Our Reading Lives

I Wish I Weren’t a Speed Reader

Cassie Gutman

Staff Writer

Cassie Gutman is happiest when surrounded by books and dogs. Originally from a small, funny-named town near Louisville, Kentucky, she now edits words for a living near Chicago and would like to be paid in ice cream. You can find her on Instagram @happybooklovers or on Twitter @cassiepgutman.

I know what you’re thinking—who is this obnoxious person telling me they read too fast when the rest of us can barely squeeze in a few minutes of our day to whittle away at our towering #tbr piles?

But I do. I read too fast. Like many readers, I fear that I’ll never be able to read everything I want to no matter how fast I go, no matter how many books I read at once. Even if I lived on a remote island for a year and never had access to other humans or the internet (*shudders*), I still wouldn’t finish my mountainous, teetering stack of books.

But even with these existential fears in my mind at all times, I read too fast, and I don’t like that.

Sometimes I’m turning the pages, making great progress on a book, only to realize I’ve barely gotten a vague idea of what’s happened. I’ve missed an entire chapter’s worth of words, whole pages of carefully constructed sentences and purposefully placed details intended to make readers lose themselves in the book.

Or sometimes a friend will ask if I’ve read a book, and after I excitedly say yes, they go into details about a scene that I have no recollection of whatsoever. The worst of all is when I watch a film or television adaptation of a book, think That wasn’t in the book, only to discover later that it WAS, in fact, in the book. I just missed it!

By wanting to know what happens quickly and to keep myself on track to maximize my reading time, I find myself skimming words and pages in an effort to finish the book. But in doing so, I’m missing the whole point of reading.

I’ll be the first to own up to a terrible memory. If I don’t write something down, it’s out of my brain the second I move on to something else. But I don’t think it’s a problem of memory—it’s a problem of reading too fast, wanting to move on to the next “to read” too quickly, so I don’t spend time inside the book, savoring its world and words like I should be.

But it’s not only how quickly I move through my books. It’s moving too quickly through the words themselves. I’ve caught myself reading the first line of a paragraph and moving to the next one instead of, you know, READING THE WHOLE THING, like you’re supposed to!

So what’s the answer? Should I be quiet in a corner and stop wishing I could slow down? Or do other people run into this problem? If you’re like me—how do you slow down and take time to smell the…erm…book pages?