On Reading More Books

15 June, 2023

Recently, a friend sent me a link to an article that they thought I might mind useful. It was one of those articles, the kind that purport to teach you how to read two, three, or even four times as many books as you would normally.

I thanked my friend and promptly deleted the email. It’s not that I wasn’t grateful for them thinking about me (I did send a thank you note), but I’m not interested in that article. I’m not interested in its subject matter.

Reading isn’t a game of numbers. It’s not a competition. Reading isn’t something you do for bragging rights or to check things off whatever list you check things off. Reading is fuel for the mind, for the imagination. It’s not fuel that you can quickly inject into your brain. Reading is something that you need to take your time with. To ponder. To absorb. And that’s not really something you can do if you’re plowing through 200 or 300 books a year.

Take the book that I was rereading when I wrote this post: The Art of Stillness by Pico Iyer. It’s a slim volume, weighing in at 74 pages or so. I could probably have ripped through the book in less than an hour, but by doing that I wouldn’t get the most out of that little book.

Instead, I’m took it slowly. I read one or two (short) chapters a day. I was engaging with the words on the pages, savouring them and the ideas they convey. I took notes, and tried to learn. There’s no way I could do that while rushing through the book to get to the next one on my list.

And, yes, I do have a list of books that I want to read in 2023. Twenty-two of them. That might not be a lot of books for some people, but for me it’s enough.

Scott Nesbitt