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Monday, April 28, 2008

Reading Like the Tortoise Instead of the Hare (How Aesop is to Blame For My Slow Reading)

I am an exceptionally slow reader. If I read an entire five page chapter in a thirty minute sitting, I'm pretty pleased with myself. As a lover of literature, this leisurely tortoise stroll of a pace does not make for very effective use of my time. I'm forced to look on in green jealousy as other hare-like readers go jogging by me, juggling multiple books like taunting retired circus clowns.

Of course, there is something to be said for my current tortoise style approach. I will eventually complete every book I pick up, and when I'm reading I'm entirely devoted to that one story, that one author, that one tone - but how many other books do I simply not have time for as a result? This plagues me. I will always feel inadequate when I compare myself to other "well-read" brethren.

I blame Aesop and his silly fable. Slow and steady does not always win the race. However, in thinking about my reading pace, I've boiled it down to a few key contributing factors:

1.) Distractions - You can't deny it. There are a lot of distractions in this modern world, like the easily accessible internet, my ringing cell phone, and the conversation at my favorite coffee place that is just a little too loud. Distractions mean that I'm often reading the same paragraph or sentence over and over. It's a real pace killer.

2.) Time Commitment - At best, I have only an hour and a half of real reading time carved out of every day - an hour of which is on my lunch hour which is sometimes shared with a companion instead of reading or involves many distractions (see above). With all the things I want to accomplish post work, including cooking dinner, exercising, catching up on phone calls, there isn't very much time left in the day for reading.

3.) Narcolepsy - The last thing I do before I go to sleep every night is read in bed. Which means that when I read, I tend to get sleepy. It's a Pavlovian response. I open the book, read a few paragraphs and start to nod off. If the book is exceptionally good, it will keep me awake, but when Neal Stephenson is in a marathon paragraph description of Baroque Paris, I'm usually not getting very far.

I've heard from a lot of people that if you cut out television watching you have more time to read. I'm going to do something different. I'm cutting out my commute.

You read it here folks. No more sitting in traffic. I pledge to commute at least three times a week on the bus, thus allowing me at least an hour a day more to read, giving the environment a break, and my pocketbook a break from gas purchasing. After all, I'd rather my commuter dollars go to the Los Angeles public transportation budget than Exxon Mobile.

This is my pledge. This is my experiment. Look out fellow readers, I'm about to speed past you on the bus!


eloise said...

That is so exciting! Brava to you! I hope you have a good experience on public transit, and that others learn from you as an example.

Anonymous said...

You know it entirely depends on what you're reading. Fun Harry Potter-esque things can of course be read in a sitting (I've seen you do it). I'm a fast reader, but I'm slogging through a Bellow book now. It's like I've forgotten what words look like. Judging from your shelfari, you've long passed me on the reading list.

stu said...

Reading on public transport has its own problems. A friend of mine once made the mistake of trying to do research for a war and security studies essay on a train. Apparently, reading a bunch of books on terrorism and nuclear war attracts some very concerned looks.