Is It Possible To Read A Book Too Fast?

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!

Living In A Fantasy World (Or How I Spent My Sabbatical)

Six months ago when I went on sabbatical, my friends and colleagues wondered what I was doing and why, upon my return, I changed the focus of my business. The official party line was that I decided to move away from IT support to concentrate on writing about business and technology. Which is true… but that’s not the whole story.

The reality is, I spent my sabbatical fighting darkspawn with only my mage staff and a few trusty friends for company. I’ve traveled Westeros from South to North, and looked upon the icy Wall and the wildling hordes beyond. I traveled through time – well, I always do that, but this was to attend the wedding of River Song. I cried my eyes out over the loss of our beloved Sarah Jane, Elisabeth Sladen, and laughed myself silly over the ending of Torchwood: Miracle Day. In other words, I flung myself headlong into my favorite genres: fantasy and science fiction.

Sometimes you approach a crossroads in life and have to make a choice. I enjoyed my job as a freelance computer consultant, and in some ways I’m still doing it. But there was something missing in my life. I didn’t have time to read or watch my favorite sf shows. It got so bad there were NEW PERN BOOKS I HADN’T READ. I couldn’t let a travesty like that continue. (And if you don’t know what Pern is, drop everything and go read some Anne McCaffrey. Right. Now.)

So I decided to rediscover what I loved about sf/f, especially fantasy fiction. I attacked my long-neglected reading list and found out why everybody thinks George R. R. Martin is the best epic fantasy writer of our time. I began playing Dragon Age, fell in love with it, read two of the books and watched the DA: Redemption series on the Web. I subscribed to blogs, attended webinars, followed people on Twitter. And I was astonished at how much fun it all was!

And how much I missed writing fiction. I meant to work on some stories during my sabbatical, but I found it difficult to concentrate. In retrospect I needed the down time to mull over what I wanted to do with my professional life. I’m glad I took the time, because my fiction is the better for it and now I’m ready to throw myself at writing full-force. This blog is the expression of my journey. I’ll be discussing things I’m enjoying in the genre, plus seeking and offering advice for fellow writers. And hopefully down the road I’ll have some publication details to share!

If you’ve found your way here from one of my other two blogs (Tech Tips and 73adoptee), welcome. I assume you’re here because you were curious about what I’ve been up to, or wanted to figure out why in the name of sanity I’ve chosen to run THREE blogs (and believe me, some days I ask myself the same question). I’ve created a handy list that explains the blogs I write and how to find me online.

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