Slow Reading

Cherie and I are both book lovers and avid readers. We have overflowing book shelves throughout our house and books stacked high in our studies. Reading is our primary hobby and we both read at least an hour a day and often more.

I’m not one of those people who can have multiple books going at once. When I start a book I read it to the end before starting another. But I always have books queued up to follow the one I’m reading. So even though I want to savor and get the most out of whatever book I’m reading, I’m always conscious of the large stack of books waiting to be read, and calling me to hurry up.

So I enjoyed this post on The World According to Dina (HERE), which introduced me to the “slow reading” movement. The post links to an article about the Slow Books Manifesto (HERE). I recommend the post and the link. Bibliophiles, and I know that describes many who read this blog, will appreciate them both.

I’ve never been one for marking up books as I read them. It has always seemed sort of wrong to me to write in a book. I don’t even like to bend the spine. But I once had a professor who required that the assigned books be “marked up” as they were read. He firmly believed that the process of taking notes in a book as you read it “made the book your own” and contributed to retention of the material. After taking that class I actually continued the practice for a while, but I soon abandoned it. I mentioned that in a comment on the blog and they replied that they always mark up books while reading them, unless it’s a rare or beautiful book, in which case they make notes on little slips of paper and leave them in the book. I found that interesting. But even more interesting, they said that when buying used books they prefer books in which the the previous owners have left notes and comments. This struck me: “We find it very interesting to read other people’s ideas. And we think a book without comments and underlinings is either a boring book or a book waiting desperately to be used.” That makes good sense to me and puts a whole new light on things. I haven’t started marking up my books yet, but I’m thinking that maybe I should.

As an aside, I find it interesting that the ethic and language of the Slow Food Movement is now being applied to so many other things–such as “Slow Books.” Many of you will know of Michael Pollan’s famous advice: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Notice how the tag line of the Slow Books Movement tracks that: “Read books. As often as you can. Mostly classics.”

Whether you’re a “slow” reader or a speed reader—happy reading y’all!

 

Advertisements

39 comments on “Slow Reading

  1. shoreacres says:

    Serendipity strikes again. I just mentioned the “slow blogging” movement in my comment section. It took off in 2008, just as I was beginning to blog. It was a great antidote to the zeitgeist, which was publish as much as you can, as often as you can, without any regard for quality. Oh — and never go beyond 300 words per entry. You know how well i’ve done with that.

    Slow blogging also was an outgrowth of the slow food movement. I’m still committed to it, and two of my touchstones are, “I publish no post before it’s time,” and “If I don’t have anything to say, I won’t say it.”

    I do mark in books. Often, on a re-read, I’ll use a differently-colored ink. That way, I have a record of how my interaction with the text has changed over time.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Joanna says:

      Well I never! I have just found out that I am a slow blogger. Although I do publish once a week, because I need the discipline, otherwise I never would publish 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bill says:

        I’m thinking of changing to a regular pattern (like your blog) and limiting myself to farming/homesteading topics. I’m still pondering exactly what I want to do, but maybe I’m destined to be a slow blogger too. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

    • Bill says:

      I hadn’t heard of “slow blogging” but I’m not surprised by it. I enjoy thoughtful well-written posts like yours, but I also enjoy bloggers who are more casual and off the cuff. It’s all good.

      I’ve been blogging since 2008 as well. The blog has evolved, along with me, over the years. Originally I blogged every morning (most often in my office) while having coffee. But for a long time I never commented on other people’s blogs and I rarely responded to comments on mine. I still don’t comment on other blogs as often as I should, but I’ve made it a practice to try to respond to all comments here and I’ve really come to enjoy that part of blogging. The conversation after the post is almost always better than the post itself. I learned that from you and Teresa Evangeline. I admired the way you interacted with the readers of your blogs so I started doing it too and the blog has benefited greatly I think.

      I also changed my attitude about re-reading books based on something you wrote. Other than a few special favorites I used to never read a book I’d already read. I reasoned that there were too many books I wanted to read to go back and read something again. But I remember that you commented (I think here, but possibly on your blog) about the merits of re-reading books it resonated with me. Now I do it fairly often. In fact the book I’m reading now is one that I first read many years ago. And I’m really enjoying it. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. avwalters says:

    Some books are a romp–and I take them at a gallop. And some, require thought, or better yet, are good enough to savor as you go. I only mark books if it’s something I need to revisit. I spent too much time in law school, highlighting as I went (often just to stay awake.) I have returned to the idea that the book is best left as it was printed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      I’m uncomfortable marking in books, but I do see the value in it. For a while I wrote a review of every book as I finished it, usually for myself only. Nowadays when I finish a book I leave it on the table for a while, so I can flip through it now and then or revisit favorite passages. Consequently there are about a dozen books on the end table next to my nighttime reading spot.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting blogs, Bill. I read for three reasons. One is for pure enjoyment. If I am stressed out, the books tend to be pure escapism, a form of relaxation. I want a book that captures me. When I am relaxed, I go for something more challenging. Two is for general knowledge. This too is for pleasure. I like learning new things whether it is in history, science or current events. I like to be aware of what is happening in the world around me, even if it is a cursory awareness. And finally I read to learn things I need to know, more technical stuff, and less fun from my perspective. I don’t mark books, but I sometimes feel I should. And, I confess, I usually have 3 or 4 books going at once, especially in the non fiction area. –Curt

    Liked by 2 people

    • Bill says:

      I don’t read much fiction and when I do it’s usually a classic. My nerdy personality draws me to thick nonfiction, stuffed with information. I sometimes read reference books cover to cover. My wife is more like you. She alternates between mysteries, crime novels, etc. and more serious nonfiction. She usually has several books going at once and she’s come to enjoy using a Nook reader.

      Like

  4. ain't for city gals says:

    I was just finishing up a walk this evening and I was thinking I really should do something before bed. My husband is ALWAYS doing something….mostly work in the shop etc. Then I thought to myself “Well, reading IS doing something” Ha…doesn’t take much to convince me of my favorite thing. I don’t really mark books but I too love reading ones that other people have marked. I do turn down pages and try not to feel guilty. It always makes me laugh when I get a book from the library and there is a turned down page a third of the way and it is not turned back up….I think uh-oh…not a good sign.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Bill says:

      Because I work outside, and try to work from sunup to sundown, I have a lot more time to read in the winter than I do in the summer. But even in the heart of summer I shut down at 9:00 and spend an hour reading before going to bed. I’ve sometimes thought I should be doing something “more productive,” but like you I’ve come to appreciate the fact that reading IS doing something. 🙂

      Like

  5. barnraised says:

    Hum…definitely something to think about! I devour books. Several going at once with a pile next to my bed to move onto next. Sometimes it stresses me out, when they’re from the library with DUE DATES! I think I need to slow-read for awhile. And, I personally LOVE books that come marked up from previous readers…it feels like they have a soul.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Yep. We’re in the same tribe. 🙂
      We can renew once over the phone so I’m usually able to finish a library book in time. Cherie gets downloads from the library that disappear from the reader when the time is up and I’ve seen her staying up late to finish a book before it goes away.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Susan says:

    I never mark books. Most of the books I read are library books. Don’t think they’d appreciate that. If a book is TRULY GREAT, I buy it. And I still don’t make marks, but I SEE the reasoning in it. I guess I still have that mean librarian in my mind yelling at me for bending a corner to mark my spot. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      The professor I mentioned allowed students to take notes outside the book instead, but encouraged us to mark up the book itself. It really does help with retention, especially if rather than just highlighting or underlining you engage with the text by commenting on it. After that class I kept it up for a few months but then just gradually quit doing it. But you’re right about library books. It’s not an option then, regardless of whether later readers might enjoy our comments or not. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • When one of our books gets returned with highlighting or pen marks, we have two options – if we can track down the patron who did it, they get to buy the book from us and keep it. It’s an expensive way to buy a book frankly, since our purchase price is not what you’d find in Costco or Amazon. If we can’t track down the culprit, we discard the book – usually to recycling. If it was marked up with pencil, one of us will sit down with an eraser and go through page by page, same with those nasty little plastic stickies (really – those things are not that cheap, but some people seem to use up a whole boxful on a book). Let me tell you, I’m paid way too much for that work. But library books are for everyone in the community and not everyone will find significance in the same words, paragraphs, pages. They are paid for with property taxes and donation money, much like other objects of cultural interest in the community and when they are marked up, it’s like the spray paint tagging on the statue in the park – it’s been ruined for everyone by one thoughtless person.

      I’m not personally a book marker – I too had a prof decades ago who was an enthusiast, but I never took to it – i did better reinforcing my memory of the words by writing them into my notes. I also usually wanted to re-sell my textbooks if possible and highlighter pretty much killed that possiblity, so I avoided doing it. I do use paper bookmarkers a lot – a couple of my farming type books have paper markers in several places. I have also never been able to bring myself to write in a bible, though the pastor that leads my bible study is a huge advocate. Paper markers again for me.

      I do write in my cookbooks. I learned this from my mother. The first time I use the recipe, I put the date, and a one word rating (excellent, very good, good, OK, terrible) and make a note of substitutions or adaptations. Years later I sometimes add a new date and a short comment about how I still use the recipe.

      I love the slow reading concept. I’m a slowish reader at the best of times, and the slogan fits my style perfectly.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bill says:

        A library book is a borrowed book. Surely no considerate person would write in a book borrowed from a friend. So why would they write in a book borrowed from the community?

        Sometimes I buy used books that have been highlighted or underlined (usually without realizing it). I find it interesting to see what the prior reader thought was worthy of an underline or highlight. Often it’s not the same thing I’d mark.

        I treat books very carefully. So even though I fully recognize the value of marking up a book, I just can’t bring myself to do it.

        Like

      • I know full well I’m preaching to the choir here, but it’s a touchy point for almost all library staff. But yes, there are plenty of people who don’t think like you. Like the guy who ripped out half a page from the newspaper today – when I asked him if he knew that was a paper owned by the library (because we do staple the pages together and stamp the name of the branch on the front page), he just shrugged and said ‘yeah’. He probably uses pink hilighter…

        Liked by 1 person

  7. bobraxton says:

    am I a slow reader or a speed reader? yes. What I write (especially POETRY magazine, which has generous margins / white space) is tiny poems. Recently I am heavily into DNA (2,845 cousins) and genealogies (one is on line but “private”) and believe that the same is in reading our DNA – while reading it, we “mark it up” during our life experiences! I took the Y-111 and am thinking of “deep Y” for younger generation(s) of the family line. As the pastor in D.C. commented when I mentioned my new passion very recently quipped: I live with my DNA – every day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      I had the DNA testing from Ancestry.com and was overwhelmed by all the data. So I sat it aside and hope to return to it this winter. Amazing stuff.

      Like

  8. Dina says:

    Thank you very much for this friendly shout out! We love reading books and always keep a pencil in our hand when doing so. And we find it most interesting to read books where previous owners have made their comments or underlined what they found notable.
    Have a happy Sunday!

    Greetings from sunny norfolk,
    Dina

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I found your comment about enjoying books marked up by previous owners intriguing. I have a friend who bought a private library at an estate auction. In it was a book about the American Civil War and the previous owner had annotated it based on his own experiences as a soldier. In once case the book referenced an heroic act by an unknown soldier and the owner of the book had written in the margin something like “It was Robert Jones who did this and here is how it happened…” That makes the book a treasure. What a pity if the owner of the book had refused to write in it!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. valbjerke says:

    I tend to speed read everything – keeps pace with the rest of my life I suppose. I highlight/make notes in school books, fold pages/make notes in recipe books, and many years ago when attending church – used to highlight and mark with sticky notes – my bible. (That got me more than a few odd looks). I don’t mark fiction – seems pointless.
    I like the move towards ‘slow’ things these days. To me ‘slow = less stress’. I think of farmers down the road we buy hay from – if you show up near a meal time – you must come in and sit down and eat, have a coffee, visit. They’re both in their eighties and still going strong. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    • Bill says:

      Slow is good (says someone who doesn’t go slowly enough 🙂 ). After having been away for so long I had to re-accustom myself to slowness. When I went to college I was teased for talking slow and walking slow. But over the years I kept speeding up.

      After moving back here I had to go to the local courthouse and get something from the clerk’s office. In Florida I would have just said something like “Good morning. May I have the xyz file please.” I’m sure there are places where it is not considered rude to just say, “The xyz file.” But here it was impolite to just get right to the point. Instead it would be something like, “Good morning. How are you? That’s good. Yes, I’m fine thanks. It sure has been hot lately hasn’t it? (continue like this for a while longer, asking about the person’s family if you know them, which is likely, then finally…) I’m sorry to bother you with it, but could I please see the xyz file?” I have a cousin who also moved back here to Keeling after living in Las Vegas for many years. She and I joke that everything here is on “Keeling time.”

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I love the “Slow” idea to life…. savor each an everyday and everything you do in it 🙂

    Like

  11. BeeHappee says:

    Interesting articles, thank you for sharing! Now if I could only do some slow reading in the 2 seconds in between pushing a swing on a playground. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. For college classes, I was all about highlighting books taking notes in a notepad. For pleasure, I can’t stand to even crease the spine either. Maybe a few sticky notes here and there, but that is it. I have a collection of bookmarks too. No bending the corners at our house. I always have more to read waiting as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Same here. I marked up school books, but never books I’m reading for pleasure. But if the reason for marking up school books is to improve retention of the material, then in principle why wouldn’t we want to do that with books read for pleasure as well? It is good food for thought. I’m not sure I could change my ways at this point though.

      Like

  13. NebraskaDave says:

    Bill, I used to read a lot faster but now my focus is not much longer than a good sized magazine article. I read every night before falling asleep but it’s only about 4 or 5 pages. It’s 100% non fiction and mostly gardening or homesteading stuff. I’m not one to mark up books and use a nice book mark to keep my place in the book. I tried to use the library but my slow reading was so slow that I couldn’t get through the book even though the library here will allow three renewals if it’s not on a reserved list. I have used the library to see if the book was worth purchasing and hardly ever buy the book new. Amazon is a great place to buy books. As a result I have two book cases filled with books that I need to go through and review the books to see if they are worthy of keeping.

    As far as blogs go, when I find one of interest to me, I’m dedicated to it and limit myself to only a few of best ones. Yours has been on the list as you know for quite some time. I’m very slow to post blog posts on my personal blog mostly because I am not a writer like some are and just feel that not many would want to read about an old guy gardening in Nebraska. My blog posts are to document what I’ve done in my life mainly to give the generations that will come behind me a look at what life was like for old grandpop in the old days. I’m not sure even then it would be good reading for them but I’ll keep it up just in case.

    Have a great day with slow life on the White Flint Farm.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Whenever I have a specific book in mind I first check to see if our library has it. The catalog in on line so it’s easy to check. If not, I try to find a used copy on Amazon. Only if I can’t get it either of those ways do I buy the book new. I realize that doesn’t help authors much.

      I really enjoy your consistently thoughtful and respectful comments Dave. And I enjoy your occasional blog posts too. I’m glad we connected.

      Like

  14. Klausbernd says:

    Thank you for mentioning our post 🙂
    It was part of my job to speed-read for a long time. I took me quite an effort to slow down – not only reading! Being speedy gives the unhealthy illusion of being important.
    But now I notice much more of a book, I see more subtleties, I enjoy it more, especially the style. But I still speed read non-fiction. I read fiction slow meaning 50-60 pages/hour (with speed reading I mean more than 150 pages/hour).
    I believe everything one does gains qualitiy if you do it slowly – and reading is no exception.
    Have a happy week
    Klausbernd and the rest of The Fab Four of Cley

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I’m not sure how many pages I read per hour, but I’d be surprised if it is 50-60, and I consider myself a fast reader! Whatever my speed, it adds up to a lot of books every year. As Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “I cannot live without books.”

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s