Sunday, January 11, 2009

Read speed

I have an unfair advantage and I know it. I read fast and I love to read on a level where it is another hunger that has to be appeased. I get that parched feeling in my throat and I'll drink a glass of water, and if the parched feeling is in my imagination, I pour myself a book. I think I fully qualify for all the reasons a kid discovers and leaps into the bookworm lifestyle: a longish childhood illness, frequent moves making me feel displaced, totally inept at sports and prone to an adult-like vocabulary that marked me as a doofus with my peers... by 4th grade I was toting Jane Eyre and Sister Carrie to the playground along with the works of E. Nesbit, the Oz franchise, Tolkein, C.S. Lewis, Nancy Drew mysteries, and anything T.H. White (Mistress Masham's Repose my favorite). I read 16 books over the summer when I was 10. It just got worse. Or better, depending on how you look at it. "Get your nose out of that book" wasn't my idea of a good time.

I was just glancing in at the site and John Klima was patting himself on the back for reading 53 books in the last year. I realize that is a lot of books for most people, Klima noted "median is nine books/year for women and five for men," so that really puts him ahead.

I don't keep track. I got to the library a couple of times a week, bring a stack in, take a stack out. At home, if a novel or book of poetry doesn't grab me after giving it a fair chance, it gets returned and I open another. In this way I don't finish but begin a great many books and average about 2 or 3 I finish a week. So call it almost 3 books a week. Time off for holiday visitors. A vacation or deadline that consumes my time... so 120 books a year? And I know plenty who read more than I do.

Keep them coming. But my bookshelves are full. I now use the library. Love the library. Love to read. Buy only the ones that demand a place on my shelf.

UPDATE (from my father):

"I thought you'd like this bit of family lore: my father's father (the chemist who worked for a Nobelist in Stockholm) was a speed reader. He would turn the pages fairly rapidly when reading and told my father that he scanned several sentences at a time and could remember what he read. The gene skipped two generations and you got it expressed. What I got from my father's father was his capacity to generate dandruff that coated the insides of his eyeglasses. Lucky you."


Deborah Atherton said...

I find the reading urge rises and falls - right now I'm on a binge, almost a book a day (which has involved way too much staying up late). And I'm all over the place -novels, of course, but also books on the mind and creativity. Of course, when I'm reading actual books I'm on the computer less - perhaps the number of words doesn't change, but just the format of receiving them. I wonder if we all have our own internal reading quotas that must be filled?

Claudia Carlson said...

I suspect the urge to read a lot is often followed by an urge to write. It does with me. Like the stages my kids went through growing up, they'd eat more, get a bit plumper, and then overnight, grow an inch.