Friday, March 16, 2018

2018 - A Year of Slower Reading

They say that chewing slowly is better for your digestion. I'm beginning to understand that it's better for my literary diet as well. Last week I reviewed Arnold Bennet's How to Live on 24 Hours a Day. His basic premise was that self-improvement will bring fulfillment to your life, but it was one of his side points about reading that really struck me.

I know people who take to reading as men take to drink. They fly through the shires of literature on a motor-car, their sole object being motion. They will tell you how many books they have read in a year. [But] unless you give at least forty-five minutes to careful, fatiguing reflection upon what you are reading, your ninety minutes of night are chiefly wasted. This means that your pace will be slow. Never mind. Forget the goal; think only of the surrounding country; and after a period, perhaps when you least expect it, you will suddenly find yourself in a lovely town on a hill.

As I read this, I knew he was talking about me. But this is not who I was when I started blogging nine years ago. Then I was reading a book a week. Although I am a fast reader, I read substantial books that required a certain amount of pondering. Books available to me in Brazil were limited and I carefully chose the ones that I would carry with me in my suitcase. Conscientious choices resulted in pleasurable encounters with many of the western world's best authors.

A couple of years later the Kindle came out and suddenly I had a surplus of options. Then I started joining reading challenges to help chip away at my unending TBR lists. Last year my library began offering a gazillion digital options for book downloads. I no longer read one book a week. I read 3 to 4. This year I added 30 minutes a day of audio books every morning. And yet I've noticed the law of diminishing returns: more books, less pleasure. This frenzy has not brought the literary contentment that I used to sense on a regular basis.

As I was reading Bennett's book, I kept saying to myself, "Next year I'm going to read less books, read more slowly, and revisit old favorites." Then it suddenly occurred to me that I don't have to wait till next year. My tentative reading plans for the year (100 books at Goodreads) are a guideline, not a mandate. I can stop the frenetic reading NOW. Whew!

 But, I worried, what if that means I won't have as many books to blog about? So be it. On second thought, I don't think that will be an issue. I'll read less junk and have more time to devote to books that are worth my time (and hence, yours). So I'm off to a slower pace and looking forward to savoring rather than wolfing down my books. I'll let you know how it goes.



Amy Marie said...

Dear Hope,
I totally understand and identify with this post. I, too, am a fast reader and for years read lots of fluffy books, but good meat takes longer to chew, that's for sure. We still are going to read more than average, but slowing down a bit to really soak in these deeper books, will be so rewarding! I think for me, I love new ideas and wonder, and I can't gulp it down fast enough. I'm trying to see that there is MANY layers to a deeper book and I can mine those layers for the glorious new gems that feed my soul. :)

Carol in Oregon said...

Oh, I can't wait to see the fruit of this! I toggle back and forth between reading the books on my shelves and re-reading the really good stuff.

I have found that my habit of copying quotes into my commonplace journal really helps inculcate the reflection and review necessary to completing a good book.

But, I do resonate with your comments about the Kindle. I took (a mini) offense when I finished Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies on my Kindle, that it automatically marked it read on my Goodreads account. I was so not ready to mark it read, because I hadn't gone through the "careful, fatiguing reflection" yet. [I probably need to figure out how to turn off notifications to Goodreads on my Kindle.]

As ALWAYS, I enjoy your literary thoughts on the blog. Thank you for sharing them!

M'Lynn in Washington said...

Hope - Would you help me with the last phrase of this quote from above?

They will tell you how many books they have read in a year. [But] unless you give at least forty-five minutes to careful, fatiguing reflection upon what you are reading, your ninety minutes of night are chiefly wasted.

I do get that reflection time is needed! I tend to do what I call 'inhale' books (closing a book is akin to breathing out, and then I reach for the next one and open it up which is the inhaling action - and I'm off again).

I am curious as to what he's specifying above - I can't make sense of 'your ninety minutes of night'.

hopeinbrazil said...

Great question M'Lynn! I didn't make it clear that Bennett encourages his reader to take 90 minutes 3 nights a week to read something (anything to improve him/herself). But he sees that reading as wasted time if it's done with reflection and application.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

Love it!