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John Miedema

Author of Slow Reading

1 Work 104 Members 23 Reviews 1 Favorited

Works by John Miedema

Slow Reading (2009) 104 copies


Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Miedema, John
20th Century



This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Jacket Blurb: Slow Reading examines the research in voluntary slow reading, from the earliest references in religion and philosophy, to the practice of close reading in the humanities, and the recent swell of interest associated with the Slow Movement. It looks at the diverse angles from which slow reading has been approached in education, library sciences and media studies. Research in psychology and neurophysiology provides a tentative explanation for the ongoing role of slow reading. The theme of locality in the Slow Movement provides insight into the importance of physical location in our relationship with information. Most of all, Slow Reading represents a rediscovery of the pleasure of reading for its own sake. /Jacket Blurb

Miedema's tiny volume is meant to be a scholarly argument for reading: reading for pleasure, reading for comprehension, reading as escape. In five essays, he picks apart different aspects of speed reading and its associated trends, and argues that slow reading is as valid in modern times as speed and efficiency.

It's clear from the outset that this book was meant to be academic, and while it is clear and readable, it often requires concentration from its readers (which, I suppose, was intentional). So, readers should be aware that this is what they're getting into with this book.

This isn't to say that Miedema's work is without emotion or art. He often speaks of the inherent sacredness of reading, its therapeutic powers, and its timelessness as both deliverer of information, and pleasant hobby. He also makes resounding and compelling arguments for libraries and their use in modern times. His proposed make-believe book, A Librarian's Guide to Getting Lost would be an excellent next project for him. I would love to read it.

However, there are times when Miedema shows his prejudices on this topic. This book was written just before the current boom in eReaders, and so he doesn't understand them as well as he would now. However, he argues that they could never replace books because they have too many "bells and whistles" and that they, like hypertext online, are too distracting to allow true concentration. To me, this seems to be a bit of projection. I'm pretty old school about reading: I really don't like reading lengthy texts online either. However, I adore my eReader because it feels like reading a book, and it allows me to carry two hundred books in my purse. It would be interesting to see what Miedema would write a year after receiving a current-generation eReader as a gift.

The real shame is that this book was written as an argument at all. When Miedema speaks about slow reading, books, and reading and writing in general, he becomes almost rhapsodic. That is the book I wanted to read: a gift from one bibliophile to another. But then, that's my prejudice. Miedema writes one hell of an essay, and makes some excellent points all through the book. It's a quick read (har har) but a deep one, and any problems with it do not outweigh the importance of what Miedema's saying here. If you're feeling rushed, and want motivation and justification to take a breath and enjoy your life for once, Slow Reading will give you that and much more.
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JBlackmore | 22 other reviews | Jan 10, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
To me, reading about reading slowly was a waste of my time, and I never should have requested it. I am and always have been an avid reader, although I don't think I read anything hurriedly. This book bored me to tears. Why read about slow reading? Just enjoy reading what you like, at your own pace.
Marilee2008 | 22 other reviews | Aug 28, 2010 |
John Miedema's Slow Reading (Litwin Books, 2009) was written based on the author's library school research at the University of Western Ontario. It's a short (65-page) exploration of the idea that "reading slowly allows for a deeper relationship with stories and ideas" (p. 1).

Miedema offers four essays: the first, "The Personal Nature of Slow Reading," provides a short history of the concept and various metaphorical approaches to reading (particularly the idea of reading as consuming, a la Francis Bacon). He differentiates "slow reading" as a voluntary act from "close reading" as a professional practice; its voluntary nature, he suggests, is the key aspect - it's not just reading slowly, but actively engaging with the text.

In the second essay, "Slow Reading in an Information Ecology," Miedema fleshes out his major point: that print remains the "superior technology for reading anything of length, quality, or substance" (p. 20), and that there is "something enduring about print" (p. 26) that e-readers (no matter their technical capacities) can manage. "Print," he writes, "enlists the hands, signalling the brain where to read next, and how much more there is to read. Digital reading shifts all the work to the eyes" (p. 31). While this is one of the things that has kept me from reading anything long-form in e-form (I find that I like to riffle the pages as I read, and often use a finger to trace my progress down the page), I'm not sure in the long run it's going to be what "saves print." As Miedema notes, there are important uses for both print and digital form (i.e. reference is better digitally, while long-form reading is best done in print).

Perhaps more controversially, Miedema suggests that digital books have not evolved into anything other than a sort of metadata for print books (that they exist "only for evaluative purposes before the reader seeks out the physical copy") (p. 37). I think it's too early to say that this is the case; while the statistics aren't in yet, it seems likely that many adopters of reading via the Kindle or iPad may not go out and buy physical copies of all the books they purchase for those devices (on the other hand, the amount of money I've spent on print copies of Google Books titles makes Miedema's point work in my specific case).

In the third essay, "The Slow Movement and Slow Reading," Miedema connects his idea of slow reading to the more general "slow movement," (slow food, &c.). As part of this, he suggests, we might look to some of the same principles that govern those concepts, like locality (reading local authors, or books about your home region). And in "The Psychology of Slow Reading," he offers a very wide-angle overview of the neuroscience behind reading. Finally, in "The Practice of Slow Reading," Miedema suggests ways to "do" slow reading, and fully engage your faculties in reading a text. These are the fairly intuitive things that many of us do when we really want to read: pick a comfortable spot, collect your thoughts, grab a notepad, &c. One of his hints is one I've found very useful - always read like you're going to write a review.

I'm very glad to see Miedema's research in published form, although I wish that some of the academic paraphernalia and style had been edited away. The in-text citations break up the flow of the text, and the introduction of cited authors in this book is a bit stilted (they're only rarely referred to by first name, and usually just dropped into the text in the form of a surname and a publication date). There were certain areas that warranted more fleshing out, and I hope they will be in future works (by Miedema or others).

Overall, a valuable examination of the issues concerned, and a valuable reminder that you'll get more out of a book (no matter its form) if you engage with it fully and carefully.

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1 vote
JBD1 | 22 other reviews | Jul 25, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A very short book, based on John's Master's thesis (MLIS), it is an odd mixture of a paean to reading and an academic study of the value of reading. Unlike most of the books you'll see about the "slow movement", this is not primarily for the casual reader.
djfiander | 22 other reviews | May 4, 2010 |


½ 3.3

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