Sunday, August 28, 2016

Slow Burn: Why I Read Slowly

There's definitely the assumption out there that to be a book reviewer, you have to be a fast reader. And while I'll admit that's definitely an asset, I don't think it's necessary in the pursuit of spreading the love of books. I get a lot of people (writers especially), who say things like, "I could never be a book reviewer, I just can't read fast enough/don't have the time." On the one hand it's meant to be a compliment, but I feel especially strange fielding comments like that, especially when I'm thinking, "I don't read quickly at all..."

It doesn't bother me. I don't stress out over how quickly I read or finish a book. I set goals for myself, usually yearly goals, but I don't do daily monitoring or beat myself up if I don't reach my goals. I also don't psyche myself out about other bloggers who can post over a hundred reviews a year, while I'm just bumping along at a little over twenty.

I don't stress because reading slow, for me, means I have fallen in love.

As a book reviewer, I receive a lot of requests for reviews. Since I don't like to turn people away, and since I always like to try new authors, I end up reading a lot of things that I would never, in a million years, pick up myself. Whether because of writing quality, or the way the pitch is framed, or whatever. There are those out there that say life is too short for a bad book, and while I agree in part, I also believe there's something to learn from every book. Even if it's What Not To Do. Often those books are the greatest teachers, as it allows you to understand why the rules are there in the first place.

When it comes to books I don't really enjoy, I tend to read much faster. The more I'm not enjoying it, the more I power through just for the sake of finishing. That isn't to say I skim. I just spend more time, and in longer stretches, with the book out in front of me.

But those books that I really fall in love with, I tend to read slowly. Not only do I read slower, but I often pause and stop. Most often at the end of a chapter or a break, and sometimes when something resonates with me just so.

I put a finger in the book, put it down, and stare back unseeing in space, relishing in the feeling. The only way I can describe my reaction to a beautiful piece of writing is like a high. I'm filled with awe or glee or just plain joy of language, and it usually takes a few minutes before I'm able to return to reading. I'm sure I must look like a spaced out lunatic to my roommates. If I'm hit with these continued blows of awe, I often have to put the book down entirely and take a break, which leads to the days stretching on while I slowly digest and work through the story.

If I really enjoy a book, I do what I consider 'savouring.' I roll the words around in my brain, churn the story and characters about, and 'taste' the prose like fine caviar. I can't stand the idea of ending a good book, so I try to enjoy it for as long as possible.

So at the end of the year when I reassess my reviews, I wouldn't at all be disappointed with a smaller number. Because at least it means I've really enjoyed what I've been reading.

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