Friday, August 3, 2012

Reading Fast and Slow

Generally I prefer to do things fast. I usually walk fast, drive  too fast, read fast, eat too fast, and I probably talk too fast. Apparently I am not the only one, since everything in the world seems to be getting faster (computers, speed limits, Olympic swimmers, etc). On a recent trip, we were driving cross-country and I was relishing the higher speed limits and technology. My GPS estimated the trip would take 8 hours and 45 minutes. Of course I kept trying to figure how much time I could shave? I set a goal to get there fast, employed the cruise control and made time. Later with my wife at the wheel, I noticed cars flying by. "You know you are only going 50 MPH?' "Yes" she answered. "The speed limit is 70." "It's pretty" she said. I looked outside  and it was pretty, with rolling hills and yellow wildflowers reflecting the sun in a magical way. I said "But we're trying to make time" and she replied, "Dude we're on vacation!"

These polarities of fastness and slowness have been showing up in my life more lately. I have been watching the Olympics. Usually I enjoy the fast events like swimming and bike racing. But I also really appreciate the events in which slower movements are as essential as fast ones, such as in gymnastics, archery and synchronized swimming. One of my favorite blogs recently did an article on living slowly and how it relieves stress. I also recently skimmed over the book, Thinking Fast and Slow in which Nobel-Prize winning author Daniel Kahneman examines two systems of the brain and how one works fast and the other slow. I reserved the book so I can read it more slowly at a later time.

That got me thinking about how I read. I really enjoy books I can read fast. Thrillers like those by Lee Child and Harlan Coben I read fast, usually in a day or two. But other books I deliberately read more slowly. Sometimes it is to think or feel more deeply about the content and how it relates to my world (Like Unbroken and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance). At other times it is to savor the poetic beauty of the language (like Evidence of Things Unseen by Marianne Wiggins, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy or Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. To me the books that are most meaningful over time, books I still think about years later, are the ones I read slowly.

What are some books that you have read more slowly just to savor or think deeply about?


Joel said...

The Shadow of the Wind by CRZ was beautifully written: the language calls for slow digestion, though the plot compels one to zip along, a perfect combo!

Roberta said...

I too am a gobbler of books, so the one I read slowly are the ones I want to LAST. Louise Penny comes to mind. Sometimes I read bits aloud to slow myself down! When I feel that each word is perfectly chosen, or I want to lose myself in the author's world, then I will try to read only a few dozen pages a day. Cloud Atlas was like that. Also my idol Patrick O'Brian.

Linda K. said...

I have to echo Roberta's comment about Louise Penny's books, but I usually read them quickly the first time to solve the mystery and then more slowly the second time around to savor the atmosphere, characters, and setting. (I've read all of her books at least twice.)

Eartha Kitt said...

I read great literary fiction slowly, or more accurately, I read it twice. The first time I read for the story and the second time I read for the language. Examples of authors I read twice are Saul Bellow, Toni Morrison and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Anonymous said...

David, is that a photo of you on the tricycle?

David Whittingham said...

Yes it is me.

And to the one who mentioned Gabriel Garcia Marquez as one to read slowly, I wholeheartedly agree.

Post a Comment

Please leave your comments and suggestions here. Thanks!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.