I read an average of 2-3 books per month. I know I read more than most people and less than many. A good place to be, right? But sometimes, when I go on my Goodreads feed- I see an update from a former English teacher of mine, I go a little green. Her Goodreads ‘bookshelf’ has more than 5 times the expanse of mine- and counting. Now I don’t regularly update my Goodreads, and I’m sure some books fall through the cracks for her too. But still, the disparity of actual reading is the same, I believe.
I don’t read only books. I’m also a terrible addict of short stories- I hound The New Yorker and The Atlantic for these. I also read blogs, articles — especially the longform ones and magazines. And, I am not professionally even close to the literary world. I am an engineer in the petroleum industry, where the wheels are turning 24×7. I am working at the office for nearly 12 hours a day and must be available for the rest 12- that is the profile. The weekly day-off comes with no guarantee either. So I think I should be content with my reading score. But then, every time I see my English teacher update her Goodreads, I feel a little stab of disappointment. So, on several occasions, I have gone online searching for ‘how to read more books’ or ‘how to be a fast reader’ or‘how to increase reading speed’.
Several websites point to ‘speed-reading’- which involves meticulous techniques like using your finger to point words as you read, or using a pen with its cap on to ‘underline’ words as you read. These help you in pacing yourself uniformly and not get stuck in an endless loop on a sentence or paragraph because of distraction.
Then there are those gems of advice- ‘don’t read it all’. Some even claim that an average book has at best two ideas worth reading. Read those- chuck the rest. What pompous disregard!
Another sect of speed-readers advise you to keep in mind what you want from the book. In my humble opinion, this goes against the fundamental tenet of reading. Every book shapes my thinking, my outlook on life in its own way. To wedge it in an expectation before reading would be limiting my own self in a way.
I am not judging anyone who speed-reads according to these principles. But to read, there cannot be any rules. I cannot read Look Homeward, Angel at the same pace as I read Harry Potter. Or One Hundred Years of Solitude at the same pace as The Fault in Our Stars. And one mighty well shouldn’t. Books are like little pools of wisdom in your hand that you soak- some are deeper and need more time to be soaked.
I think there is really one way to read:
However you like.
At whatever pace I may read, I can only hope to take in and away from it as much as I can.