Some Recent Bookish Thoughts

This may be a bit of a rambling post. 🙂 This week there’s been a good discussion at Silvia’s blog about re-considering reading goals, book challenges, and more. And Silvia also wrote another post about poetry that got me thinking about my reading habits. I, too, have recently been thinking about what my reading goals initially were at the beginning of the year, and have been considering dropping my reading challenge. I get so excited in December when the book challenges come out and it is really hard to resist not joining in. Silvia put it so well when she described it as a “momentum” and seeing all the possibilities of book choices lying ahead of us in the new year. But recently, for some reason, I have been feeling a bit boxed in with my reading challenge. Like I need to make sure I get those categories completed and maybe that might mean I have to set aside other books I might want to read to do so. It’s silly really I guess….because the reading challenge doesn’t have to be that. It can be a fun way to gather inspiration for new titles. But being a task-oriented person sometimes, I think I’ve begun to be task-oriented with my reading challenge….. I think because maybe deciding to *do* a reading challenge makes a difference for me versus just looking at reading challenges but not trying to necessarily *do* them.

Anyway, thinking about all this has got me thinking about why I read and the pace at which I read books sometimes. Reading Silvia’s post about poetry also got me thinking about re-reading and the benefits of that.

I read for enjoyment. But I also like to stretch myself to read books I feel it would be good for me to read at some point. Like certain classics that I may not particular *want* to read but know it would be good to read them because they are so widely known and maybe referenced a lot – like The Iliad and The Odyssey for example. I never read these in high school and so I’m reading The Iliad right now. I don’t particular like it a whole lot, but I think it’s good for me to read it. It stretches me as a reader. A lot of ancient literature (including epic poetry) tends to be that way for me. It can be challenging for me to read but I know it can help me grow as a reader.

Another reason I read is to learn. And this year, one of my goals is to read more memoirs, biographies, and other non-fiction books like history and science. I also want to incorporate more essays and short stories and plays.

I also like to read a book on a whim if I find a book that grabs my interest. And I like to read in community if I can because I need to discuss books.


Regarding reading habits, I was thinking about a quote Silvia had in her post from the book she read called Lectures on Literature by Nabokov. I haven’t read this book. You can read more of Silvia’s thoughts on it at her blog. Anyway, she included the following quote from Nabokov in her post:

“Curiously enough, one cannot read a book: one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader.”

This quote reminded me of something Adler said in his book How to Read a Book. One of the things Adler discusses in this book is different levels of reading. Concerning one of the levels he calls inspectional reading Adler says:

“…most people, even many quite good readers, are unaware of the value of inspectional reading. They start a book on page one and plow steadily through it, without even reading the table of contents. They are thus faced with the task of achieving a superficial knowledge of the book at the same time that they are trying to understand it.” (pg. 19)

“Skimming or pre-reading is the first sub-level of inspectional reading. Your main aim is to discover whether the book requires a more careful reading.” (pg. 32)

After the inspectional reading – where you discover what type of book it is, what it’s about, etc. – there’s what Adler calls analytical reading. About this he says:

“Analytical reading is thorough reading, complete reading, or good reading…the best and most complete reading that is possible given unlimited time.”(pg. 19)

Of course Adler says a lot more about these levels of reading; but these particular things stood out to me.

First, let me say regarding these quotes from How to Read a Book that I think that maybe this may not apply across the board for fiction. However, I do think there could be many fiction books these principles could apply to. What do you think? I’m thinking about a book like Wuthering Heights. I can totally see the benefit of more than one reading for this book. The first reading gives you the story-line and how it ends and is like an introduction. Then the next time around, I imagine one could pick up on more in the novel because it is such a complex book.

I know, this is a winding rabbit trail… LOL Anyway, these various quotes have me thinking about re-reading though. How I have a tendency sometimes to plow through some books that maybe are ones that I would benefit more from a slower reading and maybe even a re-reading. I am not typically a re-reader. And if I do re-read a book, you know I must have REALLY liked it. There are just so many books I want to read. And you know, maybe sometimes re-reading feels like time I could be spending reading another book on my To-Be-Read list. But I do see the benefits of re-reading; and maybe I need to make more room in my reading life for it.

As far as slow vs. fast reading pace, I don’t think it has to be one way or the other. I think it can be both. I do think that some books are just quick reading books. And sometimes I just can’t resist reading quickly to find out how the book ends! And that’s OKAY! But books that are meant to stretch me as a reader or books I’m reading to learn and grow, maybe those are more the books for me to put in that category of slower reading. And possibly re-reading. In the end, I just don’t think I will tend to re-read lots of books. But I would like to grow in that area and make more time for re-reading.

So these are my rambling book thoughts recently. What do YOU think about reading pace and re-reading? Have you been re-evaluating your reading goals for this year? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

20 thoughts on “Some Recent Bookish Thoughts

  1. I think you are onto something when you brought up Adler’s in relation to Nabokov. Nabokov was saying that about fiction. The first time we read (Jane Austen, Wuthering Heights, etc.), we are preoccupied with the plot. A re-reading will show us more of the book, and some books we can be reading all the time, and they are never old, never boring. Sherry said that about Kristin Lavransdatter, she’s read them three times or more, I believe, and though she knows what’s going to happen, that is best, she says, it lets one focus on the myriad other riches books like these offer.

    I’m glad you are pausing to know better how you want to deal with the challenges. And I also agree with you about the pace. Sometimes we need to read quickly, we can’t stop, others we deliberately slow the pace. Sometimes the re-reading is what slows the pace, after a first more fast paced reading.

    All great thoughts, Karen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nabokov was talking about fiction….interesting! You know, I didn’t connect that necessarily when I read your post but that makes total sense given the title of the book! *blush*

      You know, it is so true that often when we first read a fiction book we are preoccupied with the plot, with finding out what’s happening and how the story is developing. And that if we read the book again, that pre-occupation is no longer there, freeing us up to think about other aspects in the novel.

      I think Adler makes a good point with inspectional reading when he says the main goal “is to discover whether the book requires a more careful reading.” Whether fiction or non-fiction, there will most likely be some books we will read quickly that we will know they aren’t ones we want to read again or read more carefully. I don’t think that means they weren’t books worthy to be read necessarily (although we may feel that some were a waste of time). But maybe just not books we feel need a closer reading, a re-reading.

      Lots to think about! I love being able to talk about these ideas with others!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Don’t blush. Adler was talking, I think, of non fiction. Lines get blurry, reading is such a complex activity, and it’s so much fun thinking about it and discussing it with friends.
        I do get what you say about some of those quick reads. Some books, -still worth reading, we read quickly because we need to know what happens, and we may not want to re-read them. But even when we don’t read particularly fast, those books we end up reading several times, we need to go back to in order to savor them. My friend Sarah told me she’s read the Narnia books around 18 times, and she says she thinks she “knows C.S Lewis’s mind a little”(I don’t doubt she has gotten a lot of details and layers through those readings.)

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes Silvia, reading *is* such a complex activity! And Adler speaks to that as well! It is fun to talk about it. I am a thinker and sometimes I probably think *too* much! LOL But I really am taking a closer look at my reading habits, the reading challenge, and such and trying to decide if I need to make some changes. 🙂

          Wow – reading a book 18 times??? That’s hard for me to fathom! LOL But what a testament to the power of re-reading, no?


  2. You raise some really interesting points here. It’s good to step back and consider the way in which we read and why.

    I suppose it boils down to our objective in reading a book. You mentioned that books which you want to learn from could be best for a slow reading technique. I agree. I tend to keep a notebook specifically to write down points, quotes and questions when I’m reading non-fiction books. This helps me engage with the content better, and is also a way of reading critically, by asking questions or highlighting areas which I disagree with.

    On the other hand, as you say, there are books which you can easily plow through. If you’re reading for entertainment (which is also totally legitimate!) then you shouldn’t judge yourself for reading quickly.

    I’m not very familiar with the reading challenges, but perhaps one issue is that the excitement of so many new books to read translates to rushed reading?

    Anyway, as you can see, your post has got me rambling and thinking a lot about the ideas you raise!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts =)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Laura! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! You raise a good question about the reading challenges. The one I chose to join is only 12 books for the year, which translates to one a month. Not overwhelming and pretty flexible. However, if you factor that in with all the books you want to read, maybe it could translate to rush reading at times. That’s a good point. And one I want to think about in relations to my reading for the challenge.

      Taking notes, asking questions, highlighting….yes. Great ways to engage with books – especially non-fiction. I am a highlighter. And with some books, I try to narrate (write brief summary about what I read). I tend to not want to stop and take the time to take notes on books while I’m reading them. Silly really. And I’m thinking about why that is. I still do that for some books though; and for others I’ve developed a technique that seems to suit me well. 🙂 I cut post-it notes into strips and stick them in the beginning of the book I’m reading. As I’m reading, if something stands out to me, I stick a post-it note strip on the page where I want it. Sometimes I’ll jot a quick phrase, word, or sentence on the post-it note strip and then I keep on reading. Then at the end of the chapter or when I finish the book (depends on the book), I go back and look at all the post-it note strips and write out all my thoughts, quotes, etc. in my notebook or type them up and put them in a reading notebook binder that I have. There are still some books though that I’ll take notes as I read and not do post-it notes.

      You know, I hope I didn’t give the impression in my post that I read every single book fast. I don’t. I’m just thinking about what books are better read slower and that maybe there have been some books I read quickly that I could have benefited more from reading them more slowly. And I’m also thinking about the whole re-reading thing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • You didn’t give that impression at all, don’t worry! And it’s definitely a worthwhile question about which books are best to read slow and which to read fast.

        I like your idea of using post-it notes. There’s something nice about having physical prompts to go back to at the end of a book. I travel a lot and for that reason I’ve given in and bought a Kindle. Pros and cons of the Kindle, but some books I still feel I need a physical copy of!

        Thanks for the info on the reading challenge. The more I’m learning about them, the more intrigued I am. A reading challenge with 12 books a year seems like a good option. Like you said, it’s not too overwhelming and is still quite flexible.

        Thanks for the food for thought!


        • I have a Kindle too. I prefer to have print copies of books but my Kindle is very handy. I often read from it at night time because I can turn the lights off since my Kindle has a light on it. I almost always have a book with me when I go somewhere and often it will be my Kindle I put in my purse. Sometimes I have both my Kindle and print books! 🙂

          It’s funny. My daughter got me a new purse for my birthday and my husband let her know what kind I like and made sure to tell her it had to be big enough to put books in. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Karen, I read Silvia’s post & all the interesting comments & I feel a similar way to both of you.I used to think it was a waste of time to reread a book – when I was younger, anyhow, but some books have so much depth you could plumb them year after year. I read All Quiet on the Western Front, once in my late teens, then in my 30’s and more recently I read it again & it was so much more powerful because the main character was the same age as one of my sons. Good to read your musings 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Carol! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on re-reading. It encourages me even more to incorporate more re-reading in my reading life!

      I’ve not read All Quiet on the Western Front but my oldest daughter did when she was a junior or senior in high school. She said it was an intense book but a powerful one. I need to put that on my TBR list.


  4. Sooooooo fascinating and a topic that is very much one I wrestle with constantly. My reading habits/tastes have slowly been changing and evolving over the years, so now this is a much more important consideration for me. I feel like much of the fiction fluff that I read for years, wouldn’t necessarily benefit form a slower reread, because there isn’t much depth to them. However, with all the these wonderful classics and richer books, I’m growing in my understanding of the the wealth to be pulled from them from careful and considerate reading of them. I haven’t read either of the books you are referencing, but I loved hearing about them from your perspective. Your thoughts and Silvia’s have me thinking about this! I now reread many of my favorites and I most definitely pull new and different things from them.


    • Yes, I am finding that many of the classics I’ve read are richer books (like Great Expectations and Wuthering Heights for example). What are some the your favorite books that you’ve re-read?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Karen, one of my favorite rereads is A City of Bells by Elizabeth Goudge. I think I’ve read it 3 or 4? times. Pilgrim’s Inn by Goudge is another reread. I also love Narnia, LoTR, The Hobbit, many by L.M. Montgomery etc as rereads. Jane Austen’s I’m slowly rereading as well. P&P I’ve read multiple times. 🙂 I’m sure there is more, but those are the ones that jump out to me.


        • Can you believe I’ve not read many of the ones you listed??? My parents read the Narnia books to my sister and I when we were growing up. But I want to read them again. Probably when I do them as a read-aloud with my daughter. I’ve not read any of Tolkien or Montgomery. Not even Anne of Green Gables…..but it’s on my TBR list! I have the whole Anne of Green Gables and I also have The Complete Emily Starr Trilogy on my Kindle. I have read Pride and Prejudice and can see how it would be a fun re-read. And I’m currently slowly making my way through The Scent of Water by Goudge. It’s slow going because it’s my nightly Kindle read which means I usually don’t get much read before dozing off.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Goudge is naturally slower. She is very character driven and descriptive. I find her hard to read quickly. It usually takes me months or even a whole year to savor her titles. 🙂 There are so many good and beautiful books out there that I understand it’s hard to pick, let alone reread! Sigh. Bookish life is the best. 🙂


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