Reading Slowly

There’s a bookstore in Lisbon called “Ler Devagar” which means ‘Read Slowly’.

The bookstore itself seems like a place where I could spend a few hours, but it’s the name that I love.

When we read a great book, we sometimes want to rush through it, almost devour it; and then, feeling ourselves near the end, feeling the pages in our right hand thin out, we feel that sense of panic in our chest.

James Baldwin’s 'Another Country'

James Baldwin’s ‘Another Country’


If we are lucky, and have any self-control, we put the book down and persuade ourselves to return to the book later to finish it, probably spending the rest of the day thinking about the characters.

And later we do finish the book.  Maybe a little sad to have rushed through it?


Reading slowly means rereading a beautifully written sentence,

reading a great passage aloud to someone else,

reflecting on what you are reading.


The excitement of wanting to finish a great book is wonderful.  Occasionally, I need to remind myself to take a breath and slow down.

And if I forget in all the excitement? The great part is that I can always reread the book …..





88 thoughts on “Reading Slowly

  1. I’m a naturally slow reader. My wife and I, lying in bed, sometimes race. She always wins. I love those moments, though, when you say to yourself, “I have to read that sentence again!” A mix of awe and envy. Thanks for the post.

      • evening actually 🙂 hope Night Train to Lisbon is good. almost bought murakami’s 1Q84 trilogy but the paperback was too thick i fear i’d tear it all up before i got halfway.

        • Enjoy Night Train to Lisbon! I haven’t read it yet but it’s been on my to be read list for a while now. It’s funny that you mention the size of 1Q84. I wanted to buy it this summer on one of my travels but decided against it when I saw its size too! I ended up getting ‘After the Quake’ instead as it was so thin. Turned out to be a great read so it all worked out 🙂

  2. This is very true. I’m terrible about finishing a book in a day. Sometimes if I don’t rush through a book, I never finish it. It’s a bad habit.

    • Yes, we appreciate the construction and beauty of the language. The poetry of the story, right?

      That bicycle is great – I’m sure there’s a story behind that!

  3. I dropped my copy of Garden of Eden by Hemmingway out of the bed the other night without a bookmark.

    That just meant I got to savor a chapter again and didn’t even notice.

    Love this blog. I might even read it again.

    • Yes, perhaps too close for comfort for you these days as you all recuperate from the earthquakes. Although, do read it sometime; it has some beautiful short stories.

  4. I love your last sentence. Yes, we can read slowly but sometimes it is just impossible… And there is always another time to reread the book we love….

  5. Elegant and insightful. We have been taught efficiency, prudence, and more recently speed. Our meals our rushed, our meetings are brief, and we conduct most of our discussions by text. I have embraced this reality with good humour. But one thing I will take slowly is reading. As you know most of my reading is non-fiction – biographies, history, science, health.etc. These narratives are the stuff of legend. I am inspired and motivated by courageous acts that have been recorded for posterity. I savor and celebrate each moment. I look forward to our ongoing dialogue….

  6. I used to pride myself on reading a book faster than most, but I’m sure I do miss a few beautiful sentences by doing that :/ . When there’s a part I like though, I might reread it a couple of times to absorb the full emotion or description in that section. I used to be an actress, so when I read it’s like a movie in my mind. Sometimes the director will yell, “Cut! Cut! Lets look over at that section again.” So I then have a chance to rewind and reconsider what I just read, see if I missed any hidden meaning, and then continue with the scene. Great post and I’m now a fan 😉

  7. Lovely post Letizia, What a heavenly looking book-shop – would all the books be in Portuguese?
    I love reading about books almost as much as I love reading them.
    I’m a book a day person, and then I’m a constant re-reader, – just finished re-reading the two volume diaries of Sir John Colville, and now started re-reading the six volume series of letters called The Lyttelton Hart Davis Letters… so good I read some of them to my husband in the optometrists waiting room this morning! ( One should never go anywhere without a book, which means having a very large handbag!)

    • I’m sure the bookstore has a foreign language section for books in other languages. My Portuguese is a bit rough and I can’t tackle novels yet but it would still be fun to explore!

      What lovely books you are reading right now. Diaries and letters often call for reading aloud, I agree – even in the optometrist’s waiting room!

  8. I’m reading The Garden of Evening Mists right now and it is so beautiful so I’m taking my time. And I keep rereading lines. Now when I read thrillers, I can’t slow down.

    • It’s true that there are some books that encourage a slow, deliberate, savor-each-word read and then there are others which you just want to gobble up in one go! And then some which are both – those are the ones which I have to remind myself to put down from time to time. What delightful problems to have!

  9. Thank you for share another interesting and important post. Reading requires time and slow tone for re reading. Also, some books I’ve read thirty years ago present new insights when i read them nowadays. And the reading tone changes related to where are read. I always have with me books. Eu sempre levo comigo alguns livros. Livros que eu posso tocar, sentir o perfume, sentir a presença. E esta livraria é muito aconchegante mesmo. i appreciate very much your important work. For literature. For art. For good living. Lembrando Hemingway, por quem, para quem, por que os livros são escritos…for whom the bells toll. Thank you for all.

    • Voce esta tao certo, e tao interessante reler um livro. As vezes eu sinto o mesmo sobre um texto e as vezes me sinto diferente. Mas ele sempre me ajuda a apreciar a linguagem mais. Obrigada por seu constante incentivo, Walter, o que significa muito!

  10. You capture the best and worst elements of reading a book, the fact that great reads are inevitably over for a first time, the way you always hammer through them before the regret starts but the joys of sharing and rereading again. In fact reading your post encapsulated all of that. I read it again, therefore proving my own point to myself, smugness ensued for a time.

  11. You are so right about a good book, Letizia. I try hard not to rush but sometimes they pull and pull, but then I remember. It will be there next year and I’ll read it again. I would love to visit that bookstore.

  12. I’m a really slow reader (I’m a slow eater as well!) because I love to savor every word 🙂

    BTW – I want to get an email whenever you put up a new post, but I can’t find a link anywhere on your blog… Am I not looking closely enough?

    • A slow reader and a slow eater- you really know how to enjoy life 🙂

      To get the subscribe by email box, I think you need to make sure you’re not already signed into WordPress (I think that the box is not coming up as you’re already subscribed to my blog?) or just go to the WordPress Reader, then edit blogs, and change the delivery option (that’s what I did with yours to get your posts by email). Hope it works!

  13. You described it perfectly. I think I usually give into the panic and keep reading, even though I don’t want the book to end. And then, when I’m done, I just hold it. And keep picking it back up. And wonder how in the world I’ll ever find another really good book to read.

    • The bookstore does look like a great place to spend some time doesn’t it? I read that it used to be an old factory (but I can’t remember what of, unfortunately!).

  14. I can definitely relate to the experience you describe of wanting to devour a book, particularly from my early days of reading as a kid. Not to mention “eating dessert first” by peeking at the ending. Avoiding that was one of my first lessons in impulse control.

    • “eating dessert first” – Yes, that relates so well to reading! I know people who still read the end of books first as adults, in fact. But what a shame in a way, but quite sweet too.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  15. I do feel sad when I rush through the book and have it end too quickly. I used to be a speedy reader but realised that I often miss things that way (and occasionally whole chapters!), and I’ve considerably slowed down since. 🙂

    • That’s great that you’ve been able to slow down. It made me smile that you read so quickly that you missed whole chapters! There’s nothing worse than realizing that you are reading too fast that you’ve missed an integral part of the plot – a sure sign to slow down and appreciate the book that I’m sure many of us have experienced 🙂

  16. I am in love with the picture that you posted. Reading this post is a great reminder to myself that I need to take more time and reflect on what I’ve just read; and I thank you for that. Great post! =)

    • It’s a great picture, isn’t it? One of those bookstores we all wish we had just around the corner. Thanks for the kind words; I have to remember to read slowly myself!

    • I feel the same way with a good book. You become so invested in their world; it’s hard to let go! Thanks for following my blog; it’s lovely to meet another bibliophile 🙂

  17. I am a fast reader. I read sentences and paragraphs – not words. Not out of dis-respect for the book but because I have had years of practice. More than 60 years. I am also a writer. I know when to linger over a phrase. Savour a sentence. There’s a lot of filler words in books and these are the words you skim. I read everywhere, and everything. If I don’t have a book I’ll read the back of cereal boxes and even Ikea instructions. It’s because I love words. Which makes me a wordsmith. I adore your blog. V.

    • Your comment made me smile; I like hearing about someone’s love for words! Like you, I love to read anything I can get my hands on, instruction manuals included 🙂 Thank you for your kind words.

  18. Pingback: Reading Slowly « Atlanta Booklover's Blog

  19. Nice post. For those wonderful books, I found myself absorbing most of the words, thus reading more slowly than I usually do.

    • That’s great that you can take your time with books you love! For me, it depends on the book- some I just read very fast (and have to reread to appreciate the language) and then others I, like you, am able to pace myself and “absorb” the words as you so eloquently put it!

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