Books for Slow Reading

Yesterday I heard about the idea of slow reading (on CBC Radio 2). I  read a couple of internet articles about it, and got to thinking about books that might lend themselves to slow reading.

A comment on Patrick Kingsley’s Guardian article, “The Art of Slow Reading” said that few books published today are worthy of slow reading. “Read old books,” this comment said. I think there’s something to that. Much of the advice dispensed to writers these days seems to be geared for speed — hook the reader and keep him or her moving from scene to scene before they can escape. Many current books do that, but sacrifice much in the process. They are shallow and not memorable. Once read, they are forgotten. They are never re-read. What can you expect of books that are really Products from a giant marketing machine?

The hallmark of the Slow Read is that you are sorry when you finish reading it and want to read it again, perhaps many times over the years. Slow reads should be meaty and substantial. That suggests long works, weighty tomes of 500 pages or more. Many of my favourite books for re-reading are just that.

Before I get into the list I will just say that it is representative of nothing but my own idiosyncratic whims. These are books I have read more than once and can envision reading again.

In no particular order, but starting with fiction:

…And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer

A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Les miserables by Victor Hugo

Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

The Girl in a Swing; Maia; and Watership Down, all by Richard Adams

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Gormenghast and Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake


Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon

The Outermost House by Henry Beston

And for gardeners:

Herbs and the Earth by Henry Beston

The Essential Earthman and One Man’s Garden by Henry Mitchell

Green Thoughts by Eleanor Perenyi

My Weeds by Sara B. Stein.

It was fun running around the house to my various stashes of books, looking up all these titles and authors. In the process I found many more books that I would like to, and probably will, read again some day.

Finally, for those of you with e-readers, I will mention my own novel, The Friendship of Mortals, which I would unabashedly recommend as a Slow Read (or even a fast one). You can find it at: