And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. ~ Kahlil Gibran

Sunday, July 08, 2012

I Read Too Fast

I learned to read early. Both my parents are avid readers, and they were patient enough to read to me often. I don't really remember learning to read, it seems like I always could. Some books were harder than others, but I don't ever remember feeling like I couldn't read something. The only question was if the story was interesting enough for me to put in the effort or not. There were plenty of books I read in my younger years with a Webster's Dictionary on the bed next to me, so I could understand what was going on. The dictionary was a gift from my parents, too. Aren't they wonderful? Maybe most kids wouldn't want a dictionary as a gift, but I loved it. My thesaurus, too, when I got around to my own fumbling attempts at writing.

 I remember, in grade school, I took a "special" reading class. There was always a hint of shame about it, as my advanced reading class was held in the same area of the school that the special education classes were held. I was often teased that I must be stupid to need classes in that part of the school, and yet it didn't seem right to set the kids straight by showing them how simple their reading materials really were.

That's alright.

When I was in about 4th grade, I taught myself speed reading. My greatest aspiration in this life was to read every single thing ever written, and I figured I had better learn to read as fast as possible. After all, there was quite a pile of reading material already in the world, and authors kept making more every day.

Reading has been an escape for me, a joy, and a learning experience. Whenever life gets troublesome (heck, even when life is just dandy), I can always head off to some other world where someone else's problems are bigger than mine, and are resolved by the end of the book. I can travel to far off places, meet exciting characters, experience adventures not available in my present life. Even the shallowest piece of fluff fiction can teach me something, even if it's only what I don't like.

I've even read a book about how to read a book, if that makes any sense. My Sprouts got a kick out of it, too, so I won't be offended if you laugh. The idea was that I wanted to learn how to read a book analytically. I kept thinking I was missing out on themes and symbolism and all those "edjicated" type things. Turns out I wasn't. But at least now I know.

My goals in reading have changed a bit as I got older. I don't think I want to read every single thing ever written any more. I have become more selective, I guess. I still have an impressive "to-read" list, though, and I figure (what with new additions to the list at least every week) it will take me the rest of my life to accomplish it.

Now, having said that, you would think that it would be a good thing for me to read fast. You're probably right. I have seen some examples, recently, of folks who really struggle with reading. It reminded me to be grateful that it comes so easily to me.

On the other hand.....

Sometimes it's frustrating. I no longer actively use my speed reading skills, but I'm able to devour your average novel (light fiction) in about 6-8 hours. That sounds like bragging. It's not. In fact, it's a real pain in the butt. I figure (with my work schedule) I can go through 4-6 novels a week, and still get all my work-work and housework done. That's a lot of books. It's a lot of books  to carry around, it's a lot of books to store, it's a lot of books to buy, it's a lot of books to keep straight in my head. I've mastered the art and skill of reading while cooking, reading while walking, reading while cleaning. Yeah, sometimes I get carried away a little.

I'm only complaining (and not really hard) because so far this weekend I have read 4 novels. 4 novels that were fun and entertaining and..... well, I just wish it would have lasted longer. I know I have piles of books that I can read, but when I read something that I really like I always wish that it didn't have to end. I try, when I'm reading a good book, to slow myself down. I try to savor the experience. And I fail every time. I get swept away in my imagination, and my eyes just dance across the pages. All too soon I'm at the last page, wanting to turn immediately to the first and begin again. Unfortunately, that is unfailingly a mistake, as reading a book a second (or third, or fourth) time without giving it a "rest" is never quite satisfying. Usually, if I give it a month or two between readings, I can rediscover most of the fun, but that breathless anticipation of "what comes next?" is gone after that first reading. Ever after, the book can be a joy to return to in the way a visit with old friends or a vacation to a favored spot can be, but it will never hold that same heady rush.

There is always hope, though. New authors and old are writing stories all the time, and every time I open a new one, there is the chance that this will be the next book I fall in love with.

~....and that's all I have to say about that....~


webb said...

You're playing my song. Ezcept for the speed reading part, this is my story. I love to read pretty much anything or everything, but often so fast that i don't retain so much. But that makes rereading so nice.

Fr. Peter Doodes said...

I read this Barefoot, and thought of you.

“A book is made from a tree. It is an assemblage of flat, flexible parts (still called "leaves") imprinted with dark pigmented squiggles. One glance at it and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, the author is speaking, clearly and silently, inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people, citizens of distant epochs, who never knew one another. Books break the shackles of time, proof that humans can work magic.” Carl Sagan

Anonymous said...

Where did you go?