Monday, December 26, 2011

Learning to read - again...

My thanks to Mark for his post Music to My Eyes, which was the impetus (inspiration?) for this post.

I have read tens of thousands of books over the years.  I read really fast - always have.  I devour books.  A couple years ago, for the first time, someone invited me to join a book club - it was an informal group, mostly folks I work with or that used to work where I work.  About six of us normally participate.  And we talk about the book for maybe 15 minutes and then eat and chat and gossip for another two hours at a usual meeting.  It's lovely. 

I was really nervous about joining a book club - I have read my share of Oprah books (which I rarely have enjoyed) and often flip through the "book club questions" at the back and stare at them blankly - wondering what in the hell does THAT question mean?  But these work friends know me I figured whatever I said would at least entertain them. 

What I learned was that everyone reads a book so differently - I smash through, chasing the story as quickly as I can.  What happens next??? Another friend is always finding some philosophical or life lesson being taught to a character in the book or to us.  And my favorite bookclub friend is like Mark, savoring the words and phrasing.  And she can give, often, a clear cut example when she really likes something - actually point out how the author put something and why that spoke to her.  Wow!

I have also noticed this at Al anon meetings.  We read certain daily meditation books at meetings and I read them through - what does it say and what does it mean? - and then others skip back to certain phrases or sentences and talk about how that particularly set of words evoked some thought or feeling for them.  Much like life, eh?  Stop chasing the "what happens next" and smell the roses a bit?

I am learning, from all of these wonderful writers and readers in my life, to slow down a little.  Let the words wash over me a little (or at least try).  It's easier for me to do with the shorter meditation readings or blog posts.  Like most new concepts, breaking it down to a manageable scale usually works best.  Hard to believe that after all these years, a new layer of enjoyment in reading is available to me! 


  1. I really enjoyed this post. SO much resonated with me. I, too, have read tens of thousands of books over the years (but I am thinking I have had more years to accomplish that than you have, Sarah :))
    I think I am somewhere in the middle on the story vs words spectrum (though it isn't really a "vs" sort of situation, is it?) - I want to read a good story and I want a beginning, middle, and end. If the story drags on and gets too bogged down in detail, it loses me. On the other hand, I do enjoy the language itself. I have kept copies of words that just jumped out at me. I can be moved to stop and read a passage over and over again to allow the words to sink in. I guess it depends, in part, on the nature of the book. If I am reading a mystery sort of thing, for example, just give me the action. If, on the other hand, I am reading something my Barbara Kingsolver or Erin Weiner, I will look more carefully at the words.
    BTW, I have yet to be part of a book club - mostly b/c I don't want to be told what book I need to read now.....what if it isn't already on my "to read" list??????

  2. I have gotten into the habit of listening to rather than reading a book. Even though this allows me to knit while I "read", I find that I miss seeing the words. I think somewhere on my life's journey, I have forgotten how to just sit and be without thinking that I always have to be doing more than one thing at a time.
    When I was a kid, my favorite thing to do was sit under a big old tree with a book in my hands and a peach pit in my mouth.

  3. I love to read as well and have just gotten back to doing just that. However, I find that I, too, read really fast and sometimes I gloss over the "details" like they don't really matter. Then I find myself having to go back and re-read the parts I passed over because I was too anxious to see what was coming! So, maybe I should slow down a bit and enjoy the story, huh?

  4. I am a language nut--I will read about just about any subject if the language speaks to me in some way. The plot and other details are sometimes secondary for me.

    I am also drawn to stories about other people's passions--whatever people are CRAZY about tends to draw me in as well.

    And looking for the deeper meanings and lessons? I do that not just in writing/reading, but everywhere. I figure even if there isn't some force in the universe sending out messages for us, the messages we THINK we see can be just as useful.

  5. I am passionate about Dickens. I had to read four of his novels as a freshman in high school, including "David Copperfield" in two weeks. I loved his descriptive passages. I savored them. I could not blast through them. I think my rate of reading is directly proportional to the degree of descriptive writing. I really enjoyed this piece.


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