Slow Down, We Move Too Fast

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That Shakespearian Rag’s Steven W. Beattie wrote a nice post Jan 4th, A TSR reading challenge for 2011, that identified and challenged a certain part of the literary zeitgeist we’ve been noticing as well: literati counting and publicizing how many books they’ve read over the year. Whatever the intention, the effects of this trend can be to make other readers cast doubts about their own dedication to books and/or to provoke a competitive spirit and sense that more reading = better reader. Neither is particularly positive, and both feel like unfortunate symptoms of the pressure-cooker, media-gobbling culture we work and live in today.

Reading used to be an escape from the daily grind, not an additional to-do, and Beattie proposes a lovely challenge to readers in 2011 that aligns the habit again with this rightful function:

“Instead of pledging to read more this year, why don’t we all try to read better: to be more sensitive, expansive readers, to enter more deeply into the text, to actively engage with books on an intellectual, aesthetic, and linguistic level. Let’s try to focus less on the quantity of our reading and more on the quality. Who knows? By slowing down a bit, you might even find you’re enjoying yourself more.”

One commenter to the post, B. Glen Rotchin, reiterated the pleasure principle by declaring, “I say more enjoyable reading.”

For readers and bloggers who want a more specific challenge, check out The Book Mine Set’s 13 Canadian books, 13 online reviews (the number here is more quirky than daunting, based as it is on how many provinces we have), or Salon’s challenge to read outside our comfort zones (this post also has a list at the end of links to other challenges).

Whatever reading ambition you set your mind to this year, if any, we echo Mr. Beattie and Mr. Rotchin and say here’s to enjoying your books in 2011—more than you ever have before.

January 6, 2011
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