My Reading Rituals
by Jarad Johnson
Every reader has a ritual. Some of us listen to music, drink tea or coffee. Some of us skim paragraphs, some of us read every word. Here's some of mine! Let us know what your reading rituals are!
If you’re a ravenous reader, the way I am, you’ve probably developed some sort of reading process, you’ve either consciously or unconsciously worked out a series of customs and traditions that help you get deeply into a book and leave the world outside. I’ve been thinking about this question quite a bit today, in between the chaos that the end of the semester always brings, and I realize that I’m pretty committed to reading no matter what. However, I do have certain rituals or methods to my reading process.
What has to happen for me to get focused on a book? As with most things in life, I have to have some semblance of calm. I cannot be surrounded by screaming people or chaotic happenings if I am to concentrate and get lost in a book. Since there are screaming people and chaos in droves these days, I combat this problem by listening to music- classical, jazz, or music for concentration usually helps me shut out the noise. Usually music that has lyrics in it distracts me, so I don’t often listen to that. If, for example, I could find a peaceful glade in the woods devoid of talking people or screaming babies, then I wouldn’t need music; but, alas, that’s not exactly realistic.
Perhaps most importantly, my phone has to be off. I do not want to be distracted by twitter notifications or text messages when I’m trying to read. I’ve been thinking recently about how much of my life I’ve given over to my phone (it’s honestly frightening how much everyone is on their devices) and now more than ever I’m trying to distance myself from my technology as much as I can. I find the more I’m on my phone, the more I have trouble concentrating on the book I’m reading, and it gets on my nerves.
Obviously, I have to enjoy the book I’m reading. There are times when I want to like a book so badly that I force myself to read the whole thing, even though it’s boring or not holding my attention, or it’s just not the right time for me to read it. We have to accept that we’re not going to like every book, and that it’s ok to put a book down if you’re not enjoying it. What’s the point of leaving this world for one you like even less?
In the same vein, I can’t spend more than a week or two reading a book, with few exceptions. I find that if I wait any longer, I can lose my focus on the book, and I get bored with it, unless of course it’s a 4000-page book, then I could make an exception. I like to feel productive, and if I’m three weeks into reading a book, I feel like I’m behind on my own mental schedule.
As for the actual reading, page by page, I will say that “my process” is rather methodical. There’s no skipping paragraphs or chapters. The more details about a story I can learn, the more I enjoy it. I don’t like vague paragraphs that insinuate what a room looked like; I want to know what was in the room, if it had windows, and if the owner of that room had tacky taste in furniture or not. You get the picture; I want to know everything. In short, I’m nosy, both in reading and in real life. However, at the same time, a book cannot be oversaturated with detail (like, ahem, Charles Dickens perhaps), otherwise it gets far too dense. It’s a delicate balance.
What rituals and traditions help you read? Do you have to have a cat on your lap? Someone rubbing your feet and feeding you grapes? A cup of hot tea or a flavored brandy? There’s nothing wrong with thinking about your reading process. Maybe you can even improve and spend more time in books.
Jarad is the co-administrator and writer for Sacred Chickens, attends college at MTSU, loves tea and coffee, and tries to spend every spare second reading. He recently developed an interest (some might say obsession) with gardening. Jarad is an English major with a concentration in literature. Bless his heart! Let's all light a candle for him and send him happy thoughts!