I just finished my 70th book of the year. It was Rachel Cusk’s Transit and in my opinion it was, well, A-OK since I am in the mood of reading something with at least some plots happening and Transit is the kind of book that does not offer that. I was once asked if I remember details from all the books I read in a year, possibly in an attempt to validate their own beliefs that read better > read more (also in trying to imply that even if I read a lot, I don’t necessarily understand a lot), and also since I read a lot (the image that comes to my mind right now is of Amy Santiago of Brooklyn Nine Nine proclaiming “fifty books is not a lot“), and dutifully I answered: nope. Definitely not. But I have always been a ravenous reader, and I read in between other daily routines — in between work breaks? I read. While waiting at the bank? I read. While eating? I read. You got the picture. While I might not remember a lot of things from what I have read, there are books which stayed with me, and those books were filled with highlights and underlines and scribbled marginalia and extra pieces of paper clipped in between the pages because there were no more space for me to write in the margins. There might be some reviews I have written about those books here in this blog, or Goodreads, or at least in my own personal Moleskine journal. Then when I read other books, sometimes about topics remotely unrelated at all from the previous books I have read, I managed to somewhat connect the dots between two or more unrelated topics altogether, and I would write about them all over again here in this blog, or my own personal Moleskine journal. It has become somewhat of a mental exercise, and it brightens up my day every time I manage to come to a revelation or connect the dots. In conclusion, I maintain that in order to read better, you still have to read more.
I’ve always prided myself on the diversity of the topics of the books I read. It’s a blessing and a curse to have such boundless curiosity, sometimes more than enough to keep me awake at nights. This is largely due to the Internet, and also the fact that I have friends who are amazing and involved in all sorts of amazing things too, and I always wanted to know more about what they do and what they are interested in, so I always try to ask about books they like, or enlist Goodreads’ help for the manual voyeur into their virtual bookshelves. Author Anakana Schofield in Book Post newsletter asked us to examine our reading experience — this after she found out about the term ‘fern up’ after reading Oliver Sacks’ Oaxaca Journal on his fern exploration in Southern Mexico:
How much of our reading is accidental, how much intentional, how much directed and influenced by the readers in our cohort? Is our receptiveness and direction in reading hardwired into our brains or responsive and evolving? Are we drawn to single-species enthusiasms or more diverse ecologies? I’ve always prided myself on never having to be told what to read. I take a flaneuse approach and read widely based on what captures my interest, what I bump into. How many lifetimes do we need to read all that we want, and how to resolve the inevitable subtraction from that imposed by wasting time on the unsatisfying or what we’ve been forced to read for work.
I don’t know if I am a fast reader (I’ve been asked if I am). To be honest, with the amount of highlighting and underlining and researching mid-reading and writing in the margins, I could not possibly be. And if I ever was, it was certainly not intentional. There are few things you should know about the anatomy of reading before you can decide to attempt speed read: the eye pauses in between reading to process what one has read are called ‘fixations’, the rapid movements in between them are called ‘saccades‘, and the inner voice we give ourselves when we read is called ‘subvocalisation‘. All of these three are important for reading comprehension, but in order to speed read, one needs to learn to limit fixations and subvocalisation as they slow down the process of reading. A college-educated adults can read and comprehend 200-400 words per minute. Some experts estimated to have read 500-600 words per minute with a good comprehension to be called a speed reader. John F. Kennedy was said to be able to read 1,200 words per minute. Evelyn Wood, the inventor of speed reading herself, was said to be able to read 2,700 words per minute. I, personally don’t care. I am quite done with all the hustle culture and the move fast break things bromantra already, let’s not inflict more of them into something I genuinely love.
Speaking of reading, my friend Syar sent her big long list of things she liked reading this year, encompassing topics such as prison abolition movement, disability justice movement, transformative justice, environmental issues, being queer, labour and work, being women, and many more! I am currently having many tabs opened while reading the articles recommended in her list, and I learned so much already. (See? I have very amazing friends doing amazing things!)
Some related, some not:
- “I wanted to yell at some of the people I run into, “If you think you’re woke, it’s because someone woke you up, so thank the human alarm clocks.” It’s easy now to assume that one’s perspectives on race, gender, orientation, and the rest are signs of inherent virtue, but a lot of ideas currently in circulation are gifts that arrived recently, through the labours of others.”
- “The best companies I visited, all through the years, were never very hurried,” DeMarco said. “Maybe they used pressure from time to time, as a sort of amusing side-effect. But it was never a constant. Because you don’t get creativity for free. You need people to be able to sit back, put their feet up, and think.”
- Just replace the government with TikTok teens!
- Reading: Finished Rachel Cusk’s Transit. Next in line will be Valeria Luiselli’s Tell Me How It Ends, a collection of essays on borders and migration issues in the United States, particularly ones afflicting Central American migrants.
- Viewing: Pitch Perfect 2 was on the telly just now, and I cringed so much at all the racist, sexist, fatphobic, and homophobic stereotypes strewn all throughout this movie. To think that I never caught all of these when I watched it for the first time only last year!
- Listening: A Spotify playlist called Persian Chill.
- Food & Drink: I felt like having a good bowl of curry noodle today, so I did. The Tealive barista knew my order by heart already (it is always iced shaken coffee with grass jelly, no sugar).