In any normal year, it takes me time to read a book. I read voraciously, but slowly, relishing the words and not feeling rushed to ever put it down. I scribble marginalia—mostly in notebooks and not in margins anymore, as I get most of my books from the public library—and I pause between every book I read to reflect, process, prepare for the next one.
I love the way Thu-Huong Ha thinks about slow reading, about creating a relationship with the text through a more leisurely pace to the consumption of a book:
By keeping your book in one location each time, you free yourself from the distractions of a commute or the pounding waves of a beach. As a result, a strange new relationship forms, between you, the voice of the book, and the room. Your ritual creates a singular association between the book and a quiet, private place, which in turn gives your relationship a new dimension. Your friend never leaves your room, has never seen you with makeup on, or shoes.
This year is different. This year, I have read fifty books before the end of July. This year, unlike years past, is not a year where books are relished, savoured; this year, each book is a salve, and I read to fill gaps, to pass time, to clear my mind when the world gets heavy.
This year, I read during train commutes, while being anxious in waiting rooms, when I am unable to fall asleep. I read multiple books at a time, switching between each one to keep myself distracted and to pass the time when I can’t trust myself to be alone with my thoughts.
This year, there is no scribbling in the margins, no time to pause and reflect and recompose. This year, I read to fill time and space; I read to keep my mind filled with the words of others when I feel burdened by my own.
I hope, soon, to slow down. I hope to be able to sleep better, to spend less time waiting for bad news, to have fewer thoughts racing through my head. I hope that the second half of the year will bring with it some calmness and some levity; quite unusually, I hope it means I read fewer books.