When you search slow reading online the first results you will find are related to a reading deficiency. But reading at a slower pace intentionally is nothing negative. However this opinion has a difficult stand in an age where everything has to be efficient and fast. Is slow reading the antidote against busyness?
Speed reading is en vouge
There is no shortage of life hacks, tips and tricks on how to speed read and consume more books. I was always impressed when listening to people online that consume 100 books a year. These individuals often run large second brain setups in obsidian or roam to build their own library of ideas.
It was something I tried to imitate for a while. Continuously the number of books I read year over year rose. Several people I follow on Goodreads.com read a lot more than I do. This motivated me to aim for higher goals and read even more.
More is not always better
But this year I decided to end the race and adjusted my reading goal to fewer books. The realization came to me a while ago that I read a lot more than I use to do, which is great. On the other hand, I don‘t recall a lot of what I have read. There are two reasons for that:
1. Lonely Notes and forgotten Highlights
One reason is that my note taking system was not very efficient. Taking notes and highlighting sentences is great but more important is to use this material later on. To be able to do that, this information has to be personalized and stored properly. This is a process I am still working on and will come back to soon in another blog post.
2. Focus on quantity instead of quality
Another reason was that my focus lay on finishing a large amount of books. This led to skipping parts in books that were not interesting to me. Skipping is fine but when you catch yourself skipping more and more in a book to be able to jump right to the next book, than you have a problem. Sometimes I was just happy to check a book of my list although the learnings from that book were non existing.
Introducing slow reading and its benefits
The goal to read any book is to learn something new. I don‘t need to impress anyone with a huge reading list when in truth little I read was immediately forgotten.
So I ditched the monthly reading goals and instead focus on learnings from books by doing the following:
1. Take the time you need
A book is not always enjoyed the same way. For me there are times when I love to read, other times I just don‘t feel like it. Sometimes a topic interests me, other times I loose focus for a while just to regain it later.
This is a natural process and reading a book this way just feels better and more natural.
2. Let it simmer on low fire
The best meals are often produced in a slow cooker or on a low flame. It takes time but the result speaks for itself. Books should be treated similarly. After reading a book the first thing I do is to let the information simmer in my head for a week. During that time I reflect on what I remember and what stood out for me. After that I go back to my notes and highlights. I clean it all up and summaries the book for me. I use the following template:
- Book in one sentence
- Five ideas that stood out
- key takeaway from the book
- Attachment with all the notes and highlights
Slow reading: the antidote against busyness
Reading without time pressure and reflecting on the things I read feels so much better. Respecting a book by giving it time and thinking about what the author meant always leads to new insights and interesting thoughts.
A lot of impressions can arise from finishing a book but your subconcious needs space and time to do its magic. It is surprising what ideas and thoughts come up days after a book has been put away.
This way of reading a book is similar to meditation. Your mind focuses on one thing but is also allowed to wander. It is the deliberate place where no disturbance from Twitter, Youtube or the phone enters the room the second I have nothing to do.
I feel happier by reading that way. Plus I remember what I read and the mood a book created. Mindfulness reading is the only way to read going forward and I can strongly recommend it to you dear reader.