Reading TOO Fast & Reader’s Resentment
There is this constant discussion in the blogosphere about what the correct way to read is. Especially since we can all measure our reading progress super easily now, there is a lot of envy and negativity about how many books a person has read. On one hand there are people claiming that if you read that fast and so many books, you’re not savouring them enough. The other camp claims that is bullshit, and happily speed reads along. This discussion post was inspired by this post about reading habits by Kristilyn from Reading in Winter.
Although I won’t give the person the satisfaction of linking the article up, there has been an articles on a news site saying that the Goodreads Reading Challenge is ruining literature. Now, I’m not the kind of person to care much about what one person says, but I do care about the fact that it highlights an underlying issue. Underneath all the jealousy and arrogance and prejudice, there is one question: is there a correct way to read?
A little while ago I did a series of posts called Bookish Habits. In it I asked a small group of bloggers questions about how they read, but also what kind of influence blogging had on their reading, and how they deal with reading slumps. When I asked about whether they considered themselves a fast or a slow reader, five out of seven called themselves fast readers. One called herself an average reader, and one a slow reader. Now this in itself isn’t very interesting (the sample size is way too small to take any conclusions about reading speed and bloggers), but what I did found interesting is that only two people actually put a number on their reading. One did this by providing a number of pages read an hour, and the other the amount of books she could read in a day. It made me feel as if putting a number on reading was considered a taboo – and that admitting how fast you truly read is something you should be ashamed of.
To be honest, this entire discussion seems a bit silly to me. What does it matter how fast you read? It doesn’t matter how fast you can run either, as long as you arrive at the same destination. Who cares if a young adult takes you eight hours to read, while for others it only takes three? The main source of resentment stems from the fact that the grass is always greener on the other side, and someone else’s Goodreads Reading Challenge is always higher than yours. I’ve seen some truly staggering amounts of books read – some even exceeding 400 books a year. But should we really make someone feel bad about the fact that they spend a lot of time doing what they love? And the other way around, why would you make someone feel bad about the 10 books they read in a year, if that’s the speed they’re at?
As for myself, I’ve read about 140 books last year. Compared to some, it’s a lot, but compared to other’s it’s puny. I read fast – in a YA book I often read 80-100 pages an hour, and with denser fiction like classics I average 50-60 pages an hour. Do I feel as if my speed is somehow hindering my comprehension? Not at all. I have notoriously bad book memory (especially character names – my head is like a sieve with those) but that has nothing to do with the speed of my reading. Reading slower would be like waiting 5 seconds every time before you take a step while walking. It’s unnatural. Neither does it improve your walking/reading experience. If you want to savour every word and sentence a writer put on paper – awesome! If you want to whizz through so you can find out how it ends – great! In both cases you’re experiencing the book. Everyone’s experience is different, because we all come with a different personality and emotional baggage. That doesn’t mean that either is somehow superior to the other.
I think we should all focus on the books more, and less on the numbers and readers. It’s the books that are important, and if some people have more time/a bigger capacity of reading more good books, that should only be a good thing. If someone only reads a handful of books a year, that doesn’t make them a lesser reader. Reading is not a competition, and it shouldn’t be.