“That” was actually one of those Star Trek books, can’t remember which, and my brother asked yesterday because he caught me about 3/4 through. And I did not answer “well, yeah” even though I wanted to.
Because that was actually the third such book I’d started that day. Over the past week or so, when my fandom mind switched back to Star Trek from, I think, Sherlock Holmes, I have reread about eight Star Trek: TOS novels. And my reply to my brother when he asked was not sarcastic because, though I read them quickly, I’ve read them all before. Yes I read fast, but I admit in this case I’ve been skimming some…especially in Demons, which has a monstrous Mary Sue character–McCoy’s in love with her and Spock mind-melds with her, AND she has wild red hair and is a super genius. Yeah, I think I only picked it up again because, well, because I’d forgotten how bad she was. There were a few acceptable peril situations however…
Where was I going with this again?
Ah yes. I used to read lots. And then I got trapped by fan fiction, and probably read much less–this was, believe it or not, me be geeky, and more being burned out with college classes and assigned readings. While not as much, such reading is much more exhausting, and I think I was simply burned out for a while, even following graduation.
After graduation comes no job, and me volunteering at the library. So there are lots of books for me to read–including a rather large pile from a buying ‘spree’ a few months back when I did have a little extra money: some, well, now as I try to count them there are almost twenty. Plus the eight books I have yet to finish from the library (I’ve started three). I do pretty well in keeping up though, at least until my fandom brain takes over–hence the Star Trek. But fandom, at least, is fast reading. When you’re talking series books that don’t have to build characterizations or mostly even worlds, they can go much more quickly. Well. That doesn’t actually count if they don’t get the characterizations right, which is very much a subjective thing now that I think about it. Let’s just go with: they read faster.
In seventh grade, I had a teacher, Mr. Prim, who had some one-page project to measure our reading speeds. I tested at 1200 wpm. The text, I distinctly remember, was from Huckleberry Finn. And I’d read it before. Even then, I remembered that passage. The other passage was from The Prince and the Pauper. I’d read that too. So, I’m not sure how accurate a measure that was.
Although I suppose I can use it to argue that even then I could be called fairly well read (though I couldn’t say that now). Even in fourth grade I’d tested with an ability to parse sentences and paragraphs at above a 12th grade reading level. See, our school had a program called “AR” reading (Accelerated Reader), and after you read a book, you would take a test, and that test would tell you how well you comprehended the test. I scored badly on Les Miserable only because I though, ooh, it’s a hard book, I should make sure I internalize it, and forgot the specific eye colors involved. Also, 1984 changes entirely from middle school to college. That’s a simple example, but you have to realize a program is flawed when it classifies Hemingway at a 4th grade reading level. Whatever “interest level” you give it.
Sans second digression, though I don’t know my “true” reading speed, although one interest test called it 700 wpm, I do read faster than the general population. Which is something like 200 wpm and really, really slow. To me. Poor general population, no wonder you can only read seven books a year. I can’t keep up.
Reading quickly of course has much more to do with general reading habits. And in my case especially, interest in the material. Because novels I can power through in, oh, four hours on average. Or three maybe? Time flies, anyway, so I start reading and them I’m done and depressed because it was over all-too-quickly. When I was rereading the first two Rogue Agent books before reading the third when it came out, I finished all three in one day, two? because I kept putting them down. Stopping takes up plenty of time, no matter how engaging the story.
Non-fiction books take longer.
Which is really hard for me to accept because I love them. I love checking them out. I love buying them. But they just take so long to read. And unlike fiction books, for me, harder to give up. There’s always the chance I will grow out of my fiction books, especially since I love those in series: like Rogue Agent, or Robert Asprin’s Myth books. Actually, those are still going strong, and you’ll pry my Terry Pratchett paperbacks from my cold dead hands (I’m taking the hardcovers with me), but I just managed to give up my Dorothy Cannells and Aunt Dimitys from middle school. But though nonfiction books may become outdated, they never lose information. Even if it’s just historical value.
Like my weird attraction to science books. The Fly in the Cathedral, books like that. I rarely, rarely read them, but I love to have them for when I want to read them. And I will eventually. I really will.
So between reading too quickly, and having an active fandom attraction, I both gather too many books, and don’t read enough. Fortunately, books last. Maybe not hundreds of years, but long enough for me to get around to them. Or maybe my theoretical kids, that I’m not sure I want, but at least I have an excuse for those Hardy Boys and John Bellairs (<–he’s awesome, look him up!).