Slow reading is better than speed reading

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/07/04/slow-reading-is-better-than-sp.html

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“As you can see, that leaves almost no time for brooding, lagging, plodding, or procrastinating, and if we stopped to think or laugh, we’d never get nothing done.”

“You mean you’d never get anything done,” corrected Milo.

“We don’t want to get anything done,” snapped another angrily; “we want to get nothing done, and we can do that without your help!” The Phantom Toll Booth, Norton Juster

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I used to read lightning fast when i read all the time, though i only did it when reading a book for fun. Sometimes in the moment i didn’t have much insight on what i was reading, but after i had put the book down and would mull over what i’ve been reading i’d get a richer sense of the story. These days i read at a more regular pace because i don’t read quite as often.

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I’d say that the Slow movement goes back at least as far as Epicurus.

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I read to my wife at bedtime. I am in my sixties and she is a little younger. I have been familiar with the idea for a long time, but I am acutely aware that a book read aloud - which is pretty much the slowest speed you can comfortably read - is the most telling experience of the story, the language and the style. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries people (people with the leisure and education to do so) read to each other for pleasure and entertainment. It is something we should recover. Audio-books cater for our busy lives, but cannot capture the sensation of a group, or a reader reacting to a group. And, truth to tell, some audio-books are read appallingly badly. In my opinion a book that reads well aloud is a good book. My touchstone for this is Stevenson’s Treasure Island. I’ve found to my surprise and delight, that Robert B. Parker’s detective novels read aloud very well. By contrast, journalistic writing does not always carry over. Initial attempts with Orwell’s “Travels in Catalonia” were hastily dropped. In the nineteenth century people would read newspapers to one another. I used to belong to a talking newspaper for the blind. I would not attempt to read a modern newspaper aloud to anyone for their enjoyment.

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My brother and sister have always read much faster than me. I read about a page a minute, they are probably 3-4 times faster. But a year later they’ll read the same book again, because they don’t remember anything about it, while I can tell them what happened in great detail. So yes, sometimes going slow is very worthwhile.

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Doing a lot of reading aloud lately: I have 22-month-old. Now it’s short, rhyming books with lots of pictures to match his attention span, but when he was younger, and I was just putting him to sleep with his bottle, I could read him longer kids books, and was giving fun going through The Hobbit, The Moomintroll books, etc.

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Close reading is what I admire.
Me, I read slowly and from far, far away.

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There’s an apropos section in “The Neverending Story”, but the internet is failing me (how funny how brief its memory), and if I still have a copy it’s in a box in my parents’ attic. Probably right next to his other great book, “Momo”…which is all about the value of time.

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Tove Jansson’s books are the right amount of cuddly and creepy; though The Groke was borderline too scary for Little Me.

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I used to be a pretty fast reader. Nothing like speed reading, but I went through the pages at a pretty good clip. Then, I studied philosophy in college. Now, it’s glacial, but I feel like I thoroughly understand everything I read.

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Well, no, even if it were written well, and not peppered with tweets.

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When I read, I mark passages in pencil that I want to remember and flag the page with a slip of paper. When I finish the book, I copy all the marked passages into my computer as a kind of electronic commonplace book, erasing the pencil marks as I go. In essence, I get to read the parts that move me most at least three times - in the book, as I copy, and as I check the copy. Now I have a record of quotes and ideas that I can refer to any time I want.

If you’re interested, some of these commonplace book entries are available at http://hubeventsnotes.blogspot.com

I recommend the practice to everyone who reads.

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What a lovely practice. Well done! Thank you for sharing this comfortable intimacy. Bookmarked.

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It’s kind of weird, because many people read to their kids and take them to a storytime type event at a local library or bookshop, but at some point, it becomes “socially unacceptable” to do so, with the exception of readings for new books. I guess part of the reason why is that we have other mediums for storytelling other than reading aloud to each other - movies, TV, radio, and audiobooks that you mention. I guess people join book groups where they all read a book and then get together to talk about it, and they might read selections to each other in that case, but not the whole book.

But it does seem a shame that it’s something of a lost art. I wonder if it’s something we could recover in our society. I also wonder if it changes the nature of HOW people write books (fictional books), since they’re rarely expected to be read aloud (except maybe in audio book form).

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Oh! I like this idea! I should start doing this!

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“And, truth to tell, some audio-books are read appallingly badly. In my opinion a book that reads well aloud is a good book.”

I’ve given up some audiobooks, they’re read so poorly. You have to want to spend time with both of those voices, the writer and the reader.

And I think most writers do the read-aloud test; if you can read it aloud and not rip it up and start again, it’s worth keeping. I think the only way to do a truer, nutsier-and-boltier test of the writer’s work is to actually rewrite the passage word for word, which I’ve had to do for classwork, and of course have done with excerpts that I find I can’t leave behind in a closed book. It can be an interesting experiment, reenacting the physical work to see some of the brain work.

Which it sounds like gmoke is practicing…

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My kids are at an age 13 & 11 where they want to read themselves though the younger one still enjoys it.
But I have fond memories of reading to them, Fairy Tales, Huck Finn, and even the original Robinson Crusoe all 1200 pages of it. For a while last year we would sit outside while I read Anne Frank, but it is not a common thing to read to others once they’re a certain age. I do agree it is something we should bring back.

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