Reading Rituals

reading-subwayMost people who read have very specific habits guiding how, when, and where they indulge in their favorite pastime. Some people read in bed, some have a designated reading chair. Some readers spend lazy Sundays getting caught up after a busy week, and some schedule time every day. Some use bookmarks to preserve the quality of their book while others prefer dog-earing and underlining. The eBook vs hard copy debate is a fierce subject of contention. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of ways to read, so each reader is kind of like a snowflake. Or a fingerprint.

I’ll tell you about my own personal reading rituals, then I want to hear about yours! Leave a comment or post it over on my Facebook page.

First of all, let’s talk eBooks. I have an eReader. I like it enough. It did make reading on the subway easier–especially when the trains got cramped. It’s nice to travel with because I’m one of those people who needs to pack five or six books so I have options when I finish one and need to pick another. But I still love my physical books. It’s not because they’re what I grew up with or am used to. It’s actually primarily because I like to flip back and forth when I read, and that is much easier to do with an actual book. Sometimes I get a feeling an author is repeating a fact or idea, which could point to something important hidden in the text and I want to make sure. Other times I need to remind myself of something that happened, see how it went down, or get a refresher on who a particular character is. I like to think of it as a more interactive experience with a book. I do also like being able to display my books on a shelf. I get a weird pleasure from looking at them, thinking about which ones I’ve read or want to read, and even considering the ones that I wasn’t so mad about. It’s kind of like having a shelf full of memories. Or at least fond friends I can revisit whenever I want. But maybe I’m sentimental.

I do have a bigger issue with eBooks, though. The thing is that I love bookstores. I could spend all day in one. When I go on vacation I actually research cool stores in the area I might want to visit. Plus, I’ve worked in bookstores and I love the employees. By and large, they’re people who work in that field because they love reading and want to share that love with their customers. A good bookseller is like a gateway to books you might never have discovered on your own. And that is something I never want to see go away. It’s worth preserving to me. And even if that means spending a couple of extra dollars, I am more than fine with that. I believe in supporting things you want to stick around, and I don’t believe in sending my money toward something I don’t like. But I will get off my soapbox about that … for now …

Reading notes from A Room With a View
Reading notes from A Room With a View

How I read has evolved with age and situation. When I was a kid I carried a book with me everywhere–even into restaurants. I also dog-eared the pages to keep my spot. When I was in my early twenties and working at Borders I was still carrying my books with me everywhere. I read on my lunch breaks, while waiting for friends to show up, and if I was out running errands I had the book with me just in case there was a little extra time. By that point I was a staunch believer in keeping pristine copies of my books, so there was absolutely no dog-earing. At that time I also began reviewing books online. Since I refused to underline or dog-ear, I needed a way to keep track of key passages or pages I particularly liked. That’s when I came up with the idea of using index cards as a bookmark and keeping a pen handy in case I found something I wanted to remember. That way, when I wrote the review I could reference great lines, questions I had, thoughts, etc. And I could slide the index cards back in the book when I shelved it, so if I ever wanted to look back I’d have a record of what I responded to.

Although I read everywhere, my favorite place was in bed before going to sleep or just after waking up. Before bed it was like decompression time, letting my brain narrow its focus to one task so I could sleep easier. In the morning it was the opposite: bringing my sleepy brain to life so I could take on the day.

At this time in my life I also consumed a lot of books. I have shelves on my Goodreads page to keep track of which books I read in a given year and since 2008 the number has been going down considerably. It would be easy to beat myself up about this, but the truth is there are reasons for the downturn. In 2009 I transferred from Community College to Columbia University, for one. By 2010 I was working in the fast-paced world of publishing. in 2011 I was still in publishing and Boo and I began seriously dating. By 2012 we were planning a wedding and work was busier than ever. 2013 started out with a bang: I was on pace in the first part of the year to have my best reading year since 2008. Then we got married. And moved to Montana. And got a puppy. So much for all that! Still, how could I possibly regret any of those things? I have a full life and I love it. I do want to work reading into my schedule better, but it’s hard to sacrifice time with the things I love.

Reading notes from The Interestings
Reading notes from The Interestings

While I was working in publishing in NYC my best reading time was during my commute on the subway. It doesn’t really compare to reading in bed, but it actually is good quality time with a book. I never liked the subway very much anyway so it was nice to have a distraction.

Here in Montana I haven’t found a great balance for reading yet, but I have faith it will come. I have to drive to work, which means I can’t ‘be alone’ with my book while commuting anymore. Just like when I was in publishing, I tend to work through lunch. And although I still love reading in bed most of all, those moments just before bed and just after waking up are reserved for Joel. Chatting, playing a game, comparing news articles we found on our phones or interesting pins from Pinterest … I’m not giving that up anytime soon!

I do still use index cards as a bookmark and I don’t think that will ever change. It’s a neat little trick that I highly recommend.

Now it’s your turn! I showed you mine, so show me yours, if you will. Where do you like to read? How do you make sure you fit it into your busy schedule? eBook or print book? I would love to hear!

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