You know, I was thinking about the 52-Book Challenge, and I realize I don't really need to challenge myself to read a book a week. That would be somewhat like challenging myself to eat 2 desserts per day, or sleep 9 hours a day. It is my default. My challenge with books is to read them slowly enough to have them actually do some good.
So I think a better challenge for me would be to read slowly ... and actually remember what I read. Maybe even narrate?
...slowing down can produce a deeply profound quiet that can overwhelm your soul, and in that quiet you can lose yourself in thought for an immeasurable moment of time. Lindsay Waters, Time for Reading.I do see value in quick reading, especially for the first time through a new book. Like many visual/spatial learners, I do much better getting a sense of the whole forest before focusing on individual trees. And with some books, once is enough; you don't have to revisit that copse tree by tree, at least not right away. I quoted once before in Lectio: Extensive and Intensive, Cursiva and Stataria: (from a book called Lectures on Metaphysics and Logic)
"Accommodate the intensity of the reading to the importance of the work. Some books therefore are only to be dipped into; others are to be run over rapidly; and others are to be studied long and sedulously." All books are not to be read with the same attention; and accordingly, an ancient distinction was taken of reading into lectio cursiva and lectio stataria. The former of these we have adopted into English, cursory reading being a familiar and correct translation of lectio cursiva. But lectio stataria cannot be so well rendered by the expression of stationary reading. "Read not," says Bacon in his Fiftieth Essay, "to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. Some books also may be read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others; but that would be only in the less important arguments, and the meaner sort of books, else distilled books are like common distilled waters, flashy things. "In other words, some books you have to read through in order to see if they're worth becoming part of your interior bookshelf. You can't always tell just by the fact that it's on a Great Books list or alternately, not on one. I can't find the quote right now, but CS Lewis talks about how a real course of reading has to be more personal than a simple 5-foot shelf of Great Books of the Western World, convenient and praiseworthy as such collections are as a starting place or summary.
(The whole quote from Bacon is here) ...
So that's one of the values of a quick reading, lectio cursiva, to me -- once a book is read, I have a sort of mental schema of that book, similar to the general idea I have of the European map or the layout of a city I've visited only briefly. I can visit it again some other time, or cross-reference it with other reading, or have enough familiarity with it at least to distinguish between the literary equivalent of the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building.
But that's not enough for a real intimacy with a book. ... and that is where slow reading, lectio stataria, comes in. I don't have to develop that kind of relationship with every book I read, but there are some that I end up conversing with throughout major points of my life.
And of course, since most of the deeper books, whether Great Books precisely or not, deal with big ideas, there are overlaps between them, so the books end up dialoguing with each other inside my head. Scary thought! Yes, my interior bookshelf is no static piece of furniture, I'm afraid. When I remember that books are essentially forms of Logos, words, a form of speech, I guess I can get more comfortable with the thought of an internal literary Smeagol-Gollum conversation. Perhaps it's a bit more like sitting at a dinner table or at a fireside listening to greater people than I am talking about things that really matter.