The Value of Reading Slowly

value of reading slowly

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.

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66 thoughts on “The Value of Reading Slowly

    • Krysta says:

      I do know someone who told me studying for his PhD almost made him hate reading. When you have to read all day for work, I can see how the charm could wear off.

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  1. Ayushi A Nair says:

    yes i completely agree with you, I have started book blogging as my passion for reading and love for books but now it has become pressure to read as many books i can to complete the Goodreads challenge and compete with bloggers to read maximum books, sometimes due to piles of review copies we have to skim some parts of the book to complete the whole book n get an overall idea

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    • Krysta says:

      I set my Goodreads Challenge to something I think I can reach pretty easily and then I just use it as a counter for the number of books I’ve read. It’s much less pressure that way! However, I read a ton of picture books,so it’s not like my sky-high number is telling me much. XD

      And, yeah, review copies can be a lot of pressure! I usually don’t request any for that reason. I’d rather read the book on my own time! And it’s worked out pretty well, I think. I find my reviews get more interaction once people have had a chance to read the book, too. Our ARC reviews are far less popular because, I think, people don’t want to be spoiled.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. bibliogyan says:

    I agree! am baffled by the books others read like really! theres so much going on other than reading that it should be a leisure time not something to stress about. with bookstagram theres an added pressure to post pics too! but when I find myself clueless what to do I just remind myself why I started all this in the first place – cause I love reading! and thats enough! loved your post!

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    • Krysta says:

      I think people feel they need to read the latest releases and be really current to keep readers. However, I’ve found we get more interaction when I post a review later and other people have had time to read it. So I don’t typically request ARCs. I just wait for my library hold to come in and it works for our bog!

      Liked by 1 person

      • bibliogyan says:

        Yes.. it’s an unnecessary pressure. I love reading slowly taking my time to read and enjoy but sometimes I get anxious wondering if am behind. Haha. But then I just calm myself down 😄

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  3. Lily @ Sprinkles of Dreams says:

    Ahh this is a lovely post! 💛

    I never skim or skip scenes/dialogue in books, exactly because I don’t want to miss anything—except for when I don’t enjoy a book much, and my brain will just go on pause for a while. 🙈

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    • Krysta says:

      I admit I’ve skimmed some books, often popular nonfiction. I think they’re written so you can jump from section to section, so if you read it in order, you’ll get the same information three to five times. I find that really annoying. But if I’m really enjoying a book, I want to go slowly!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Molly @ Molly's Madness says:

    I love this and I think it is SOOO true. I am a slow reader by nature, but I think that helps me see and appreciate all the details as they come! If I think a book is boring, I just put it down, I can’t imagine skipping chunks! I would be super paranoid about missing something important. Now that I’m a book blogger, I sometimes wish I could read faster just to knock out more books; however, I love reading at my pace (slow) because it allows me to take everything in.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      I know! There are so many books I want to read and I just don’t have enough time! I want to read them all! But I think DNFing can help. I’m not very good about DNFing, but I think I’m getting better.

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  5. Ali says:

    I used to be one of those bloggers that thought having all the books read and a review posted showed that I was a great reader/blogger. This past year though I started to really slow down and as you said get into the books themselves. I actually ended up reading more because I was actually enjoying the books instead of just skimming them.The stress of being that perfect blogger/reader is gone and honestly it feels so much better and it brought the joy of reading back. So I totally agree with this post!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      I think that’s lovely! I always enjoy a book more when I’m reading it slowly! However, I think that, when I enjoy a book, I also start reading it more slowly!

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  6. Vera says:

    This post makes me happy on so many levels.

    As an avid advocate of mindfulness and slow movement in general, I have been embracing slowing my reading down as well. Getting lost in a lovely book is like coming home after a long day. A wonderful experience I never want to rush through.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. JCairns says:

    I am a slow reader and proud of it. Why bother reading if you’re only going to skim or skip parts or most of the book?? I read the books I blog about from cover to cover.

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    • Krysta says:

      I think people believe successful bloggers read all the new releases. However, I find that writing reviews a little bit after a release gives people more time to read the book–and then we have more to talk about! Otherwise, all people can really comment is, “I want to read this book, too.” 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight says:

    I’ve always felt like I’m a fairly slow reader, but it’s not something I have an issue with. I’ve never tried to learn to speed read or anything because this is how I enjoy reading. I agree that the details and nuances are what make books good for me, but also, I like to really immerse myself and picture everything in my head. For example, I like to read dialogue at a speed in which people would actually talk because I’m imagining the characters saying it all in my head. Sometimes I’ll even pause to picture a scene more if it’s one of those times where it’s kind of summarized in a line or two but is still something that seems important or emotional. So yes, I too enjoy my slow reading 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      That sounds like a really immersive way to read! I don’t know that I do anything similar, though sometimes I find my reading speed increasing when there’s a lot of action. Like I’m subconsciously trying to read at the speed I think the chase scene is happening, or something. When I catch myself, I usually go back and reread a bit to make sure I caught everything. XD

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  9. Davida Chazan says:

    I have mild dyslexia so that makes me a slow reader (about 30-35 books a year), and I agree with each and every word of this post! People who know about my dyslexia often comment that it seems strange that I would become such an avid reader, but I don’t think so. Because I “hear” every word in my mind when I read, I get all the drama that faster readers miss. I can also catch subtleties of language. Reading slowly makes the experience rich! Thanks for this!

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    • Krysta says:

      I don’t see why having dyslexia would mean someone wouldn’t be an avid reader! I think it’s kind of cool that you can “hear” words in your head. That seems like a great reminder to slow down and savor the experience!

      I just wrote about that sometimes I find myself reading really fast when there’s a scene with a lot of action–like I’m trying to mimic the speed of a chase scene in my head or something. I usually have to go back and reread because I was going too fast!

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  10. Stephen Writes says:

    Really interesting post. I read quite slowly because I like to take everything in and process each word. I enjoy having the style of reading, but I do wonder sometimes how others get through so many books so quickly!

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    • Krysta says:

      I think people go through more books depending on their life circumstances. It’s often easier to read more if you don’t have family obligations or if you don’t have to take work home with you, for instance. Or maybe people read more because they get to read at work or for work. That makes it hard to make reading comparisons because you never know what someone else’s circumstances are!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. MoMo @ Remnants of Wit says:

    I am naturally a very fast reader, and it’s difficult for me both to read slowly and to skim. My favorite way to read books is to read them at my normal speed, but twice in a row. That allows me to figure out “what happens” and to delve into the finer details of the book as well.

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    • Krysta says:

      I think reading slowly could maybe be relative to each person? I normally read fairly quickly; whenever I am reading something with someone else, I have to wait for them to finish. However, it is possible for me to read so quickly that I’m no longer absorbing the material accurately. For instance, I often find myself reading quickly during chase scenes or fight scenes, like I am trying to mimic the action. Sometimes I have to go back and reread because I missed information!

      But, yes, rereading is definitely important! I used to try to read any books for school more than once (you know, back when I had time to do that sort of thing) because I never really feel like I know a book adequately until I’ve read it a couple times. You always see more on a reread, I think, because you don’t have to focus so much on “what will happen next.” At least, that’s how it is for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Grab the Lapels says:

    First, props to your lovely books-in-garden-setting photos. What a lovely place you must call home! Secondly, I very much agree with what you are saying and am here to back it up with an example from a review I published yesterday. Because I am on a quest to find books in which fat women are treated with dignity, I’ve been jumping whole-heartedly into genres I typically don’t read because I don’t enjoy them, namely YA. Yesterday, I published my review of Puddin’ by Julie Murphy in which I make the argument that while Puddin’ passes the test for treating a fat girl with dignity, I had to wonder if all fat teen girls must kiss a boy. It makes me wonder if kissing a boy is validation of their worth, which I DON’T LIKE OR SUPPORT. I know fat women have been left out of romances for ages, but Murphy also wrote Dumplin’, in which Willowdean gets a hot boyfriend to kiss on–two, in fact. The main character of Puddin’ wasn’t really fat girl Millie; she shares more than half the story with the hot b**ch (editing because this is your blog, not mine) Callie. Millie’s who goal is to become a TV news reporter, but not once does she engage with any news media in this entire 400+ page book. Instead, she’s hyper-focused on kissing a boy. Now, because I’m reading slowly and carefully, I notice things like that. I read a bunch of reviews on Goodreads, and most people didn’t even notice what I’m talking about. Honestly, I think reading new releases fast is motivated by the desire to get a review up on Goodreads first. That way, it gets more likes and sits at the top. For me, when all my blog friends are reviewing the SAME new book, I tend to not read any of them. The race for the newest release isn’t my jam. Here is a link for my Puddin’ review: https://grabthelapels.com/2018/12/14/puddin-by-julie-murphy/

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    • Krysta says:

      I think YA presents some unique problems for skimming because a lot of YA is plot-driven. You don’t see a lot of beautiful writing in YA, nor do you see many character-driven plots. If readers are finding out what happens next, if they’re seeing a lot of action and some steamy romance, a YA book often seems to have fulfilled its purpose. So there’s not a lot of incentive for readers to slow down and really think about and analyze a book. That’s not to say that there’s nothing interesting to analyze. I just think maybe it’s more difficult than it is with a book like, say, The Remains of the Day, where there’s not one action scene after the other and so you’re naturally going to wonder, “What is this book trying to say? Why is it written like this?” instead of thinking something like, “Yeah! Get him, the villain!” Haha.

      I, too, often see things that seem problematic in books and not Goodreads reviewers seem to mention it. Dance of Thieves, for instance, comes to mind. I think just about everyone in the book is morally depraved, but the book doesn’t analyze that, just focuses on getting its two main characters together as a couple. And so most of the reviews focus on that, too.

      And that’s understandable. When people read for pleasure, they often don’t want to think critically about a book. I know plenty of people who think thinking about a book ruins the experience. Who wants to have spent 400 pages swooning over a romance only to have someone tell them the romance is problematic? They’re just looking for escapism, not what they think is a mini literature lecture.

      At some point, however, I think I may have lost much of my ability not to read everything critically. Even if I enjoy something in the moment, I start picking it apart once I’ve finished. That can be a good thing or a really annoying thing.

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      • Grab the Lapels says:

        Another question I have is why YA must have romance. Since I started blogging I have met SO many people who are either asexual or do not want any kind of relationship. When I was in high school and DID want a relationship, it always felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. I mean, I didn’t plan to develop a high school relationship into something that carried into adulthood, so the focus on having a date for the sake of “fitting in” ate up a lot of my time.

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        • Krysta says:

          I have no idea. I think there are many readers who would appreciate YA with no romance or little romance. I certainly know people who are asexual or not interested in relationships. It would be nice for them to see themselves reflected in a book, instead of seeing every girl have at least two guys chasing her. And there are plenty of readers who would just like something different, a book focused on friendship or family. But somehow those books are always MG books.

          Yeah, the other thing about YA is that they often imply that the relationships are forever or heading towards marriage. Statistically, I’m not sure that the majority of first-time teen romances develop into marriage. So I think that’s unrealistic.

          Of course, teens in a relationship (or, probably anyone) aren’t generally thinking, “Yeah, there’s no way this relationship will last.” It FEELS like it could be forever. So I get YA wanting to reflect that. But I think it would be interesting if more books had protagonists getting over break-ups or if longer fantasy series had the protagonist dating more than one guy. She finds out Guy ! and she aren’t compatible, have different values, whatever, and then she breaks up with him and over time finds someone else. I’d read that.

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          • Grab the Lapels says:

            This sounds stupid, but I wonder why YA romance series don’t have a breakup in the second book. It’s more realistic. The first book could be the characters coming together and the second book be them realizing they’re going to head off to college in different states, or whatever, and that staying together is actually a hindrance to growth at an important time in life. This sounds weird, but it’s something I enjoyed about The Princess Diaries movies. She has the crush in movie one, they decide to be friends, she gets older and then falls in love.

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            • Krysta says:

              That’s a good point! I think a break-up in the second book could work really well. Of course, fans might be upset. But I think art often challenges us. And sometimes doesn’t give us the pat happy ending we were looking for. But that doesn’t mean another happy ending isn’t in store! After all, breaking up with someone is not the end. It’s just part of the journey and it, I suspect, happens to most people who date.

              Good point about The Princess Diaries, too! I think it’s great a story can show someone moving on from a break-up and finding someone else.

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  13. Kelly Brigid says:

    Lovely discussion! I try not skim read often, but every blue moon, there’ll be a book I struggle to finish, so I may gloss over a few passages. I definitely agree that one of the beauties of reading slowly, is being able to pay attention to the poise and writing that truly make up the book. 💕

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    • Krysta says:

      I think glossing happens! I sometimes skim popular nonfiction books where they repeat a lot of information. They seem to think you’re going to skip around, but if you read in order it gets annoyingly redundant. And I sometimes find myself skimming when I’m bored. At which point I need to decide if I need to reread or if I’m going to slow down a bit and see if the book has gotten any better and if it is worth my time. When I’m really enjoying a book, however, I don’t want to skim! I want to savor every moment.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Gayathri Lakshminarayanan says:

    I am just the opposite. I like books I can fly through and get it done. But also, I remember those books that made me slow down to enjoy them like the Book thief and the Virgin Suicides. Great post, will be sharing it soon!

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    • Krysta says:

      I think there’s something to be said for a quick, fun read. Sometimes I fly through graphic novels. And the nice thing is that I can always go back for a reread. And I always see something I didn’t see before!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Olga Polomoshnova says:

    It’s great to see a slow-reading-appreciation post. I love slow reading! This way it gives you a chance to enjoy the taste of the book, to discover many intricacies of the plot. It’s not about the quantity, but about the quality of reading, and I’d rather read a few books, but slowly. Besides, my books of choice seem to always be those demanding a slow speed of reading: Tolkien, myths, legends, books on language and philology are not to be skimmed through.

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  16. Eustacia | Eustea Reads says:

    I have always been a fast reader (even before starting book blogging), which means that for me to fully take in a book, I need to read it several times. There’s definitely something to be said for slowing down/going back and taking in all the details!

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  17. Jordann @thebookbloglife says:

    Oh my this post totally resonated with me. I think I’m a fast reader but where I’m falling down is my job demands quite a lot from me and I struggle with making time for reading. So my reading has definitely slowed down!

    So thank you for this wonderful post!

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    • Krysta says:

      Definitely! Life circumstances can reading more difficult! I think I sometimes appreciate reading more when I’ve been busy, but can finally settle back into a good book.

      Like

  18. readeroasis says:

    This is a really great post. I’ve always been the type of reader to binge read a book in a day or two, but then I wait a few days before I start a new book. I think it’s because I get a book hangover every time I finish a novel and I always want to savor how I felt when reading and why I loved it so much.

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  19. anhdara13 says:

    This is a good point! I know I’ve skimmed some books more than actually read them – especially ones I want to finish but am not really enjoying – but generally I try to take my time with books, sometimes even going back to read paragraphs if I feel like I missed something. Reading slowly makes me fall in love with books more.

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  20. saraletourneau says:

    *nods her head* I also prefer to take my time when I’m reading a book. I still get through a lot of books in a year (anywhere between 50 and 60), but it’s nowhere near the 100+ milestone that several of my friends try to make. And I’m fine with that. It’s a comfortable pace, and it allows me to immerse myself in the story and world and get to know the characters. Funny thing is, I was talking to a friend about reading habits the other day, and he was blown away by the number of books I read in a year! So the “speed” of reading can also depend on each person’s perspective of what’s fast or slow reading.

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    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, I think reading pace is relative! I actually read fairly quickly, more quickly than many people I know. But there are times when I find myself going too fast and needing to slow down! So I think it’s just a matter of finding what works for you!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Katie Wilkins (@DoingDewey) says:

    I never skim, but I still feel like my natural reading speed is to go as fast as possible, even though I think I could get more out of many books by spending more time with them. Blogging definitely makes me feel more pressure to continue to read books at this speed, so I can constantly have something new to review. Plus I have so many books I want to get to! I’m working at slowing down this year though and I’ve really enjoyed reading some books that are challenging enough that they’ve forced me to slow down.

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    • Krysta says:

      I think reading speed can be relative! I read pretty fast compared to some people I know. But sometimes I read too fast for my own comprehension! XD Then I know it’s time to reread and slow down.

      And yes! I always have a huge list in my mind of books I want to read and I want to read as much as possible to get through them all. Of course, it never happens, because I always find more books to read!

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  22. Ashleyhouck says:

    I was told that I should have gone to school for literature and gotten a job reading it because I always have my nose stuck in a book. But I feel that would have ruined the entire experience for me. I like to truly enjoy what I’m reading. Sometimes I re read a chapter multiple times because it has really stuck with me.

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