... in slow reading

Published on 22 May 2019
A man reading on a bench by the sea

When I was a child and a teenager I used to devour books but as I have got older I've found that I can't read so much any more. I think this is partly to do with studying literature at university and having to read with a pencil in my hand and questions in my mind. 

I think it's also to do with modern life though: the power of the internet, smartphones and social media has contracted my attention span I am sure. And then again, I just feel I'm not so capable of relaxing enough to read a book, because there is often other stuff that needs to be done. The times I read the most are on long train journeys and on holiday. I occasionally take a few weeks to read a book but that's only the case when I'm reading a murder mystery or something of that sort. For the most part it takes me about two, three, even six months to read a book. In one case, I think it took me a year! That means that the book is a companion through whatever is going on in my life. 

For some time I resented this, especially when I hear others talking about how much they read or I see someone really engrossed in a book. But I've read a few books in the last few years that have taken me months to read but really deeply changed my perspective on things and have taken me on a real journey. Strangely, the books I have in mind writing this are also all non-fiction. When I was young I had no interest in non-fiction or biography, but now I seem to find them deep and engaging. 

When I think about my reading of these books the fact I've read them over a long time period really means that I have savoured them, allowed their words to drip through me, like a slowly percolated filter coffee. It is the difference between listening to a fast piece of dance music which is over in 2 minutes and a symphony.

St Ignatius wrote in his Spiritual Exercises:  'For it is not so much knowledge that fills and satisfies the soul, but the intimate understanding and relish of the truth.'

I recommend slow reading.