To Read (Quickly), Or Not To Read (Quickly)

Hey guys! My summer is already two and a half weeks old and I’ve settled into my usual summer routine. Laziness abounds. Yay! But I’ve also been doing a lot of reading (though not as much as I probably should), and it’s gotten me thinking about how differently I read books during the school year and during the summer.

When I read books during the school year, I read them in small chunks whenever I have time: when I’ve finished my classwork, after a test, in a loll of teaching. I sometimes read books after school, though I’m usually doing homework or watching TV. I’ll usually pick up books for a few hours on the weekend. This ends up with me taking about a week to read a book, depending on how “into” the book I get and how much free time I have on my hands. The story is interrupted by lessons and homework; sometimes I only have time to read a page before I have to refocus on school. Climactic moments are splintered across days, never read in their entirety. Some part of a scene’s glory falls through the cracks, it seems, when I have to wait an hour between someone firing a gun and the other person dodging the bullet. 

But during summer, my reading style completely changes. I end up reading books for hours without pause, reading more quickly and intensely. Often, I’ll power through a book in one sitting, with breaks only for meals (though I can read through those often) or running errands. I love this style of reading. I get completely immersed in the story, never coming up for air. I don’t have to put the story down during key reveals or climactic moments–there is barely a second between the trigger being pulled and the hero dodging out of the way. Little details stick out to my mind and link together, never forgotten because of the pace at which I consume the story.

But I often wonder, looking back, if reading books so quickly hurts my appreciation of them. 

The problem with reading a book in a matter of hours is that I stop remembering specific scenes or details. When the entire story is crammed together into a morning, individual scenes stop mattering. Everything blurs together into a tidal wave of plot, and though I get the powerful rush of the story crashing over me at once, I sometimes feel like I’m overlooking the great little scenes and details of books. When I am forced to read slowly, only a scene at a time, each scene is a lot more important in my mind than when I let myself read quickly and continuously.

reading accident

During breaks from school (whether that be winter break or summer break), I end up reading lots of books quickly and close together. Do I enjoy the process? So much. But when I think back to the books I read this way, my memory of them is vastly different from my memories of books I’ve read slower. My recollection of books I’ve sped through is not complete: just a few major plot points, a couple scenes or characters that I loved, and an emotion tied to how much I enjoyed the book. Also, if I read books that are similar, (lots of Chicklit, for instance), the novels themselves blur together in my mind. Books I read slower have more thoughts attached–simply put, I remember more of them.

So is reading about the enjoyment in the moment, or the ability to remember what you read and get pleasure from flashing back to beloved scenes? Does reading a book in one sitting give it power or detract from its message? Are books a collection of chapters, each to be enjoyed in their own time, or a continuous plot to be ideally devoured in one sitting?

What about you? Do you read “too quickly” or “too slowly”? How do you like to break up your reading, especially when you have a lot of free time?

8 thoughts on “To Read (Quickly), Or Not To Read (Quickly)

  1. My reading speed changes drastically based upon my interest level in the book and the writing style, specifically regarding how the book is paced. While I was attending college I spent a lot of my time in class reading books when there were lulls or when I got bored, so reading felt very broken up and slow. Since I am out of school and am looking for full-time work, I tend to read for long periods of time which leads to me reading faster and scenes tend to blend together a bit. Personally, I prefer the long periods of reading just because even though the scenes somewhat blend together I feel as if I have a better understanding of the events in play versus having to read something in short bursts, with short bursts I find myself having to re-read portions too often.

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  2. I read more quickly than I would like, because I also have this memory issue going on. I’m trying to take notes on the books I read–post-its, in a journal, or even in the books themselves, but when I get really drawn into the book, it’s hard to remember I even have a pen in my hand. When I slow down, though, I often end up slowing down too much, and just not picking up the book again. I’m having a really hard time finding the balance.

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      1. That can be really helpful. I like outlining my review, too, to really formulate what I want to say and to help me think about it. I’ve also learned that starting a new book before I write a review basically wipes my memory of what I wanted to say. So not helpful.

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