquer your TBR while still getting the most out of the stories you read, all the more power to you 👊. But, if you’re a turtle like me, that’s alright too. We shouldn’t feel pressured to read more to uphold some imaginary standard of what a bookworm is or just to say that we read a book. How fast of a reader you are is all very relative to who you’re comparing yourself to anyways.

At the end of the day, there’s always going to be a book we still haven’t read.


Thanks for reading! This topic has probably been discussed before, but I wanted to add my two (or three?) cents 🙂.
Are you a speed-reader? Or do you read slowly like me? Do you feel pressured to read all the books? Let me know 😊.

29 thoughts on “Are You A Speed-Reader? // and why I am a slow reader

  1. A book came out this year about the woman who brought the speed reading craze to education/the US in general and how it is all actually bunk and has done some awful things for comprehension for generations.

    It made me feel better about my slow reader status. Nice post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think I’m a fairly slow reader as well, and at one point it really bothered me, because lots of bloggers were reading hundreds of books a year, and it made me feel like maybe I didn’t love books as much as them or something. But now I’ve come to accept it, and I just go at a pace I’m comfortable with.
    I definitely love the idea of reading slowly meaning I’m taking my time to appreciate the authors work though! I’d never thought of it like that.
    And I’m glad you’re enjoying The View from the Cheap Seats. I’ve had a copy of that for a while and still haven’t read it! Hopefully I’ll get to it soon, as it looks so interesting! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I get what you mean! You know how there’s the five different love languages in human relationships? Maybe there’s something like that for books 😅? Like, some people read hundreds a books of year, and that’s how they love books, but other people take their time with each story, and that’s how ~ they ~ love books 🤷🏻‍♀️.

      I’m glad you like the idea of appreciating the authors work! And The View from the Cheap Seats is really thought-provoking! Some chapters aren’t as interesting as others, but I expected that from a collection of works, especially nonfiction ones haha. I hope you like it once you pick it up, Laura 🙂!

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  3. Fascinating Belle!! As you know I’m a slow reader. I do feel like I understand better and get nuances more because I read at a reduced pace.

    However I feel like sometimes a book isn’t jelling. I liked the premise, the characters are okay but not winning my heart and I just want to see where the author went even if its not particularly enjoyable. That is when I don’t read every word. I speed up some. There are no quotes that I’m missing because the craft isn’t there. It’s sad but not all books are made equal.

    Excellent discussion!!

    (And thank you for linking to my post! It’s a privilege. ❤️)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So far, I’m discovering there’s more slow-readers in the blogging community than I thought! Maybe we’re not as apparent as bloggers who can post dozens of reviews a week /because/ they’re reading dozens of books a week 😂?

      That’s a really great point you made, Dani! I guess the other side of not forcing ourselves to read tons of books is not forcing ourselves to dedicate time to books we aren’t enjoying. Especially because of what you said, not all books are made equal and the craft isn’t always there.

      Thank you so much, Dani!!

      (And no problem, I’ve thought a lot about your post since you published it haha ❤️).

      Like

  4. I’m a speed reader because my eyes are sued to skimming texts lol. But I’m also an avid re-reader so not being able to understand a story is never a concern for me.
    But it also depends on a book. Like when I read The Alchemist, it took me longer to finish it even though the book is thin as each chapter makes me ponder on what message is the author trying to send.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha, skimming texts is one way to practice speed-reading 😂. Oh, I didn’t think of that! At least because you read so fast, you can re-read stories so you never really miss much from them!
      And I loved The Alchemist! There definitely are those books that deserve more attention because there are so many different meanings to what they’re saying.

      Like

  5. I am definitely a slow reader. I feel like speed-reading means you just inherently can’t immerse yourself fully in the world? If you’re not sinking your teeth into the book and letting it fully consume you, how else are you going to catch those important moments or little nuggets of gold? And I fully agree with giving space to the author’s creation. I read books in one sitting all the time, but that one sitting is usually 6-8 hours because the author spent YEARS on this, so I’m going to give it as much time as it deserves.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. OH THIS WAS SUCH AN AMAZING POSTTT, Belle!! 😍😍😍😍 I am DEFINITELY a slow reader! HOW ELSE WOULD I CAPTURE THE AMAZING WORLD – DETAIL BY DETAIL!??! Not to mention that I like to savour the feelings and emotions that my heart experiences WHILE READING A GORGEOUSLY WRITTEN BOOK!! ♥️😍😍 that’s my whole point of reading anyway! I AM NOT IN A RACE TO READ ALL THE BOOKS MONEY COULD BUY AND LIBRARIES COULD LEND! No, sir! I would have accomplished enough if I could honestly say that I HAVE BEEN THAT CHARACTER – have know their darkest secrets, their wishes…their thoughts …IF I CAN SAY THAT THEN READING A BOOK A WEEK IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR MEEE!

    I actually did try reading faster but it just ……it feels like fake-reading to me, to be honest. No atmospheric value, no escape….NOTHING! JUST FLIPPING PAGE BY PAGE….Ugh! HATED THAT EXPERIENCE…NEVER EVER AGAIN! THE GODS HAVE SPOKEN! *thunder*

    Liked by 1 person

    1. R A I N! I love this comment 😂❤️!

      You described the experience perfectly! Immersing yourself in a new world and /basically/ becoming the main character is half of the fun of reading! And that’s a good way to put it—speed-reading ~ is ~ a lot like fake-reading! Flipping page by page just to finish a book is so tedious, no thank you 🤢.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Ah I adore this post so, so much ❤ more often than not, I have wondered why the heck I am not able to read faster… because I would get through so much more books and I want to read everything and and… well, being a book blogger and part of the community gives you this feeling of urgency, somehow, just as well.
    Yet, reading too fast makes me miss big chunks of it all and just makes the reading experience different for me, too. I have realized that, by taking my time and having found my own pace, I enjoy the books I read better and can really, fully immerse myself into them, better, too, and… well, I'm here for that and the rest of the books will wait 🙂
    Love this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment, Marie ❤️! I’m so glad that you could relate this post and that you’re here for slow-reading haha. Being a part of this book community certainly makes it hard to ignore that sense of urgency to read EVERYTHING lol. But, separating ourselves from that feeling helps remind us why we love reading in this first place 😁.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I love this post. I have been developing a complex on not being able to read as fast as I see so many book bloggers do. I realize some of that is because it is like their job, but jeez I’m barely on 40 (50 book goal for the year) and it’s almost November, meanwhile there are people out there reading 2 to 3 times that every year.

    Although if the book is any good, I’ll often have to stop and have a conversation with myself about what just happened, sometimes I even write that out. There’s a lot of starting and stopping and thinking about things. If I don’t have time to do that I won’t enjoy the experience as much and I am also more likely to forget I ever read the book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I feel you—how anyone can read 100+ books a year and still be functioning in society is beyond me 🤷🏻‍♀️. Respect though.

      It’s such a waste to dedicate time to a book just to forget you picked it up as soon as you put it down, so it’s good that you take your time 😅. I also find that I forget books more when I don’t take the time to internalize the content while I’m reading. Sure, the books I remember the most are usually just better in the first place, but I have the tendency to jot more things I like about books than dislike. That certainly helps them stick—the jotting down bit.

      Like

  9. This is such an interesting post! I must admit that I quite often skim read but I think it’s a habit from my school and university days when I had to digest a lot of information in a small period of time. I try to read slower but I find I often can’t! I do agree with you that sometimes there is that moment of “what did I just read?” which happens to me with books that I find boring or slow paced. I really liked hearing your points on why you prefer reading slowly though and I do agree that taking your time means that you are enjoying it more because you have entered the world described in the book and are not as distracted.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Darina! As long as you’re able to get something from the stories you read, it’s fine that you can’t modulate how fast you read! Also, there’s no harm in skim reading when you’re trying to push through a boring or slow paced book 🙂.

      Like

  10. This post is AMAZING! And I honestly feel so validated now. I looked into skim and speed reading because my life is super busy now, and I only read (physical) one book in November. And if I read quickly, I would probably be able to read more, which is essential for me as a book blogger.

    But I started blogging because I love books. I love stories. I enjoy taking my time to get into a world, and if I try to read faster, how can I appreciate it? It’s not who I am as a reader, and I don’t want to stop being myself just because of book blogging pressure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Catarina! That’s awesome that you’re trying to resist book blogging pressure, and you summarized my feelings exactly! One of the ways I’m trying to work around blogging pressure while being a slow reader is by writing less book reviews and more discussion posts, but even those have their time constraints haha.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I get you! I’d love to say that it gets easier in time, but it really depends on the topic 😅. It’s kind of nice that you don’t have strong opinions because then you can offer a variety of perspectives on one subject 😁.

        Liked by 1 person

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