Halfway Through A Good Book

Slow Reader

I’ve always had a slight problem with reading – I read the books I enjoy most very slowly. This becomes tricky when I’m reviewing novels or judging books for awards. And there are some writers – I won’t mention names – who write as if their words were housebricks, and I keep stubbing my toes on their sentence structures so that they literally become unreadable.

Often, these writers are the least developed in terms of sentence structure or word usage, so that in many cases I find it easier to read more complex novels than, say, a supermarket novel. Recently, I read ‘Boxer, Beetle’ by Ned Beauman, a book which a friend described as unreadable, and I breezed through it (very odd plot, but the guy has a great career ahead of him).

Now, here’s where it gets interesting; I also have trouble matching my sleep-times with my partner. Like my brother Steven, I virtually pass out soon after it gets dark and wake when it’s light – always have done. If you live with a ‘night person’, you know how difficult this can be. I’ve always assumed that my brother and I manufacture melatonin at very set times.

Now, it turns out that someone else has exactly the same problem, but he’s taught himself to control his sleep patterns here. But what has that got to do with reading?

Time Flies

Well, I just discovered that I can read faster and more easily on an eReader (I can’t get the books I want, but that’s another story). Now I need to add another element; I was listening to a Radiolab podcast about a runner who suffered seizures. After she had a chunk of her brain removed she found her running improved, until she could manage a hundred-mile run with hardly any sleep.

What had happened was that most of her temporal lobe had been cut out, and when she runs she can no longer think of how far she’s come, or how far she has to go. She loses track of everything except her breathing and the pace of her feet. Reading on the eReader has suddenly made all books easier to read, and I’m wondering if it’s because I am no longer aware of how far I’ve gone or how far I have to go. Because with an eReader you live in the page moment.

Friends always complain that I’m overly aware of the time. I’m hardly ever late for anything, and always like watches and clocks around me. But in the same way that melatonin regulates the diurnal waking pattern, the removal of time-awareness in the process of reading seems to improve reading comprehension and speed.

It might also go some way toward explaining my love of computers and working on screens – I’m not filling a journal, and so a time element is removed. Go figure. The Radiolab episode is called ‘In The Running’.

QUIZ: The photo is mimicking a still from a European movie – which one?

8 comments on “Halfway Through A Good Book”

  1. Bill B. says:

    I recently embarked on an experiment to determine if it is possible (or bearable) to read a whole book on my Android phone, and like you, I have found that it is actually better than reading a physical book. I have also put that down to the removal of obvious progress indicators. Then there is the bonus of having a small library to choose from at all times.

  2. stephen groves says:

    Hi Chris,
    Just can’t remember the name of the film i’m afraid that still is mimicking,but just finished viewing The Door a film by Anno Saul staring Mads Mikkelsen and Jessica Schwarz ,well worth catching if you get the chance.

    All Best

  3. Michael Hagon says:

    Hmmm….Mr Fowler,

    Of all the people in the world who would be in flagrant ownership of an eReader I never would’ve imagined you! I’ve tried Kindle. Stopped using it. Tried it again. Stopped. I just can’t seem to divorce reading from paper! I think I almost enjoy the physical aspect of holding and touching what I am reading almost as much as the actual reading itself. A first edition of Red Bride or Roofworld are simply much more fun to HAVE than Danielle Steel’s entire…ahem…output for £5.99 from Amazon! Regards.

  4. Anne Fernie says:

    Somebody answer the film poser please-it’s bugging me. It’s not ‘Metropolis’ or something German/Russian, 1920-30s is it?

  5. Jamie C says:

    It’s Europa, isn’t it?

    I wonder if temporal lobe removal will become fashionable for endurance athletes…

  6. Helen Martin says:

    I can never answer film questions, sorry. My dentist’s receptionist has just bought an ereader and is enjoying it when she can’t have a book, but she says she’ll never lose her love of paper. I’ve found that reading a book will eat time faster than almost anything. It even makes time fly when you’re waiting for a bus at a drafty cold bus loop.

  7. J F Norris says:

    This is something I never thought about. I have a terrible habit of holding a reading race with myself wiht eery book I read. Must finish three chapters before 10:30 tonight, for example. I am very much an anti e-book person, but I wonder if I tried one for a week or so if I too would find myself reading faster because I would not be able to see how long the chapters were and then wouldn’t be able to divide up the book into chunks for my weekly reading schedule.

  8. Helen Martin says:

    Or, JF Norris, reading slower for the same reason.

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