Book blogging can easily change a person’s reading habits. The need to read all the new releases, the desire to fulfill one’s Goodreads Challenge, and the fear of looking inadequate next to the bloggers who post about reading 200 or 300 books a year can all make bloggers feel they need to read more and faster. The well-read blogger is the blogger who reads the most, right? However, reading more and faster is not necessarily better. Indeed, I argue that the real value of reading comes from reading slowly.
The potential pitfalls of reading too quickly are obvious. Speed reading to keep up with new releases or with other bloggers sometimes leads to a temptation to skip or skim scenes. The landscape descriptions, the poetry excerpts, the boring fight scenes, or that neverending conversation are all things a reader might pass over in an attempt to finish a book faster. However, really speedy readers might actually be skimming large chunks of a book–maybe even the whole book. This is particularly easy to do with plot-driven narratives such as those found in YA, where the prose may not be the highlight of the book but simply a vehicle to carry the story, or where it is not particularly necessary for a reader to have read everything to get the general gist of the plot.
However, reading quickly and even skimming can mean that readers are missing integral parts of the story–and they will likely never know it. On the most obvious level, this means that someone could refer to moments that do not actually occur in the text, or they could misread the text because they missed a character’s motivations or somehow otherwise skipped over an important moment. But sometimes reading quickly can allow a reader to get the general idea of the book–but they are still missing out on the nuances. And those nuances are, arguably, what makes a book special.
For me, a book really comes alive in the details. It’s L. M. Montgomery’s vivid descriptions of the Canadian landscape and her realistic depictions of small town gossip. It’s Tolkien’s cross-references, his play with words, his attention to walking distances and moon phases. It’s Shakespeare’s language or Catherynne M. Valente’s prose. It’s all the tiny moments that come together to make a believable world, one where the reader enters in whole-heartedly and stays to savor it. It’s all things that make a story more than just a collection of events that happened.
These are the types of details that make a book worth rereading, because one is not reading solely for the sake of “finding out what happens.” It’s not about discovering who lives and who dies, or waiting to see enemies turn into lovers. It’s about immersing one’s self in another’s creation and getting to know the world, the characters, and the language on an intimate level. It’s like talking to a friend. You already know them, but there is always more to discover.
I try to resist the pressures of book blogging because I never want to lose my love for reading. I never want to feel stressed by it or to find that I have rushed through a book so quickly, I barely remember what happened. I may not read as many books as some. But I have nurtured some valuable friendships with the books I love.