As much as possible, because the more you read the smarter you get. That’s the usual answer. But I think that today, when there are so many paperbacks and e-books around, it’s easy to read too much too fast.
How much and how fast you read depends on what books you read. A play by Shakespeare is shorter than a contemporary novel, but to understand it well I spend twice as much time on it. The format also matters. An e-book is easier to read than a paperback, at least for me, while an audiobook is ‘longer’ than a paperback.
When you are a writer, the temptation to read much and to read fast is great. But there are dangers to that. I speak from experience. When you read fast you don’t think about all the possible connotations of a word, or the shades of meaning of a phrase, or the beauty of a metaphor. You ‘drink’ a book like you drink water, not like you drink wine…
At first characters and plots become confused, and then they fade away, and after a few months you remember only the author’s name, and the book cover, as well as the beginning and the end and a few memorable scenes that occurred in between.
‘Ah! I’ve read the book you’re reading months ago!’ you boast to your friend. But I don’t remember what’s it about, your thoughts echo…
I Am a Slow Reader
I rarely read more than a book a week, which means I read about 60-65 books a year. I don’t skip descriptive paragraphs. If I find a word I don’t know, I look it up in the dictionary. If I stumble upon a fine sentence, I reread it until I am bored. Sometimes I even note it down.
On some peculiar days, I am so excited that I am going to read a certain chapter that I procrastinate about the house for two hours before finally picking up the book…
I write at least 7-8 hours daily, 60% for my story, 40% for work. As a writer, I think that you need to devote more time to writing than to reading. Reading is probably the number one excuse writers use to avoid writing.
If I read more than one or two books a week, I don’t have enough time to think about the book I am reading after closing it. To me, thinking about a book I haven’t finished reading yet can be more enjoyable than actually reading it. When the book is closed the characters have time off from work, and I can meet them behind the stage and make friends with them.
A Sensible Conclusion
In the end I think how much and how fast you read, especially as a writer, is a matter of temperament.
Some readers enjoy a book more when they read it with bated breath, finishing it as soon as possible. These are the sort of people you don’t want behind you while waiting in a line.
Others, however, take more pleasure in a story when they read it slowly. These are the fellows you don’t want before you in a line.
The important thing is that people read.
Let’s rejoice! Books are now more popular than ever!
(This was an older post republished.)