Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Review: Slow Reading in a Hurried Age

Slow Reading in a Hurried Age, by David Mikics
Date: October 2013
Format: Hardcover
How did I get this book? Borrowed from the Library
Goodreads | Publisher

I don't write many book review posts these days, so it's a bit ironic that I'm reviewing a title I didn't even finish! I didn't finish it on purpose though and when I started writing this up on Goodreads, I got a lot more long-winded than I expected. So here we are.

The idea of slow reading appeals to me -- partially because I am a slow reader by default and always have been. The idea of speeding up the "movie in my head" has really not ever appealed to me, despite the fact that I would be able to read more books in the same amount of time if I did. So I guess when I spotted this title, I was really just curious about the benefits of slow reading since I felt like it was something I was already doing. In truth, Mikics' "slow reading" means much more than just a literal slow pace and it was interesting to see what "rules" he has come up with. He very clearly states these are really only guidelines and that he has no intention of ruining the reading experience with mandates -- he feels the "rules" should help readers enjoy books more, not less, and that each reader should only take what he or she can use -- which I feel is important to point out because I have seen other reviews criticize the very idea of reading "rules."

All that said, I really enjoyed and got a lot out of the Introduction, The Problem, and The Answer chapters. After that I skimmed and skipped (which is rather the opposite of what the author is advocating!) because the examples were mostly classics I have not read. I was honestly not interested in another person's analysis of books based on the advice given, just the advice itself. I think a lot of the ideas here can apply to any kind of book, it was just way beyond me to have so many points of reference I was unfamiliar with. At some point, I'd like to discover some of the books discussed for myself rather than read Mikics' analysis of various snippets.

I think the strongest part of this book was the discussion in those first few chapters of reading in the digital age. I don't want to be alarmist, over-dramatic, or demonize technology, but I could completely relate to many of the descriptions of distraction and discontent related to too much screen time. It is making me rethink my relationship with screens and validating the feeling that I really need a break from it all sometimes -- and that break is well spent if I take the time to read instead.

I'm glad I borrowed this from the library instead of purchasing it because the book as a whole didn't work for me. But I'm very glad for the parts that did resonate with me and I copied a TON of quotes into my reading journal. Those first chapters are definitely worth a read if slow reading appeals to you in any way -- or if the distractions of technology are leaving you feeling a little frazzled or sapping your concentration. But if you'd like to take a peek at the "Rules," check out this Huffington Post article which abbreviates those 130 pages very nicely.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Reading Journal #1 Complete!

It's been almost two years since I first mentioned starting a journal of quotations from books I read and I've finally filled it up!

Scribble courtesy of a certain small someone :)

Last pages -- it's full!

To the best of my memory, I had only started using this first book journal a few months (at most) prior to that blog post in January 2016. In the beginning, I only used it sparingly. I wasn't very consistent about marking passages as I read or copying them over after finishing a book. Even though I wanted to record memorable quotes, I wasn't in the habit of doing it, so it didn't always happen. I would be reading as usual and then something would really stand out and I would remember: "Oh yea, that's the kind of thing I want to record in my journal!" And then I would immediately get this feeling that I had surely missed other lines I should have recorded from my recent reading. I didn't want to turn my reading into homework, but I just knew this was a record I would love to have and look back on in years to come, if only I could figure out a good way to do it.

So this is pretty much how it went -- in fits and starts -- until quite recently. I had tried various things including marking down page numbers on a note pad (digital and paper) and snapping a photo of a page on my phone to return to later. Theoretically these methods should have worked just fine, but I still had a hard time following through. I also went through a big audiobook phase and while I love that format, it's not well suited to noting and marking quotes. Sure, it can be done, but it's certainly more complicated without a printed text in front of me and audio bookmarking proved to be a real pain for this purpose.

Book darts!

But over the last few months I finally started using my journal more consistently and the vast majority of this first one is filled with quotes from 2017 (which isn't even over yet!) And during the past two months I really hit my stride thanks to book darts -- which I have Modern Mrs. Darcy and the Read Aloud Revival to thank for. Book darts are exactly what I didn't know I needed to make this whole reading journal thing a success. They are easy to use, don't interfere with or interrupt my reading experience, and make it super simple to return to marked passages later on. Book darts are sort of like fancy paperclips that don't damage my pages and allow me to bookmark a specific line so I don't have to go scanning and searching for what exactly I wanted to remember on a particular page. They're great! If you have any desire to keep a reading journal, I can't recommend book darts highly enough.

The secret to successful book dart use -- thank you RAR!

Since I have a toddler, I was a little worried about having tins of small metal bits around the house. But one final tip from Sarah Mackenzie in her recent masterclass solved that problem too -- putting a bunch of book darts on my book's title page before I start reading. Eureka! Now I don't have to tote the tin from room to room, it's not just sitting around waiting for my toddler to crack open, AND it's easier than ever to grab a dart when I come across a line I want to mark. Now, I don't delude myself into thinking my son couldn't figure out how to pull them off the pages if he really wanted to, but they are a lot less enticing while attached to the pages of a closed book than sitting in a tin that makes a really cool noise when you shake it.

I used so many book darts in this one!

I don't want to overthink this whole process as I am reading, so I often mark more passages than I actually end up using. But that is the beauty of it -- when I am done reading, I can simply go through dart by dart and decide what I really want to remember from that particular book. If I decide not to copy a particular quote, I just remove the book dart and move on. And what I like best now that I have a "system" in place is that I have built in some time to reflect on and think about what I have read as I decide what I most want to remember and what has really resonated with me. Of course, I always want to dive into a new book, but this new little ritual has helped me slow down just a bit which is definitely a good thing for me.

New journal!

So, now I'm onto a brand spanking new book journal which is so exciting to me! It's kind of like that new-school-supplies-in September feeling when I was a kid (or was that just me?) Now that I've been doing this a while, I've figured out what works best and am making some minimal changes for this second journal. This time around I'm including page numbers and creating a heading for each book instead of noting title and author after every single quote -- which can get really tedious if I have a lot of quotes from a single book.

Slightly new format!

I never imagined I would need more than the 50 darts that come in the cute What Should I Read Next? tin, but I often have a couple different books going at the same time and I used nearly all 50 when I read The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction! So I figured it would be nice to have an extra and ordered a tin of 125 on Amazon. The Modern Mrs Darcy ones are adorable, but the Amazon tin was definitely more economical. And truthfully, if I had bought a tin with 125 the first time, I probably wouldn't have bothered with a second!

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Have you ever kept a book/reading/quote journal of any kind? Have you tried book darts? Do you have any other tips or tricks? I'd love to know!