This week I read a post by Rachel called ‘On Being A Slow Reader’ at her blog, [Fikt] Shun. It’s an interesting post and the comments even more so, because of some of the conscious or unconscious assumptions about the value of reading faster or slow than someone else.
I consider myself a ‘fast reader’ I regularly have people look at me incredulously when I confess how many books I read a week or a year. I have always read a lot, before I started actually keeping track in the two last years I can use my library borrowing history to estimate that I have, on average read, around 200 books a year for practically my entire life. Some years it was a lot more, in 2010 I read 316 books but it has rarely been any less. On average I read about 100 pages an hour – more if I am loving the book, but that is my natural pace. I love reading and I read because it relaxes me, because I love learning new things, because it satisfies some part of my soul – just like almost every reader I have ever encountered.
However I have found that being a fast reader is sometimes viewed with suspicion and assumptions are made that are, quite frankly, petty.
Some people assume I ‘speed read’ implying I skip words or skim read, which I don’t. Reading is a process and while people can learn to read quicker using various methods, it isn’t something I have ever done. Everyone reads at a different rate – there is no right or wrong speed.
A common accusation is that I couldn’t possibly read with the same level of comprehension of detail and understanding as someone who reads at a slower pace. Hopefully the content of my reviews proves that statement as untrue. Science has proved that comprehension rate is not affected by the natural reading rate of a person but the ability to obtain and retain detail is badly affected when people are forced to read either slower or faster than their natural pace. I remember details of the books I have read including plots and characters, it is why I don’t re-read. I can pick up a book I read 10 years ago and immediately recognise that I have read it before and especially if I liked it, give a quick summary and my feelings about the book.
Detractors also speak of reading slowly to savour the experience and immersing themselves in the story. Personally, if I am loving a book I read faster, and my husband and children will happily testify that I am immersed in the story, especially when they have had to repeat themselves for the third time or it’s an hour past dinner and they are begging to be fed.
Recently someone made a comment to me to the effect that ‘the only reason someone would read so many books was to be able to say they had read so many books’. While I set myself a goal each year I am not a slave to that goal. If I was, I wouldn’t have chosen to read several books in the past two weeks that had just below or above 500 pages, (Empire Day, The Greatest Man From Cedar Hole, Secrets She Left Behind), none of which were books I had received for review or were in any way required reading. I chose to read them because they interested me, which is why I choose any book I read.
Lastly, people suggest that I must do nothing but read all day. I wish! I have four children aged 6, 7, 9 and 15, a husband and 2 part time jobs (sometimes 3). I have other interests, I watch TV, I regularly meet with friends, I volunteer, donate blood, I sit on committee’s, play Words with Friends, in effect, I have a life (though it’s not very exciting). I also read when I can – while cooking dinner, in the ad breaks, waiting in the car to pick up my children but mostly after everyone is in bed, between the hours of 11pm and 2am happily escaping the stresses of my hectic days.
There are some advantages to being a fast reader and being a book blogger, but since it usually takes me as long to write a review as it does to have read the book in the first place, it matters little.
I read because I can’t imagine not reading, because if I don’t have a book in hand I’ll read the back of a cereal box or the phone book. I go to the library to pick up one book and come home with ten and every one of my kids has had a library card since birth so I can use them to borrow more than the 15 books I am allowed.
I am a reader – just like you, whether you read faster or slower than me.
Do you wish you could read faster or slower?