How do you like to read? Perhaps you skim the pages, taking in information at the expense of appreciating the writing style – a speed-reader: or perhaps you are a slow-reader, choosing your reading material carefully, reading deliberately and taking time to savour the words and the author’s craft. Actually, there is no need to define yourself as either, since most of us use both methods and benefit from each for different reasons.
Skimming allows us rapidly to ingest information, bouncing from one significant word to another and filling in the gaps by inference – rather like how we started to read as children, but with the benefit of practise and a wider vocabulary. Slow reading, on the other hand, gives us the information plus the chance to develop skills such as critical analysis and empathy.
Day-to-day I employ both methods. In the office, I skim-read because it’s a time-efficient way to get through masses of material. Then, before I go to sleep, I treat myself to a slow read, continuing to learn but by losing myself in another world, “like a swimmer who stops counting the pool-laps and just enjoys how their body feels in the water” (Joe Moran).
So here’s what I have been slow-reading lately: Love is Blind, a novel by William Boyd, an author whose imaginative stories never disappoint me ; The Rehearsals a novel by Eleanor Catton, an author who is new to me but whose other books I will certainly be seeking out having been so impressed by this one; The Diary of a Bookseller, by Shaun Blythell, a humorous autobiographical account of a year in his bookshop (a ‘must-read’ for me, having worked in the book trade in my early career); and Becoming, Michelle Obama’s powerfully intimate auto-biography.
I have also been keeping up with TED talks and can recommend Lisa Bu’s How Books Can Open Your Mind if you are seeking inspiration.
Let me know your recommendations!