Sunday Salon: Speed reading

The Sunday Salon

I have had wildly varying reading speeds lately, and this has set me thinking. Are the better books the ones that slow you down, that make you re-read sentences or even paragraphs? Or are the books that you read in one or two settings in an engrossed daze actually better?

In September I started reading The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon. It took me more than a month to finish. I worried that I had lost my reading mojo. And admittedly I did find it hard, but I thought the language wonderful. And so clever. I feel enriched for having read it.

In the past few days I read Before I Go to Sleep by S J Watson (review here). I was absorbed and raced through it, eager to get to the end. And once I did I felt satisfaction with the story. But the language had at no point caught my eye and I’m already beginning to forget the book.

In some respects I enjoyed Before I Go to Sleep more. And as a thriller it did for me exactly what it set out to do. But I would absolutely state that The Yiddish Policeman’s Union is the better book, without question.

So I’m trying to work out if this is a general rule or just these two books. Is there always more value in the books that slow you down, encourage you to notice the language and savour it, or can quick reads be equally good? I certainly know I like to read some of both. How about you?