Personally, I advocate the savouring of books. Yet at times – particularly when I’m busy, or tired – I’m tempted to skim past the occasional page. Mostly where archaic verse is concerned and there are long-winded recounts interspersed throughout the text, but also when the author isn’t one that I’m fond of. It’s certainly tempting, but I still try to read consciously and deliberately, thinking about what I’m reading and trying to savour as much of the language and meaning as I can.
That’s why I’ve been making steady but extremely slow progress through Little Dorrit and The Odyssey. Although I’ve finished my exams, I only have a few moments of spare time where I can really sit down and allow myself to be immersed in a book.
I suppose another time I’m tempted to speed through books is when I have a growing TBR pile. I’ve been reserving books by the masses from the library, and they’re coming in faster than I thought they would. Either the people before me are fast readers, or they never get around to finishing the books they borrow. New books that have come in include Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri and Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace, both of which I’m looking forward to reading.
At times I’d like to put Dickens and Homer down, and reach for the shiny new copy of The Enchantress of Florence on my bookshelf. But I won’t. Firstly because I have a long summer ahead of me, and there’s no need to rush through anything. Secondly, because I’m actually enjoying both books. Thirdly because I don’t read with the goal of getting through a certain number of books per year. I just need to remember where my priorities lie.
So I suppose today’s post is a conscience probe. If any of you book bloggers or readers out there are rushing through books to meet any sort of deadline, or simply skimming because you are not entertained by the book, I urge you to consider why you are reading –
Does literature serve only to entertain? Should books serve as a form of escapism from the monotonous routine of life, or should we make a conscious effort to relate literature to reality? After all, all literature circles around human nature, and the human condition. We can’t escape from the intrinsic values that define who we are as individuals and as a society. What do we learn from the books we read? Do we sigh with relief and tick another title off our reading lists, or do we pause to contemplate, and to appreciate the art of literature?
Let’s savour the books we read :)