On Not Being a Speed Reader

Objectively speaking, I am one of the bigger readers in my group of friends, yet I’ve never to my knowledge cracked the threshold of reading 100 or more books in a year. I’ve always put this down to my reading speed, the fact that I rack up books not by reading quickly, but by reading often.

When I came across a reading speed assessment on Galleycat (linked here and to the image below), I was sure I’d be on the low end of the scale, and, for an avid reader, I am, just edging out the US national average. All in all, the fact that it will take over 35 hours for me to read War and Peace confirmed my suspicions.

speed reading

There’s a part of me that will always envy the number of books a speed reader can make it through, if only because of how much it would help reduce my To Be Read pile. But I’ve never felt badly about my reading speed, not too badly anyway. When it comes to pastime pleasures, I’m more tortoise than hare. I like to eke them out, to savour, close my eyes over a mouthful of chocolate. I write marginalia, I underline, read a beautiful sentence four or five times. I’m not afraid to spend ten minutes parsing.

This doesn’t make my approach better than a speed reader’s, or vice versa.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter how you read, what format, genre or speed. What matters is whenever or however you do read that you find what you’re looking for in it, whether its knowledge, beauty, fellow-feeling or the magic space where these three meet.

Liz Gillett

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