Slow Reading


Many of you may have heard of the slow movement, especially as it relates to food, parenting and travel, but in recent times, slow reading has been added to the list of things to enjoy in a more leisurely fashion.

Slow reading is related to ‘deep reading’ or ‘close reading’ which is often encouraged in academic circles as a way to ‘fully comprehend and appreciate a complex text’ (thank you Wikipedia).

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However, the recent slow reading approach is more about savouring the experience of reading. As our days and years spin by faster and faster and our daily lives get cluttered with digital technologies, many people are looking to take back their time – to slow down, unwind and disconnect from their devices.

I’m currently participating in a slow reading readalong. With a group of fellow bloggers and tweeters, we have undertaken to read Victor Hugo’s classic Les Miserables – all 365 chapters – one chapter a day throughout 2018.

It has been a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable experience so far.

Some of the chapters are only one or two pages long. It has been an exercise in self-restraint and patience to not read ahead. The advantage of these shorter chapters, though, is that if you miss a day, it’s easy to catch up.

Most of the readers involved have read the book before or have at least seen the stage production or one of the movies. A few, like me, have never seen or read any version of the story.

Slow reading has allowed all of us to savour Hugo’s language, research and discuss archaic French terms and compare translations. All the nuances of character development and plot are teased out. Understanding and empathy for each character is being fully realised. Those who know what’s coming up appreciate the set up, as those of us with very little foreknowledge, experience the thrill and shock of new discoveries.

Most of us (participating in the #LesMisReadalong) generally read more than one brief chapter a day, so we have found that we are supplementing our one LesMis chapter with bio’s on Hugo, French history books, other translations and a few brave souls are even tackling some of the chapters in French. The intellectual stimulation is amazing!

We have quickly discovered that there is an art to slow reading.

  • Pick a time of day that works best for you is important so that you don’t feel rushed.
  • Create a little ritual (read over breakfast on your front porch, with your morning coffee or snuggled up in bed late at night) to make the time feel special.
  • Switch off devices and take a slow, deep breath to clear your head space of any clutter before starting.
  • Read some sections aloud to really savour the language.
  • Make notes of any unusual words, poetic phrases or curious titbits.
  • Allow connections and deeper meanings to evolve.
  • Explore symbolism, themes, foreshadowing and other literary devices.
  • It’s the journey, not the destination.
  • Linger, delve, meander, luxuriate, play, relish…

But the best thing I have found so far about slow reading, is that it feels good. Really, really good.

It’s not too late to join in.

About braysbooksblog

Independent booksellers since 1969.
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5 Responses to Slow Reading

  1. mphadventuregirl says:

    For the past couple of years, I had to read classics in between semesters because of school so I had to read multiple chapters a day when it comes to the classics. I have read Don Quixote, Tale of Two Cites, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, Hunchback of Notre Dame and my perusal favorite, Les Misérables. I would love to read Les Misérables again, but not in a limited amount of time. Last time I read Les Misérables, I read it in less than one summer. I would also would love to read Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations because I did love them, but couldn’t figure out why.

  2. This is one of the few read-a-little-bit-every-day readalongs/challenges that has actually worked for me. I’ve tried reading the Bible daily without success, but it’s working with Les Mis. You’re right, slow reading feels really good.

    • I think that Hugo’s habit of writing about every little detail and titbit to make it seem like real life, works particularly well with slow reading. You can savour these details instead of skimming over them to get to the action.

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