The Slow Reader

How slowly do you read?

Does it vary depending on the type of text you’re reading? Whether it’s on paper, a computer screen, a phone?

I try not to have too many books on the go at any one time. Currently the main two I’m reading are The Art Of Photography by Bruce Barnbaum and Pema Chodron’s Comfortable With Uncertainty.

Both are challenging reads in different ways, and I’ve re-read sections of both as I’m going. As such, neither are books that can be raced through.

My progress has been slow, but satisfying.

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With most things I choose to spend my time on, I tend to feel if they’re important enough to commit time to in preference to other activities, I may as well give them my full attention, and immerse myself as best as I can.

Which I realise means there isn’t really anything I read quickly these days (ie speed read, skim, or just skip large chunks of).

Of course the slower you read, the less you get through.

If I read at twice the speed I could cover twice as many words. But at what cost?

(As an offshoot thought, I’ve just realised that about half the music I listen to currently is at half speed or less. Because you can’t slow the pace of your own listening as you can the pace of your reading, I’ve found other ways to, mostly via a fun app called Music Speed Changer, or YouTube’s handy speed setting, or videos already slowed and uploaded. Try searching “slow 800%” on YouTube, relax, and enjoy.)

It seems as I get older, I get slower, but with all the positive benefits that come with it.

Put simply, greater immersion, and heightened enjoyment.

What about you? What speed do you read at, and what causes it to vary?

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too. If you’re interested, this is what I’m into right now.

13 thoughts on “The Slow Reader”

  1. At age 51 I’m starting to feel the slowness set in, the *desire* to slow down and do things more deliberately. But in my line of work the youngsters keep racing around that that behavior gets praised.

    1. Well at least you can control the pace more in your non-work life.

      Maybe a different way of describing this is we’re becoming ever more mindful and discerning in what we choose to spend our time on. Then making the most of those activities we’ve chosen.

      Thanks as always for your input Jim.

  2. Dan, I remember recently you saying your blog wasn’t only about photography and recently cycling it was about your life and I along with others had to disagree as the main focus was definitely always photography and I thought it was a photography blog. now this post is definitely off onto a different topic. Love it with me being a librarian and a reader. I became a slow reader after my breakdown where I lost the ability to read much and had to go back to reading children’s books and simple things. No lap top back then. I love reading slowly. I read about 20 or so books at a time as love going from topic to topic on and offline. xoxo susanJOY

    1. Hi Susan, yes there’s plenty of photography related posts here, and will continue to be, as it’s something important to me that I enjoy doing and talking about.

      This post is related, in that I read books about photography (amongst other things), and noticed my pace of reading has slowed.

      Glad to hear you’re a fellow slow reader! I know from way back about your history as a librarian and love of books.

      I think because I always had plenty of books and was encouraged to read as a child, they’re a normal, no more than that, a comforting, part of daily life.

      I couldn’t handle 20 at a time though! : )

  3. Ah, to hearken as closely and carefully to the words as the writer put into crafting them. An unequal bargain, as the effort repays, a thousand times over.

    1. Excellent point William.

      I think this theory underpins much of my reading now.

      I remember a time perhaps seven, even ten years ago, where I had Tumblr blogs myself and followed maybe a hundred or more other Tumblr blogs. They were more focused on images and snippets of writing rather than anything longer, but I remember swiping through dozens a day. The novelty wore off after a while, it all started to become one massive generic blur (much like Instagram feels when I’ve tried that more recently) and I started unsubscribing, until I finally gave up all of them.

      Just a few days ago I trimmed down the WordPress blogs I follow, now under 20 again. This is enough that there’s probably a new post a day from someone or other, and I read virtually all of them.

      What this means of course is that I’ve cut it down only to blogs I want to read, not those are that good, but not great.

      Which in turn encourages the kind of slow, attentive reading I like and talk about above.

      It does a disservice to the author to skim through their work, when I know as a writer myself the effort and thought and discipline that goes into maintaining a blog.

      Better in my mind not to follow a blog at all, than to follow and only read every two or three posts, and even then not with much commitment. Find instead the ones you really enjoy and give them your finest reading eyes and thinking mind!

  4. I have the attention span of a gnat coupled with impatience and yet love to read. For me it depends on what it is. The news, I tend to skim read and in truth am probably only doing it because I think I should (my husband is sort of in that world). A trashy holiday chick romance can be read within two days. A book on history (WW2 mainly) or anything on exploration (Shackleton etc) I will read slowly and carefully and love every page. And self help books I either devour or are thrown across the room.

    1. Katie, thanks for your thoughts!

      I think our attention span can vary, depending on how interesting and engaging we find whatever we are doing/reading.

      I’m similar with you on the news, I generally avoid it almost entirely, but occasionally read a few brief snippets to stay at least slightly informed.

      I really struggle to read anything in the “trashy” category. I just think I could be spending my time reading something more valuable. Or doing something else. But I know the purpose of reading such books isn’t for enlightenment and education!

      Some books I find you just have to read slowly or hardly anything sinks in!

      1. And here’s the odd thing, the more I push myself to read better books, the more irritating I find the trashy chick stuff. Honestly, some of it could be written by a child! Then I berate myself for being pompous as frankly I’m thoroughly uneducated! However, I still remain tempted but am often (but not always!) disappointed.

        1. I’m aware I can sometimes sound very snobby about certain things (probably much more offline than on!) myself. I don’t know, I don’t think every book we read has to be life changing, but just not one we’ll regret and feel remorseful about when we finish it. Like a quick trashy meal. Or similar relationship!

          1. If I can’t get beyond the first couple of chapters, it’s never going to be read. Then I feel as though I’ve wasted money and I loathe wasting money with a passion.

    2. Ditto on the wasting money Katie. But worse than giving up after two chapters of a book you realise you don’t like, is slogging through it to end, resenting every moment because you could be doing something else. Like reading a book you do enjoy.

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