‘Slow Reading’

Slow reading is the intentional reduction in the speed of reading, carried out to increase comprehension or pleasure. The concept appears to have originated in the study of philosophy and literature as a technique to more fully comprehend and appreciate a complex text. More recently, there has been increased interest in slow reading as a result of the slow movement and its focus on decelerating the pace of modern life.

 

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Nicki at The Bliss of Solitude, wrote a wonderful piece on her year-long reading of Thoreau’s Walden and how the effect of reading two pages per day changed her as she walked familiar paths and trails. She says, “it was the slow seeping in of Thoreau, his tireless and minute observations of Walden Pond, Walden Woods, and his awareness and sensitivity to the sights and sounds within that redirected my attention to observation and contemplation.”

Something resonated for me on this practice of slow reading, although Nicki’s profound experience rather intimidated me!  Nevertheless, I decided to choose my own year-long project.

When I participated in The Emerald City Book Review’s WitchWeek last November, it was with scanty knowledge of King Arthur and the stories connected with him. I chose to write a piece on one small aspect of the legends, The Round Table, which was not only enjoyable to research, but piqued my interest to read more. But where to start?

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I chose Sir Thomas Malory’s, Le Morte D’Arthur, because it has been a foundational work on King Arthur and the various people and legends of Camelot and the Holy Grail for writers and artists throughout the centuries and its size lends itself to a purpose such as this. Reading 3 pages a day from my Modern Library Classics edition means I should finish shortly before the end of the year.

My pattern has been to walk after reading the 3 pages contemplating a theme or two and then making a few notes in a journal. I find I am retaining what I learn day to day. So far so good!

 

Have you heard of the Slow Movement in general or the Slow Read in particular? Have you tried it?

And if you are curious, it’s still January and still time to choose your own book!

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42 thoughts on “‘Slow Reading’

  1. I do feel sometimes I rush my books, partly in an effort to get lots read as I have such a mindset that there are so many books I haven’t read and never will. While I don’t think I could deliberately hold back to reading a few pages a day especially if its a great read or conversely if I am struggling to understand the concepts. My memory might also fail me and lead me into rereading too much. Perhaps I should try it with a much loved and read classic that I will pick up nuances and atmospheres I missed before – I’ll let you know 🙂

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  2. What an interesting idea! I’ve been trying to read a little more slowly, but for me, that looks like taking a few more notes and still finishing about two books a week. I like that what you’re doing doesn’t require slowing all of your reading, but could be done in parallel as you engage deeply with one work while still reading other books as usual. That makes me much more interested in trying it out 🙂

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    1. “I like that what you’re doing doesn’t require slowing all of your reading, but could be done in parallel as you engage deeply with one work while still reading other books as usual.”

      This is exactly right. There is no way I would do this with all my reading! But for this particular work that is jam packed with details and information on every page, information I want to know, I find I am retaining a lot of it.

      It’s too early to tell, yet, but if this goes as planned, I might do this with one book every year. We’ll see!

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  3. I had planned to slow down with my reading this year but there are just too many books I want to read and reread, so I always tend to have 4-5 on the go at a time. Hopefully one of these years I can try and slow down!

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    1. I don’t think it’s feasible to read all my books like this! But for something complicated, or for one I reallllly want to understand, this might help. About a week in now and I cannot see reading Le Morte D’Arthur as I would a regular book. Each page is jam packed with information.

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  4. I would love to embrace Slow Reading, but have to check myself constantly as I tend to speed up without realising, not to mention reading several books at a time. Your post reminded me of the Christian practice of ‘Lectio Divina’ or divine reading. Where the monks read a small passage of scripture, then meditate, pray and contemplate on it. A practice that I think would suit many other kinds of books too. Walden is on my list to read this year – I will try to read it slowly 🙂

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    1. Hi Kim. I have heard of lectio divina. But I have always thought it was for the Bible or other sacred scriptures. I never thought about trying it out with other types of books.

      In thinking about your comment, who is to say what is ‘sacred,’ but our own selves? Certainly, for some, Walden and other Thoreau works could be considered sacred!

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  5. I am familiar with the Slow Food Movement but not the Slow Read Movement. They are probably connected though. The emphasis seems to be on slowing down, whether it’s the food we eat or the books we read…just slow down the pace of our lives a bit. I totally agree! And your project sounds like a wonderful idea!
    I wish you much joy with this project!

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    1. Yes! When I thought about Nicki’s post one of the things it brought to mind was the slow food movement and I wondered if they were related. Seems they are as well as many other aspects of our modern life that we just burn through. I am presently investigating ‘slow coffee.’ 🙂

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        1. The slow movement is new to me. I mainly decided to read Walden slowly because I have a terrible memory and I thought it would help seal it in. 🙂 I love coffee though and I was interested in the revival of some types of preparation – like the pour over method – but ultimately stuck with my trusty electric percolator. It takes 8 minutes to brew and just this morning I was standing by drumming my fingers on the countertop waiting for it to finish, so maybe slow coffee isn’t for me. 😊

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          1. Ha Ha! We have an electric percolator, too, and we love It! I haven’t looked up “Slow coffee” yet, but I’m guessing the beans are roasted slowly resulting in a cleaner taste and smoother finish.(I’m going to have to look it up today because it may mean something totally different). Dunkin Donuts has their cold brew which is brewed in a similar way though: slowly, over 12 hours, in cold water for a smoother coffee.
            So, if you take a Sunday to enjoy your slow coffee, you should plan ahead and stop at your local bakery and get some wonderful, fresh, flaky, melt-in-your-mouth, butter croissants! Treat yourself and savor and enjoy your wonderful morning! 🙂

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            1. I am a French press kind of a girl…sometimes drip coffee 🙂

              And yes, these are part of slow coffee, as well as getting good beans that you grind yourself; organic/fair trade where it’s not just you who benefits, but the growers as well. Taking time to prep and savor the cup…and if there’s butter croissants on the table, I’m in!

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              1. Very cool! We always grind our own beans (although they are not always organic). It sounds like it’s about making conscious, eco-friendly choices, that benefit both people and our planet, and then slowing down long enough to enjoy it. I love this…it’s a wonderful focus!

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  6. Brian Joseph

    This is such an interesting concept. I try to read carefully but not as carefully as you describe here. Of course one will never read any significant number of books this way. I may look further into this and I may even give it a try.

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  7. I think this is an interesting concept Laurie and one that is in line with the times. It is certainly a kick against the emphasis these days on speed reading and meeting reading challenges in terms of numbers of books read per month/year. Naturally it involves choosing the right book from the right genre, and cultivating the right mindset. As I focus on non-fiction, some of those books can only be read slowly in order to understand them. You have certainly given me something to think about.
    P.S. I hope you are not reading my comment slowly!

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    1. I understand what you mean about nonfiction needing a slower pace. And I agree.

      I chose this book because when I was doing research, I skimmed through it, recognizing that if I really wanted to understand it I had to slow down. I am enjoying filling my thoughts with it as I walk.

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        1. I do read books twice, but I know what you mean about all the ones waiting to be read the first time!

          I think I’ve read Jane Eyre four times. I have read L.M. Montgomery’s Emily series twice and there are several other titles I’ve read twice. These last few years, though, I have really been concentrating on all the classics I haven’t read.

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  8. A reader who has had a baby has probably been forced to try slow reading, a page or two each day. There are still a few books I read that way, but usually it’s not by choice. It’s because I have something else I’m reading faster while I dip into and out of the slower book. I do enjoy making a book last, occasionally, but not always the ones other people do–I’m reading Ali Smith’s Winter right now, in big, fast gulps.

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  9. What an interesting choice! I look forward to hearing how it goes for you. I’m not familiar with the work, but I think it was a major influence for Steinbeck, who I love.
    I’ve had trouble settling into my own slow reading project this year, but I think I’ve finally settled on a selection of Emerson’s essays. I love your idea of walking right after you read to mull over the text.

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    1. I read Steinbeck’s take on Malory many, many years ago and found it interesting, often wondering how he’d have revised it if he’d had more time on earth. It starts off as more or less a paraphrase, doesn’t it, before becoming more individual with psychological flashes and intriguing turns.

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      1. I’ve read his major works and a few of the minor ones but I’ve yet to read Steinbeck’s comments on Malory. I felt like I should be at least somewhat familiar with the original work first.

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  10. I am soooo bad at slow reading. I tend to skim over parts I am not so interested in and thus miss a ton. I didn’t know about this movement, but in a similar vein I’m doing the Les Miserables chapter-a-day readalong, which has already helped me modify my hasty reading pace.

    I really like your idea of reading, walking, and then journaling. I’ve also been trying a daily Bible reading where I read the same passage for several days before writing in my journal, another way of overcoming my haste to get on with it, and trying to extract more meaning from the text and its connection with my life. I think adding a walk in between the reading and writing steps would be great for me, if only the weather would cooperate (last week 20 below zero, now 50 degrees and torrential rain). Maybe i need a treadmill.

    And I’m so glad your Witch Week research is continuing to bear fruit for you. I’ve never read the Morte D’Artur, but your project will be of great interest to me.

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    1. What a coincidence that in my last post I wrote about how fast I read The Bostonians so I could find out what happens and that I will need to do a reread in the future for all I’m sure I missed. Maybe this experience will show me how to slow down, if just a bit, with my everyday reading.

      The weather can certainly impact a walk. Even here I had to find a substitute for my walk today because it’s over 80 degrees and I can’t walk in heat. So I vacuumed instead while letting the thoughts flow and I am happy to say it worked.

      This last WitchWeek brought a lot to me, but not only that: I think I owe you for introducing me to HP Lovecraft, Sarah Orne Jewett (wow, you’d never think to find those two names in the same sentence) as well as spark my interest the King Arthur tales!

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      1. The ability to juxtapose such eclectic combos are what I really love about our world of book blogging. We’re free to read and write about whatever we want!

        Hm, my house would really benefit if I would clean while I mull over my reading. Another interesting idea to consider. (Though I must say walking would be my preference.)

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  11. A very commendable project, and one I entirely agree with: quality always trumps quantity! And what a work you’ve chosen for 2018, a text I’ve always studied in part but never in its entirety. Witch Week has been a wonderful stimulus, hasn’t it!

    On a related note, and completely coincidentally, I’ve started a new blog at http://pendragonry.files.wordpress.com/about (this page should be explanation enough) on matters Arthurian which you might be interested in for the future!

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    1. I think Pendragonry is a wonderful idea and I just subscribed 🙂

      I think because there is so much information on each page, this text lends itself well to a project such as this. I can’t imagine reading it the regular way I read. And yes, WitchWeek just keeps bringing up new things for me!

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      1. Thanks, Laurie, for subscribing, hope to get some posts up and running soon!

        Which edition of the Malory are you reading? I’ve got the old OUP/Vinaver edition printed when there must have paper shortages the pages are so thin!

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        1. Mine is the 1999 paperback edition from The Modern Library (Random House).

          At just a week in, I think I have chosen the perfect work for this project. There is so much information in the form of people, events, signs and symbols on every page so I would be totally lost if I tried to read several chapters in one sitting.

          One thing that stands out right away after having read Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave recently, is that her Merlin is much nicer and way less manipulative than this one!

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          1. Annotated editions of classics are invaluable: I’m really chuffed with my Norton Critical Editions of things like Classic Fairy Tales and ‘Beowulf’.

            Merlin is a real shapeshifter, isn’t he? So many different interpretations of the character, as much as if not more than Arthur himself!

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