Can you read too fast?

Can you read too fast?

I have a tendency to devour books and then find not that long after I’ve finished reading them that I can’t remember much about them. This is why I’ve kept a list of all the books I’ve read for the last few years and that I tend to jot down a few notes from the non-fiction books I read to remember what I found most useful about them (a trait that’s quite hard to shake being a researcher by trade).

When it comes to fiction, where I don’t take any notes, it leaves me in the sometimes amusing position of knowing that I absolutely loved a book and avidly recommending it to others, whilst barely being able to remember anything about what’s in it. I get left with a strong emotional reaction to a book almost entirely devoid of any detail.

So does this mean I just read too fast and should slow down? 

Firstly, I’m not sure how easy it would be to change my natural reading speed even if I wanted to. I’ve always been this way since borrowing books from the library as a child. Secondly, the only real downside is being a bit embarrassed when asked if I’ve read something and saying yes, only to find I can remember very little about it. Thirdly, and most importantly, slowing down would remove the joy of re-reading a book which I know I loved but can’t remember the details of – it’s almost like being able to read it again for the first time.

Then of course there are some books I’ve re-read so many times I know them extremely well but still love the indulgence of going back to them every few years. Possession by A S Byatt is one of these for me. I find it completely captivating, with all the elements I most like in fiction. It’s set in two different time periods, is about writing, and has a thwarted love story at its heart. Which reminds me, it must be almost five years since I read it, which surely justifies reading it again soon.