Novel-tea: the case for slowing down
Novel-tea is The Tartan’s literary and language opinion column, so if you like hot takes and reading about cool ideas in the literary community then this is the place for you!! If you have your own hot take to add to this column, do not hesitate to contact us.
Earlier this year, I wrote an article about book lists and my anxiety about the fact that too many books exist to be able to read them all. Readers around the world have this anxiety, and many in the book world try to consume hundreds of books a year. It can be overwhelming to meet people that read even ten books in a month. They leave you scratching your head, wondering how they manage to do it. While impressive, I struggle to believe this lifestyle is enjoyable for all readers. How are you supposed to truly engage with a book if you’ve only picked it up for a weekend?
John Miedema, the author of Slow Reading (2009), explains in an article for The Guardian, “If you want the deep experience of a book, if you want to internalise it, to mix an author's ideas with your own and make it a more personal experience, you have to read it slowly.” However, this is extremely difficult in a world where we are all losing our attention spans. Many book lovers are eager to finish their current read and move onto the next, newest recommendation. People are often bombarded with new recs before they can even look at the books they have already bought.
This takes the fun out of reading! Being introduced to new thoughts, characters, and ideas isn’t useful if you aren’t able to engage with them. Take classics for example — most people know or have heard about classic literature, and many return to these again and again. Why? Because there are infinite ways to look at and internalize them. I don’t read books just to say I’ve read them, but to get something out of them — whether that's to learn, or just to enjoy reading. At least for me, in order to truly engage with a book, I have to spend time reading it.
Loving a book is a truly special experience, one that shouldn’t be tampered with just to reach an arbitrary goal. Doing something for your own enjoyment means slowing down and actually letting yourself savor it, not rushing to the next thing.
People pour their hearts and souls in writing and editing their stories, so take the time to truly admire, critique, and understand your favorite authors. However cheesy it may be, reading is about quality, not quantity. In my mind, reading one book that sticks with you is worth more than reading a hundred books that don’t.
So stop rushing. Leave the hustle and bustle for your day job, and for once let yourself appreciate the few moments you take for yourself. And, as always, happy reading!