An Ode to Slow Reading

Afternoon loves. Sorry for the delay, it's been a busy morning with the boys.  It’s an incredibly beautiful and rainy morning at our house today and things on my to-do list seem to finally be getting down to a manageable intensity instead of the recent insanity. Yay! Next week there will be a new Mentality Monday post, I'll be announcing details for several fun events that will be happening in the coming months and in 2017, the September newsletter will be sent out to subscribers on Thursday, and finally on Friday I'll have a new post with my summer wrap-up as well a fun bookish editorial for your enjoyment.

 Today I wanted to write a little love letter of sorts to my habit of slow reading. I've long made fun of myself for being unable to read at a normal pace – when I was in college I had to email professors weeks before the semester began to get info on the reading lists and start my reading for each class in advance. Getting a book read in two weeks or less in lightning speed for me. It can at times take a month or more and that doesn't even take into account the whole parenting and running a business thing. Anyway, in an effort to think about my shortcomings as gifts, I decided to write about my turtle-esque reading speed in a positive light.  

Blessed Bookworm's An Ode to Slow Reading

Gosh, how do you begin an ode? Let’s go with the chronological strategy. I've been a slow reader since childhood. It's just my pace but when people have offered speed reading tips over the years I end up smiling my polite Southern smile with no intention of ever enacting their suggestions. You see, when I try to do speed reading, or even reading faster than my normal glacial pace, then I just end up missing stuff; and that misses the point of reading for pleasure in my opinion. If I want to only read 70% of a book I could just as easily sit and read the Cliff’s Notes. However, that's not what brought me to a library encompassing my entire basement by 29. It's not what causes me to have date nights with my husband that consist of hours in a bookstore or visiting readings by authors or listening to literary criticism podcasts. I love words and literature. For better or worse, I want to experience every single word that an author deemed worthy to include in his or her text.

Reading slowly might make me an embarrassment to bibliophiles everywhere, but it might also be why I'm able to retain the broad strokes (and even details in many cases) of any book I read for well over a decade. I don't re-read books very often because my to be read list is miles long. In fact, my to be read list once lead to a conversation with God about how I was going to need Heaven to include all-encompassing library if that hadn't been taken care of already. Since I'm going to have the perfect Borges library in the afterlife then I don't need to rush through my experiences with my books. I bask in them.

Happily, science seems to be on my side (mocking my speed reader husband & friends ensues now, give me a moment) and the Slow Reading Movement has actually become a thing. In 2014 the Wall Street Journal published an article on the scientific benefits of reading slowly. It cited a 2013 study from Neurology which found that “regular engagement in challenging activities, including reading, slowed rates of memory loss in participants’ later years.” Another 2013 study, this one published in Science, found that reading literary fiction helped people gain empathy for others.

Literary minds around the country have been proclaiming the importance of slow reading for years now. In 2012, Maura Kelly of The Atlantic published an article calling for the advent of an official Slow Reading Movement which encouraged everyone to read for at least 30 minutes a day from a piece of literature. She cites research which supports all of the benefits found in reading not only fiction but literary classics which expand our sense of empathy and self-awareness. The same year Tom Newkirk of The Washington Post had an editorial discussing the same topic after having published a book on it as well, The Art of Slow Reading: Six Time-Honored Practices for Engagement.

The difference between the Slow Reading Movement (SRM) and my own personal slow reading is that for me it’s just how I am. However, I really adore the ideology of the SRM and I think I’ll adopt it so that I’m now no longer just a slow reader, but I’m an intentionally slow reader. I read without technological distraction, embracing literary fiction (as well as nonfiction, but that’s because I love learning being lifelong nerd that I am) and the challenges it presents me with pen in hand, giving my full attention and adoration to the work that an author struggled to create and put before me.

I’ll read slowly for the rest of my days, and now – I do it proudly.