With the holiday season upon us, rituals and traditions are everywhere. Whether the holiday an individual celebrates is Christmas, Hannukah, Yule, Kwanzaa, any combination of the above, or none at all (does New Year’s Eve/Day count?) this is the time of year when many people -including, or maybe even especially, readers- don’t consider the same old same old even remotely close to boring or repetitive. Renditions of songs written years, decades, and even centuries ago, are commonplace this time of year, the same sweet treats we wait for all year are suddenly everywhere from store shelves to the dining room table, we bring lights into our homes to combat the early-falling dark, and look forward to seeing friends and family we may not see as often during the rest of the year. Though holiday themed romances are one tradition romance readers cherish this time of year, they’re not even close to the only one. Let’s take a look at a few others.
If we’re going to be completely honest, we can all admit it’s not possible to count every kind of reading tradition or ritual. Most readers have at least one, many have more, and they are not by any means relegated to a few weeks out of the year. Reading is an intensely personal experience, where an individual can tailor any number of factors to their own particular tastes. There’s no way to do it wrong. Let that sink in for a minute. Okay, there is maybe one way to read wrong; reading books one doesn’t want to read. Unless one is into that, in which case, carry on. Actually, that’s not an entirely bad thing. Sometimes, when completely stumped on what one wants to read next (who here has ever been spoiled for choice, torn between a plethora of equally appealing reads? Show of hands. Aha. Thought so.) reading a book -or part of one- a reader knows they won’t like; say men’s action/adventure for a reader of sweet category romance, or give that sweet category to a reader who lives for erotic paranormal romance- can help zero in on exactly what will scratch the reading itch and get them back on track.
Settling in with a good book can happen literally anywhere, but most readers have a favorite spot-0r two, or three- where it’s the absolute best. For some, sinking into a hot, fragrant bubble bath, with scented candles and a beverage of choice may be the ultimate indulgence. Others may want only the basics; a cup of coffee (or tea) and kitchen or living room chair. There’s nothing like going to bed with a good book, in sickness or in health, and front porches were made for reading through a summer’s day. For some readers, those ten or fifteen minute snatches of time in a quiet car are the perfect time to call up an e-reading app on a cell phone and dip into another world in short, precious bites.
Speaking of bites, reading and snacking are often two great tastes that taste great together. Some readers like to have a nibble to fortify their reading experience. Sweet, salty, savory, or a mix of flavors, snacking while reading can nourish the body as well as the soul. One might tailor one’s snack to the individual time and/or place of the story -iced cakes and lemonade for an evening at Almack’s, for example, or the latest snack of the moment from a popular cooking show for a contemporary tale- or go for classics like pretzels or chocolate. Maybe sugar snap peas or mixed nuts or peanuts, if that’s what one fancies.
No matter how pleasurable a reading session might be, the hard fact of life is that, at some point, life is going to require us to put down our books and tend to other matters for a time. When that happens, we need to find a way to mark our place. Those of us who read on electronic devices have that taken care of for us, but the rest of us have an array of options. One reader, when they were but a blossoming bookworm, never considered any purchase of a new book to be complete unless they also purchased a new bookmark that was for that book alone. Not always practical, and a parental foot was put down, but the spirit of the practice remains. This reader considers finding the right bookmark, from those already on hand, to be part of the reading experience. Sure a scrap of paper will do in an emergency, but choosing the right color, material, size and form add to the anticipation of starting a new book.
Even shopping for books, or choosing from those already on our TBR shelves can have their own rituals. Ever stroke the spines of a favorite author’s work in the library or brick and mortar bookstore? Petting books in such a manner has been likened to high fiving the author or character, and there’s some truth to that. It’s fun to touch base from time to time, even if there isn’t time to read. When one reader was a young adult, finally able to make their own choices on what books to buy and when, with no outside input, the ritual formed itself. Historical romances had to be arranged in chronological order, from most ancient to closest to modern, and then read in that order. For example, a haul that included western, medieval, Georgian, and Tudor romances would be read in this order: medieval, Tudor, Georgian, western. After that, time to return to the bookstore and begin the journey all over again. The fact that this bookstore happened to be a few doors down from a frozen yogurt parlor didn’t hurt, either, and many a reading order was determined over a dish of the cold, sweet stuff. As a matter of fact, that sounds like a tradition well worth reviving. What do you think?
So, dear readers, I turn it over now to you. Do you have any reading or book-related rituals? Is there a certain time or place you’d rate as the very best for sinking into a good book? Have a favorite beverage and/or snack to fortify your time in story land? Some other way to set the mood? If the mere idea of assigning particulars to the reading experience strikes you as funny, we’d love to hear about that, too. Pull up a chair in the comments section and tell us all about it. There’s room for everybody at this table.