Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Perfect Read

Today I had one of those perfect reading days. I read almost an entire book- about 350 pages of the 400 in the novel- in one sitting. It was glorious.

Here are the factors required for a perfect reading day:

1. An unspecified chunk of time. You can't have any serious obligations to rush off to in the near future. It's best if you don't have to take care of others, or take care of yourself, at all. If it's morning, showering is optional. An understanding family is crucial. (Don't put off feeding the cats, as I did this morning. They will remind you, loudly and relentlessly.)

2. A to-do list that you can blow off. There should be something that gives you pause when you embark on this reading journey. Without a list of things to blow off, the whole exercise will feel much less indulgent. It has to be chores about which you can say, "I'll do that later," knowing you might not get to them today. If you don't, so what? There's always tomorrow.

3. The right book. It would not even occur to you to attempt a perfect reading day if not for the right book. It helps if you've already put your reading toes into this book and wiggled them around, so to speak, so you know if it's a good one. It needs to be sufficiently engaging for a long period of time. Fiction is usually your best bet, though memoir can work as well (as it did for me with Dick Van Dyke's memoir). Though engaging, it can't be anything too heavy or emotionally draining. You have to know that everything will probably work out for the best at the end of the book. Today's book was The Island by Elin Hilderbrand. (I highly recommend most of her books. They are great for people who want to escape to the beach more often than their lives allow.)

4. An exit strategy. When you finish the book, it will be like waking up from a vivid dream into a harsh reality. You will look at the clock and realize the full extent of the hours you "wasted" (though reading should never, ever be considered a waste of time). It's best to have some sort of activity in mind to close out your reading time and restart your normal life. Lying down right where you are and taking a nap is a great plan. So is eating a snack, or searching out the family members you've neglected in your absence.

Other helpful (but not necessary) factors include: 
- A quiet house
- Something sweet to munch on, and/or a cup of tea
- A phone to ignore
- Rain or snow outside, which increases the feeling of smugness
- Some problems or minor annoyances in your life that you'd like to block out for a few hours

I get a few of these every year, and when the factors align in my favor, I take full advantage. I love my perfect reading days (or just mornings, or late nights). I'm cherishing this one, in particular, because I'm fully aware that factors 1 and 2 will become much more difficult once Baby Sowul is born, and that I'll have fewer opportunities to find factor 3. But I know these days will come again. In my life, there will always be time for books.

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