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.
I am not a speed-reader because:
- I can’t understand what I’m reading when I try to read faster.
- I enjoy books more when I take my time reading them.
- 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.