Hello! I hope you’re having a lovely Sunday. Do you have any Sunday rituals? In my family we have Sunday Breakfast, which today I have had with my grandmother who is visiting.
I got up before her, at eight, and I spent the morning reading some more of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. Now, you might be following me on Instagram, and thinking, but weren’t you reading that two weeks ago? And yes, I was. But I am a slow reader, and so I am still reading the one hundred odd pages long book, two weeks later.
I have always been a pretty slow reader, and I am still not sure how I got through a literature degree, or how I kept my head above water in the publishing industry, or how I built this whole identity around books and being a reader, when in actual fact, I don’t really read all that much.
It often makes me doubt myself, I suffer from imposter syndrome, thinking that I am a fraud for making everyone think I read through all these books when in reality I often struggle with them for weeks and weeks, even months.
I keep quiet in conversation where people discuss their reading habits, how many book they get through in a week, which five books they read during their two week summer holiday. I dread the question of what I have been reading recently, because honestly, it aint that much.
How long I spend reading a book obviously depends on the hours I put into it. When I was a kid I would often just read and read and read, for hours on end and late into the night, and so I didn’t really notice that I read slowly, because I still got through a lot more books than my peers. It wasn’t really until I arrived at university that I caught on to how slow I actually was. We were meant to read two to four books a week, not counting secondary sources, and I struggled a lot.
I remember sitting in the library, literally the whole day, trying so hard to read faster, and just not managing. I’m not sure why that is, I think I have a case of reading perfectionism, where I just have to take in every single word, and retain the meaning of every single sentence. You know when you realise you hadn’t been paying attention to what you were reading, and you have to go back? I would always go back, for the life of me I could not just think that I got the gist of it and move on. Moreover, having a flighty mind which would often go off on tangents from the words on the page, this happened all the time, so it took me a long time to get through the chapters.
At university however, it was kind of okay, I think it was normal for students not to read every single book on their reading list, and so I would often rely on Spark Notes, or read only half the book and then the last chapter. I have written whole essays about books I’ve never read, and I somehow managed to bluff my way through it.
But when I came to London and started working at literary agencies, it was a different story. There are no Spark Notes for books that have yet to be published, and I couldn’t base my reader reports on the words of literary critics who had gone before me, because there were none. I struggled. I was late with reports, I would lose sleep as I stayed up late drinking coffee and reading through manuscripts, and I suffered my superiors disappointment when they realised I wasn’t keeping up with what was being published outside of the agency.
Now I have returned to Norway, and am faced with the entirety of the Norwegian literary canon of which I have read next to nothing. I think I will just have to accept defeat on this one however, and introduce myself as more of an international reader. I have started a blog which is all about books, and I am struggling to produce one book review a month. But here too, I have to come forward, admit it to you all, and simply state the fact: I am a slow reader.
There are good things about being a slow reader. When I read, I savour the words. I put my book down and have a good long think about what has just been said. I let my mind wander, and explore the thoughts which arise from the page. And so my shelf of books read is poorer than most other readers’, and I am six months late on getting to the books everyone’s talking about, but that’s okay. I read. It is slow, but still I read, and that’s enough.