How long is your to-read list? Over two hundred books with likely all too valuable information? You need that information. You need it now. And to get it now, your must read fast. So let’s increase the reading speed! Let’s triple it, decuple it!
No. I hate reading fast. I have always hated it. For me, reading is not a means to acquire information, but a form of meditation. Unless I read a legislative text or an instruction manual, I do not primarily read to acquire new information. Most information is for mindless people, for passive people, for consumers. (I am still torn on scientific papers, though; I typically read the key papers fast and slow, but the supplementary papers fast.)
When I read a book, I read mainly white space. I focus my thoughts on what I am reading and on what I am not reading. This is not distraction! The white space is where the magic unfolds, where I become active, where I become creative, where the thoughts become mine. Every thought I read gives an impetus to ten fresh thoughts that were not just fed to my cognitive information-processing machine but that I created myself. With every book I read, I am writing an even larger book in my head, full of a million little links and examples.
When I read slowly, I read deeply and meditatively. I do not solely receive information. Rather, I internally express myself through the information I assimilate associatively. Books are mental stepping-stones. I create and dive into my own mental world, using books as catapults to hurl me there. Books do not just give me new ideas. They invite me to meditate on them, to expand on them, to enrich them with my own creative spirit.
When I read slowly, I calm down my body and cool my mind. Although my mind gets filled with thoughts, the book’s structure helps me to keep them cool. Reading slowly alleviates stress.
When I read slowly, I learn to understand human nature better, in particular, other people’s mental states. This improves the communication skills needed for building stronger relationships and gaining influence.
When I read slowly, I practice the art of slowness. This helps me to become a better man, a more grounded man, a man less susceptible to the haste of modern-day distractions and bullshit.
When I read slowly, I train my reflective skills and get to know myself. Self-knowledge is critical for doing my True Will.
When I read slowly, I deepen my focus. For I know that in every moment I am awake, my attention is everything.
I was reminded of the art and preciousness of slow reading by studying Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, now for the ninth time in my life. This masterpiece of literature entered the top three of my all-time favorite books over a decade ago. It still resides there gloriously, and it made me remember: a book that is not worth reading slow is not worth reading at all.