Sunday, February 1, 2015
Slow Reading as Part of Our Reading Regimen
One part of reading I miss as I am immersed in my Phd studies is leisure reading. I was reminded of this as I was reading a segment in Louise DeSalvo’s book, The Art of Slow Writing. In it she has a chapter on slow reading. Growing up slow readers were considered those who had trouble reading. Her chapter takes an important look at a type of reading – reading slowly. I find myself with my classes for my doctorate having to speed read through journal articles. Of course my statistics book I read slowly as I am not keen on numbers, so I need to take my time to learn the information. That is a part of what she is getting at but there is more to slow reading.
She starts off the chapter discussing Bill Gates, reading habits. She mentions how he regularly takes reading retreats each year. I looked into what she was saying through an internet search and found out Bill Gates is an avid reader. Most articles mentioned the week away is called a “think week”. This is where Mr. Gates secludes himself from his family and workplace in a restful retreat setting for a week. He uses the week to read papers of ideas from his employees and other readings. I like both terms but I prefer how Louise DeSalvo describes it as a reading retreat as he is secluding himself away for the purpose of reading. Of course “think week” is a good term as well as he takes breaks from his reading to think and reflect over what he reads. The idea is very appealing to me as a Bookhead.
The idea of slow reading fits well with the retreat idea. Taking the time to savor what is being read be it a novel or nonfiction work of literature can be beneficial. I miss too often having a relaxed time to sit and read among my reading for studies and reading for my work as a professor and counselor. Thankfully I am down to just a few classes and my dissertation left on my Phd in psychology. That should free up time for enjoyable slow reading. Of course I do enjoy my work and study reading as I am a Bookhead. Any reading is enriching but I do look forward to more free time to read books I really want to slowly immerse myself into the material or story.
Louise DeSalvo mentions that writers should be readers. In the short chapter on slow reading she shares thoughts from the author, Henry Miller. She shares how Miller was a proponent of slow reading in that he took about a year to read Thomas Mann’s, The Magic Mountain. Her comments about him makes me want to read his, The Books in My Life. Reading slowly allows us to delve into the minute details and truly ponder and meditate on what the author is trying to say. The best thought she shared from Miller about reading is a quote from him that leisurely reading opens up, “a new life, (filled with) new fields of adventure and exploration.” One way to enjoy a better spiraling upwards life is through slow reading so as to learn new ideas for new life directions.
I can imagine the benefits of slow reading from even being more relaxed and allowing the body to be calm from the day’s pressures. Taking even 30 minutes for a slow reading break with a book you enjoy can help ease the tension of the day.
Going back to the idea of the reading retreat, how much could we improve our lives is we took a mini reading vacation to expand our mind and thinking.
Do you need to take a full week like Bill Gates? I know I like the idea and can see myself trying it out in the future. I even foresee myself using breaks between my Phd classes to do a reading retreat on my dissertation research articles I have accumulated. Also make use of your local library for a reading retreat. Many libraries have reading study rooms. Maybe take a reading retreat day at your library. Reserve a study room and select some reading material to work through for a day. See what new adventures in your mind and life occur from savoring your reading in this way.
Reflection: What do you think about Bill Gates’ “Think Week” concept? How would you do a reading retreat? What are some books or reading materials you would use on such a retreat?