In Defense of Slow Readers

“You still haven’t finished reading that book? It’s almost two months now, are you kidding me?”, was me until two weeks ago when I suddenly paused to think why it was not okay to take as much time as you want to with a book. 

No, that’s not true. I did not pause. I had one of my friends who is a slow reader tell me his reasons as a defence and shut me up forever, which to be honest, I deserve at this point. 

So here’s Pratik Kishore taking over my blog for the day!

“Ever since I was a kid who had just started reading novels and realized the pleasure that I derived from them, I had made a vow to myself that I would devour them whole and as rapidly as I can. I felt like there was not enough time in this lifetime to plunder this enormous trunk of treasure.

I used to go through entire novels the way people flit through film magazines as they wait for their turn at the salon. As a kid, I used to wear this as a badge of honour and so did my parents and every relative I know. My grandmother to this day brags about how if I take a book up I will not put it down till I am done reading the last page. I used to be proud of the fact that I had finished the last book in the Harry Potter series in under 36 hours (probably the worst way in which I could disrespect that gem but I was a kid so lay off me).

This stayed with me for several years. I used to mock people who read at a ‘leisurely’ pace as they would conveniently put it. Just to annoy this section of readers a bit more, I decided to read exactly the way they did, a parody of sorts if you will.

I decided to re-read my favourite mythological book thinking that it would be easier to read it slowly because I already know everything about it since I finished it cover to cover in two days. It was a dismal experience, to say the least, the first few days at least. The fact that you have to give all of your attention to every single sentence, however “insignificant” it be to the main plot, how it took me almost an hour to go through what I would usually in minutes. How you have to register each sentence, let your brain comprehend it completely before jumping to the next sentence seemed like a tedious task to me. 

Reading went from a hobby to a task. But before I knew it, this style of reading had grown on me, just like an underrated song which needs a couple of times to be played for you to grasp the unorthodox beauty it possesses. I realized that there was SO MUCH that I was missing out on.

I realized that I was ONLY focusing on the main plot. I used to think that there is only one story that I need to finish. Subplots as a concept were unknown to me. I never paid heed to side characters because I saw them as just that, someone who is just there to help the protagonist along his journey. Taking it slow taught me how even these characters have their own journeys, their own ordeals, their own distinct personalities. For the first time in my life, I decided that I liked Luna Lovegood more than I thought I loved Hermoine Granger. For all you muggles out there, I liked a decidedly inconsequential character more than a lead character. 

Taking it slow taught me to read between the lines, to see meaning beyond the obvious. This of course became more evident, as I started reading a political allegory like Animal Farm. How cleverly the writer disguises something extremely dangerous to the well being of the society as something extremely hilarious. It sounded just right for everyone to think of it as a fable but left the ones who wanted to see beyond the obvious spell struck, pun intended. Something as terrifying as sloganeering by henchmen of autocratic leaders seems funny when read as “four legs good, two legs bad” when the flock of sheep keep shouting it as a distraction whenever someone raises questions. Reading it slowly also showed me how the fear of the past can influence your present or even your future when the ruling animals kept saying how it was at least not as bad as the previous regime.

Reading slowly does not mean just that. It is about letting each sentence envelop you with its intricate details. It’s about comprehending that each character has its importance, each location has its significance, how even a dream and the way it is described pertains to how the character feels and acts in reality. Taking it to slow helps you form a better bond with the character because your focus shifts from finishing a book to understanding, empathizing and relating to a character better. It does not seem just a story, it helps in making you feel as if you have always known them and that they are real. As if somewhere out there, and Augustus Waters HAS to exist for Hazel Grace Lancaster.

Beware though, reading in this fashion will be received with a lot of flak and criticism. Take it from someone who has inflicted it upon a lot of hapless souls. You will be ridiculed endlessly. You will be laughed at for taking a month to complete a novel which they finish in days. You will be made fun of for taking your time with each book when you should be focused on finishing the entire series before someone spoils it for you. You will never be taken as a serious reader by them just because you do not fit into their box and complete an enormous target of books every month. But as scary as it sounds, crossing over to the dark side, the way I did, will leave you feeling content.

After all, do we read to impress others or do we read for ourselves?

As cliché as it sounds; it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.”

-Pratik Kishore