Mission

Bibliophiliac is the space where one passionate, voracious reader reflects on books and the reading life. You will find reviews, analysis, links, and reflections on poetry and prose both in and out of the mainstream.
A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. Franz Kafka

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Big Books, Slow Reading, and Rereading

Slow Reading, Rereading, and Other Reading Quirks

This is the kind of reader I am: I like big books, panoramic books that I can get lost in. Even better are big books that are part of a larger world the writer has fully imagined, like Trollope's Barsetshire and Palliser Series. My favorite book is Middlemarch, and one of the things I love about that novel is the largeness of the book.

I like old-fashioned writers who directly address the reader. You know: Dear Reader. Or, as Trollope often does: I won't tire the reader with further description of Mr. So-and-So's history. I know many contemporary readers don't like this, but I already know I'm reading a book, and I like the writer addressing me directly from beyond the grave. That leads to another thing I like (love might be a better word). I love the fact that I am having a conversation with the writer, that his or her brain and my brain are engaged in a collaboration across cultures and time and even the great divide that separates the living and the dead.

When I really love a book, I always go back and begin reading it again, as soon as I've read the last page. I don't reread the whole thing, but usually the first chapter or so. Then I just sort of wander around in the book, going from chapter to chapter and rereading. Most books of any real value should be read at least twice.

And I love rereading. I mean I really love it. Reading a book just once makes it an aquaintance. If a book means anything to me, I usually start to hanker for a reread. This doesn't help me in my lifelong mission to read all of Anthony Trollope's novels, and it certainly doesn't help me to tackle my TBR pile  bookcase. Just the other day I was in a bookstore and remembered that a certain boy had given me Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano in college--and I read it right away. Now I suddenly had the urge to reread it, so I bought a new copy of a novel that I already read, long, long ago. But I'm a different person now from the girl I was back then. Now I savor long sentences and read them several times over. Besides, I have to see whether the book is really as good as I thought it was then.

All of this makes me seem like a slow reader, even though I know that I read faster than most people--a talent I completely squander. But I find slow reading so much more rewarding than fast reading--even though, when I look over the list of books I've read at the end of a year, it never seems like enough. In between novels and big books, I read short stories (as many as I can) and poems. Another reading quirk I have is that when I read a book that is That Good (the kind that takes off the top of your head) I can't just pick up another book right away. I have to let the book that was That Good continue to work in my brain for awhile.

What reading quirks do you have? Any other slow readers, rereaders, or wandering around in the book readers out there?

9 comments:

bermudaonion said...

It sounds like you're a much more serious reader than I am.

bibliophiliac said...

@bermudaonion-Oh no! That sounds so dreadful! Probably just *too fond of books* and they have gone to my head ;)

Emily said...

I am a bit like you, in that I am a fast reader, but I finish books slowly. I can read very quickly if I need to, and I often have to for class deadlines and the like, but if I have my way I actually prefer to read slowly. I'll read for a bit, then take a break, then come back and read a little more, and that stretches out the reading over a much longer period than if I just sat down and read the thing start to finish. When I was a kid I used to do that, read an entire book in one day with no breaks, but now I prefer to space it out and enjoy it in a more relaxed fashion. I also prefer long books or difficult books, I read almost entirely literary fiction and classics, and that slows my reading compared to if I only read short beach reads. This occasionally makes me a "bad" blogger, in that I only post reviews once or twice a month, but it makes me happy, so that's what matters.
My other reading quirk is that I have to be left alone to read. I don't like reading with people around or with any noise if I can help it. When I was a kid this never bothered me; I could read in public and ignore people who were trying to have a conversation with me if I had to, but now I tend to save my reading for when I can be alone somewhere quiet and comfortable. This quirk is one of the reasons I hate people who talk on the quiet floors of the library.

bibliophiliac said...

@Emily-I do like to be somewhere quiet to read--but I can definitely read among distractions. When I was younger I used to be able to tune out everything around me--that's harder now. I feel like a *bad blogger* sometimes too, because I will spend so much time on one book, and then sometimes not even post about it! In fact, there have been several books that I really loved that I never reviewed or posted about--maybe because getting all my thoughts down seemed too overwhelming. It's good to know there are other deliberately slow readers out there! Given all the books I want to read, it seems heretical!

Bybee said...

What I like about Eliot when she talks to the reader, she doesn't talk down to us.

Bybee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stujallen said...

I read fairly quickly and don't reread but after reading a number of books based on rereading recently I may take a month out next year just to reread some books to I loved before blogging ,all the best stu

bibliophiliac said...

@Bybee--I agree! I'm looking forward to tackling Daniel Deronda...

bibliophiliac said...

@stu-I'll be interested to hear how that goes!