This week I skim-read through a book called Girls of Paper and Fire. I’m not a speed-reader, so when I skim-read, it’s mostly skipping through bits and catching on to important stuff along the way. The book is 380 pages, and only took a couple hours with this method with lots of interruptions.
The thing is, I remember back to my early years of blogging, when I was reading about 200 books a year. I certainly didn’t have more time then than now, especially with my kids being young. And I haven’t gotten slower as a reader in general. I remember back to my first Readathon, when I read three whole books (Stardust, Peeps, and The Hunger Games) as well as one graphic novel (Fun Home) in a single 24-hour period. If I read any of those whole books today, I’d likely take a full day if not 2-3 days to read them.
Since I no longer have access to my original Zen Leaf blog, I don’t have a lot of the non-review bookish posts I created at the time. I do remember that back in the fall of 2010, I felt glutted on books. I listened to my first audiobook, which forced me to slow down, and found that 1) I remembered the books better if I slowed down, and 2) I enjoyed them more. It took some time to apply this method to visual reading, but eventually I got there. I do still read some books quickly, depending on how they’re written, but this isn’t my favorite method of taking in books. This probably explains why so much of what I read these days is on audio. I like the experience of the book more than the act of reading.
I’ve never counted skim-reads as part of my list of books read in a year. If I’m going to add it to the list and review it, I feel like I should have given it full attention. Otherwise I tend to see only the surface level of a novel, and to comment on the quality based only on a partial look at a book feels untrue to The Zen Leaf. I could tell you my shallow impressions of Girls of Paper and Fire (decent writing, predictable plot, misleading synopsis) but I missed so much of the meat of the book that those impressions might be way off what they would have been had I read it fully.** And reading this way made me remember just how much I came to dislike quick reads of most books. Slow and languorous works for me, so different from those early days of blogging.
**Why didn’t I read it fully, you ask? I only meant to be previewing the book to see if I wanted to move it from my to-investigate list to my TBR. When previewing books, I tend to skim-read the first 5-20 pages until something either definitely catches my attention or shows me that this is not the book for me. Some books fall into the middle, and often if I read them fully, I either abandon them halfway through (like Markswoman by Rati Mehrotra) or they end up as “just-okay” books that I wish I hadn’t continued (like Reign the Earth, which I read this spring). So I ended up skimming this one to the end, because something kept my attention, though not enough to fully read.
I most definitely have slowed down my reading over the years, and I am okay with that. Reading is much more fulfilling to me when I slow down. I opt for quality over quantity these days, even if this is something I have not done in past years. Reading is such a sensory experience to me that when I do find myself with extra time or the ability to concentrate, I want to savor it. Audiobooks, to me, are a means to multi-task and lack some of that sensory feedback I associate with reading.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I think I end up getting more sensory feedback from audio these days, probably because in the beginning I only listened to them when trying to escape from whatever physical work I had to be doing. Now, it’s more like hearing a movie instead of reading a book, and I get the same vivid mind-images (if not more) than when I physically read.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Like Michelle, I have slowed down my reading and opt for the quality over quantity too. My numbers of books per year are way down from when I first started book blogging, but I’m okay with that. I like to think that it’s helped me focus on the books that matter.
I agree with you wholeheartedly!
It’s so fascinating (and cool) how we all have such different reading styles! I am so particular that when I start a book, I almost always make myself finish it in its entirety even if I don’t necessarily like it. I like that you skim-read and really decide before you invest yourself in a book fully.
I was that way until a particular book club in 2006. We were given the book Sixty-Six, which I hated from the very first paragraph. Jason asked me why I tortured myself by continuing, and I said I had to finish because I started. I did finish that book – it never got any better – but afterwards realized that yeah I should stop torturing myself with books I don’t like. Since then, I no longer finish any book that’s bothering me, even if that means quitting only a few chapters or even pages from the end.