Sometimes we read books rather quickly and don't give them much (or any) thought, so the action 'reading' does not necessarily imply that we have given enough thoughts to any book we read.

Is there a word that describes reading a book with great care; usually but necessarily slowly over a long period of time.

  • 6
    Not a word, but a verb phrase: pore over. Commented Nov 6, 2012 at 20:05

5 Answers 5


The closest you're likely to get in a single word is peruse.

  • 2
    +1: This. Although it has lately been used to mean skim, it really does imply a close and thorough reading.
    – Robusto
    Commented Nov 6, 2012 at 20:37
  • 2
    Just so. It is also used incorrectly to mean browse. The correct meaning of peruse is the opposite of skim, but people have used it to mean skim by sort transposition of meaning. People hear it being used for reading, and without being attentive to the kind of reading, use it again for a different, indeed opposite, kind of reading.
    – Ryan Haber
    Commented Nov 6, 2012 at 22:54
  • To the extent, indeed, that one of the OED's definitions is 'To read through or over; (generally) to read. In later use also: to browse, skim.' Commented Nov 7, 2012 at 7:28

Close reading describes, in literary criticism, the careful, sustained interpretation of a brief passage of text. Such a reading places great emphasis on the particular over the general, paying close attention to individual words, syntax, and the order in which sentences and ideas unfold as they are read.

Slow reading is the intentional reduction in the speed of reading, carried out to increase comprehension or pleasure. The concept appears to have originated in the study of philosophy and literature as a technique to more fully comprehend and appreciate a complex text. More recently, there has been increased interest in slow reading as result of the slow movement and its focus on decelerating the pace of modern life.

For single word alternatives, you would simply study a text.

  • Yes - although I would say a careful reading seems much more familiar to me than a close reading. The Google Books usage figures there are remarkably close, but I'm not sure if they reflect a US/UK divide, or if maybe academia favours close over careful (I'm assuming there must be some reason why I don't see them as equally common). Commented Nov 6, 2012 at 21:24
  • Came here for study, left fulfilled. To me there are three degrees: you can skim a book, read a book, or study a book.
    – ghoppe
    Commented Nov 6, 2012 at 23:30
  • close/careful reading sound like lawyers reading contracts.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 22 at 19:00


Pore over. Pored over. (Avoid pouring over books, fluid irregardless).

Examine minutely.



With deliberation.

Possibly among the best, but not so 'euphonic' is "Reading for detail ..." - A possibly unfamiliar but well used term. eg

Answers - What is reading for detail?

  • Reading for detail can mean that when you read you pay very close attention to each and every detail in the reading such as dates, quantities, and names.

One stop English

  • Skills: Reading skills include reading for gist, reading for detail. There are also speaking activities and opportunities for writing practice.

Improve reading skills

  • ... Extensive reading - used for pleasure and general understanding Intensive reading - accurate reading for detailed understanding.

Also and here

NGram. "Reading for detail", with "a dark and stormy night" for frequency of use comparison.

enter image description here

  • 1
    irregardless is not much liked by the "academy".
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 22 at 19:00
  • Sure thing, just like "it has it's place"?
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 23 at 12:49
  • @Lambie Ize aware :-) || I sometimes use it intentionally for that reason :-) || BUT I opine that it has its place, copious comment to the contrary notwithstanding. || My brain, and apparently not all others :-) says that in the context above it does a better job than "regardless" would. || I'm reasonably erudite and literate. But not always in full agreement with consensus views. (Which is how it should be for all of us :-) Commented Mar 24 at 12:47
  • @Lambie :-) - A few days ago I caught awto-kerrect putting an apostrophe in where it belongeth not BUT this one may (or may not) have been the fault of my hand-brain system. Commented Mar 24 at 12:49

Like another person mentioned "poring over" a book would mean that you are reading with the goal of memorizing or looking for important information, so "poring over" a book means reading intently with a pragmatic purpose behind it, such as studying for a test.

Another term for 'reading carefully' that is common in the tech and legal fields is "parsing through" a document or book. Parsing through a book means to read each part until it is fully understood and then move on to the next part in order. So if you have a project with a list of complex requirements that you need to double check and be sure nothing was missed, you would "parse through it and make sure you got it all."

  • I changed pouring to poring.|| Pouring is what you do with a jug or teapot. Commented Mar 24 at 12:50

A single word that describes the practice of reading a book with great care might be gestalt.

Originally popularized by the psychological practice created by Max Wertheimer, this requires close and deep yet total broad perspective to gain complete and entire knowledge from what is being read.

It follows from the principle of Dialectics we learn about from G. W. F. Hegel, chiefly the trio of unity of opposites; negation of negation; and quality and quality; a holy trinity of sorts which guides us in the practice of asking questions about anything we read from any book.

  • 'Gestalt' is German for 'figure', used in Gestalt psychology because it emphasises looking at a whole and not the individual elements. I'm not that familiar with it, but this seems like quite a leap. And how would you use it in a sentence? I don't think anyone would understand it as a noun meaning "the practice of reading a book with great care".
    – Joachim
    Commented Feb 21 at 23:14

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.