Discussion Post: Some Thoughts on Reading

I’m currently participating in Faye’s Cosmere Readalong, and I absolutely love it. As you should know, Sanderson is my favorite author, ever. One of my favorite works of his is actually one of his shorter pieces, The Emperor’s Soul. It comes in at around 164 pages, and it’s firmly in the Novella category. It actually won the Hugo last year (2013) for best novella, a prize I think it deserved.

But I’m not here to talk about The Emperor’s Soul, though I will have a review up when I have a bit more time. [I have a handful of books I need to review. Hopefully I’ll catch up really soon.] I’m here to talk about how I read it–and how I enjoy reading books.

I have read the Emperor’s Soul three times now, and every time, I have read it in a single sitting, a single unbroken reading period, with only the briefest of breaks. It’s easy enough to do this with The Emperor’s Soul–it takes me under 2 hours. I read this way whenever I can. Last summer, I was suffering from a nasty fit of depression and I wanted a way out of this world. My way out was to read books, immersing myself in the lives of fictional characters and their worlds, living and breathing their air. I read a ridiculous number of books–I’m not even sure how many. But I had a few weeks where I was stuck at home with nothing I wanted to do, and I read. I made it through The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear combined in three days. I think I made it through Sanderson’s Alcatraz series in 2 days. (4 books, about 50,000 words each.) I re-read The Way of Kings in a little over a day. This wasn’t just over that one summer, either. Several years back, at the release of the last Harry Potter book, I was at the store at midnight, picked up my copy, went come, and read it cover to cover, pulling one of my first all-nighters. I did something similar with the releases of A Memory of Light and Steelheart. This is how I read, whenever I have the choice.

And I was not skimming these books, either. I was reading every word, absorbing and immersing myself as fully as I could. Last summer was, while still the worst I have ever felt in my life, at the same time an incredible experience. I loved being able to read books for hours on end, without caring about anything else, without having to ever get up and spend a few hours doing schoolwork, or deal with other distractions.

Not everyone reads this way. Some people will speed-read. I’ve never understood that idea, honestly. They’re not getting the full enjoyment of the book, the full content. They aren’t savoring all of the words and the intricacies that can pop up, even on a re-read. I caught a gyorn in my Emperor’s Soul reread that I didn’t see the first two times, and it was a neat easter-egg. [I spotted the main Elantris one on my first read–it’s much more obvious. If you don’t understand what I just said, go read Sanderson’s work. It’s amazing.] I don’t want to miss a single detail. Authors spend time painstakingly deciding exactly what to show us and what to avoid, cutting and trimming. Every word they publish is meant to be there, and I’ve never understood those who would skip over words just to finish more quickly.

Unfortunately, recently, I’ve not even been able to read any books in a single–or even small handful–of sittings recently. I’ve almost exclusively been restricted to reading a handful of pages every night, a chapter or two, and then getting back to the book the next day. I’ve found that this really does lessen my enjoyment–my sense of immersion–in the books I’ve been reading. I know that I’ve been reading some absolutely incredible books, and a handful of not so good ones, but I really feel as if I’ve lacked that sense of immersion. I’m still reading what feels like a book a week, though I may be going a little bit slower than that–or faster, on the best books, the ones where I’m willing to literally lose that precious hour of sleep to find out what happens next.

I’m not sure what to do about it, honestly. I will not resort to speed-reading in order to read the books more quickly, and there’s no way I’m going to just wait until I have time to read an entire book in 2-3 days. I know that a lot of my blogger friends are also busy people–how do you deal with this problem? Do you just get used to reading the books in smaller chunks, or do you have strategies for making more time to read them? Do any of you have a time turner or some bendalloy I can borrow? I want to know!

4 thoughts on “Discussion Post: Some Thoughts on Reading

  1. I love being able to sit and read a book in one sitting. Unfortunately, unless I have the weekend off or if I’m willing to sacrifice sleep, I can’t do that. So I try to steal every moment I can to read by taking a book and my iPad with me everywhere. I’m that person that reads while waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store. When I was taking classes I would read in the 10-20 minute breaks in between classes. I specifically set aside an hour each night to read before going to bed. It’s how I wind down. I actually have to do it or I’ll be thinking about my research all night. I’ve also found listening to audiobooks on my commute or as I’m doing chores around the house lets me read more books.

    1. That’s awesome. I can’t do just 5-10 minute chunks–I have to get something significant read, even if it’s only a few chapters, or else I have no idea of what’s actually happening. For similar reasons, I generally don’t like having more than 1 book going at the same time, as I tend to get things mixed up. I am trying more to make half an hour to an hour before I go to sleep to read, and it seems to be helping. If people would stop tweeting at me… 😛

  2. I’m lucky because my schedule usually lets me read for at least a few hours every night. But when I’m super busy, I don’t handle it well, either. I try to read in small bits and pieces, but when I can’t find time to immerse myself in a book (Immersion DEFINITELY helps me to enjoy it more), I get frustrated. If I keep getting interrupted or am just snatching moments here and there, that’s obviously frustrating and doesn’t make for a great reading experience. 😦

    I actually find that I read faster when I’m totally immersed in a book and not taking breaks – like, my actual wordcount per minute/hour/whatever goes up, it’s not just that the breaks are fewer and thus I finish sooner. I don’t read SUPER fast, but it’s faster than if I have to stop and start and stop and start and take time to keep getting into it again and again.

    re: Speed-reading in order to read more – NO. I hate speed-reading/skimming – I’ve only done it for a *very* few books, and only when the only reason I wanted to finish was because I *really* wanted to know what happened but wasn’t connecting to the book in any other way.

    1. Wow, yeah. You are very lucky. When I read for more than half an hour at night, I have to be aware that I’m stealing sleep–I get up with an alarm clock every morning. And days like today, when I steal too much sleep, I regret it all day. Kept having to slap myself to stay awake during classes. 😦

      I’m the same way. And when I get really immersed, well… I often forget to eat, and I’ve been known to not realize people are talking to me even when they do it for five minutes straight.

      About the only time I’ve *ever* speed-read was looking back through a book for information when I already knew the plot.

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