One Book, One Year: In Praise of Reading Slowly

f54011e5c6971af03638cdb449ad50e4The longest it ever took me to read a book was a year. Yes, A YEAR. One would have thought I was writing the book rather than reading it (which I wouldn’t have minded doing considering how many copies it sold, and the mini-series that spawned from it). Why did it take me a year to read the book, you might ask. Was it particularly difficult/long/in a foreign language? No, nope, and not so. And guess what? It wasn’t even boring. In fact, it was gripping. So WHY?!

Here’s the truth, I am a notorious book slut. However, to be fair I can easily finish a book quickly if I’m gripped by it – and I was by this book. What I think happened: when I had my face in the book, I was glued to it, but didn’t feel the need to drop everything and get back to it, and also, I wasn’t ready to leave it. Do those two things sound contrary? They’re not. A book can be exceedingly enjoyable yet not have you skipping meals to stay with it. Also, sometimes you immerse yourself so completely into the written world that you take breaks just so it doesn’t disappear from you.

Alas, on a summer-long trip through Europe, packed in a carry-on and hopping flights and trains, I only allowed myself a couple of books – this one among them (this was in a time before ereaders existed). I wasn’t at all interested in the other, so this was my lone read throughout the trip. My reading time only consisted of travel hours, an occurrence that wasn’t pleasing to my travel partner, as I made for a boring seatmate with my eyes glued to the pages. As I neared the end of the trip, I reached the end of my book, and I literally grieved the finishing. The book wasn’t profound. It hadn’t changed my life, but I realized that I had started it the previous fall and was coming to the conclusion at the end of this following summer. I had also been traveling through similar parts of Europe as the characters and somehow felt like we were in it together. This sounds strange, I know… I can hear that now, but I overwhelmingly felt this way five years ago when this happened.

I’ve never again taken that long to finish a book. There hasn’t been the need, which solidifies this book as important to me and as one of my favorites. It means more to me than just the story between the covers because it holds the story of that entire year of my life. When I see it now on my shelf I am taken back in time – I remember the relationship that started that fall as I started the book, that faltered as many times as I put the book down, and that was picking up speed again as I picked up speed in the reading. I can remember the events of the world from that winter as I distracted myself with the story, and the promotion at work that spring that kept me busy and away from the book. I remember the planning of that particular summer trip to Europe, and the choosing of the book. I can even remember which train, plane, and country I was traveling on and through during different points of the plot. I haven’t re-read the book, though I think about doing so from time to time. I wonder to myself if the magic would be gone; if it was just the right book at the right time; if I want to paste over the memories that are embedded in the pages with new ones. I’m not ready to find out the answers.

I’m purposefully not telling you the name of this book, because this anecdote isn’t about how fantastic this particular story was (though, it was pretty great). It’s about honoring the time we spend in what we are reading, why some books last in our minds and others don’t, and how sometimes a really great book can make for a really interesting year.

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