I was intrigued by this article about slow reading. On the same afternoon I followed a thread on Twitter about “the worst books ever,” and as people listed Dickens, Steinbeck, Melville, etc., I saw a connection between fast reading and distaste for the classics. Those books require a reader to slow down, and as fast readers we’re inclined to toss them aside. It’s too bad, because often those books change us the most.
One such book for me is Ulysses by James Joyce. It took a long time to read, and sent me on many side trips for source material — everything from Homer to popular songs of the 1920s.
It’s the Mount Everest of books, but worth the climb. Besides feeling really erudite, I must admit it was a pleasure to read. There’s a sense of accomplishment to reading a book like that, but it’s also a truly terrific novel. It has great humor, which is sometimes quite bawdy, and a beautiful if vulgar love story at the center of it.
Moreover, Ulysses made me a better reader. Some books can change our minds about something, open up a little door to a new world, or help us to empathize with strangers… but an even rarer kind of book can change your brain, reorganizing your thoughts, teach you how to read at a different level.
Slow reading has fallen on hard times, and so have slow books. I’d encourage anyone to pick up a book that frustrated and confounded them before, but which still seems to be whispering their name, and give it a second go, but this time take it slow.