The problem with reading is that books go by too quickly. Or am I reading too fast?
I’ve always been a fast reader. I taught myself to read at age two, which sounds more impressive than it is. A bored toddler will do ANYTHING for entertainment, and I probably figured out that it was much more entertaining than listening to grown-ups. Come to think of it, I still feel that way…
Most of the books available to me were also for grownups. I cut my teeth on Reader’s Digest Condensed Books and had more than one steamy romance novel ripped out of my hands for reasons I would only discover later. Gradually I gained more children’s books, of the Dr. Seuss and Little Golden Books variety.
I was notorious at the local library. The juvenile books were color-coded by reading level. I zipped through yellow, blue, and red, then got special permission from the beaming librarians to access the chapter books. Later I became the only kid allowed to venture across the Sacred Threshold to the section of the library reserved for adults.
(Tips on how to ingratiate yourself to librarians: Always be super-polite, never put books away on the wrong shelves, and don’t try to sneak in snacks when they’re not looking. Asking them for recommendations will get you bonus points, but you really start unlocking the achievements when you start recommending books to them.)
My tastes gravitated from an initial childhood love of mysteries (Nancy Drew! Trixie Belden!) toward fantasy and science fiction. I think that’s when I started to speed-read. I wasn’t trying to race through the books. I kept finding series that were so addictive that I couldn’t wait to get to the next one.
It’s probably Mercedes Lackey’s fault. I was barely thirteen, and what was the first book I encountered in the fantasy genre? A novel about a brown-haired teenage girl who is ostracized by her family, loves to read, and bonds to a magical white not-horse with a flowing silver mane that spirits her away to a new life. Oh, like I was ever going to be able to resist THAT. Especially since the second fantasy series I read was Pern…
In high school I read a novel a day. Time wasn’t a problem given my absolute lack of social life. I got busted by a substitute science teacher once. He made me hand over the book, took one look at it and said, “I can’t punish a student for reading Isaac Asimov in physics class.” Thank you, Foundation’s Edge!
But, looking back, I have to wonder if I was reading too fast. Sometimes I missed things that I picked up on later, which worked fine for Valdemar and Pern since I read the covers off both series. Books I only read once, I probably missed the nuances.
This came to mind recently as I finished reading George R. R. Martin’s A Song Of Ice And Fire (aka Game Of Thrones). It was the first fantasy series I picked up during my sabbatical and I figured I should check it out, given what a HUGE Beauty and the Beast fan I remain to this day (except for season 3 thankyouverymuch).
GRRM is not easy reading. It’s not necessarily even pleasant reading. I had to take my time, puzzle things out, try to remember which characters were allied with whom at any particular moment. Part of that is GRRM, because Westeros is an incredibly expansive and detailed universe. Part of it is lack of familiarity. I’m older, with more distractions, and I find that I miss too much if I read unfamiliar things fast.
Other things I still devour. At the moment I’m reading Lackey’s Five Hundred Kingdoms for the first time, and sprinting through it. But then, that’s Mercedes Lackey. She’s one of my favorite authors and I am used to her style. It’s the same with Pern even though Todd McCaffrey is now writing it. I know the universe, I’m comfortable in it. I can read quickly and still get the most out of the book, especially knowing I will be rereading it along with the rest of its siblings in the series.
Do you find you read faster or slower depending on what you’re reading? Do you consume your favorite series like candy or do you savor them slowly? Share in the comments!