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How To Take A Reading Vacation

Connie Pan

Senior Contributor

Connie Pan is a writer and editor from Maui, Hawai‘i. She earned an MFA in fiction from West Virginia University and a BA in creative writing from Grand Valley State University. Her writing has appeared in Bamboo Ridge, Carve, HelloGiggles, PRISM International, The Billfold, and elsewhere. An excerpt from her novel-in-progress was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Instagram: @csnpan Twitter: @panlikepeter

Despite investing in several reading and writing vacations by the sea and in the mountains, I hadn’t taken a vacation solely for reading until this year. With book stacks and wide-open days a constant in my daydream rotation, this fact unsettled me. Before traveling, I always pack books (too many, I suspect — if such a thing exists), but dedicating a whole break to reading makes my brain drool.

After busy workweeks morphed into months, I spent Groundhog Day reading in bed to celebrate the arrival of breathing room in my schedule. What. Absolute. Bliss. Then, three months passed before another opportunity arose. If submerging yourself in books with abandon sounds like a delicious respite, follow these five steps to help transform your reading vacation fantasies into reality.

Schedule Time Off

Time — is there ever enough? In a world obsessed with productivity, the first step may seem the hardest. To operate at our best, we must care for ourselves, so aim for honesty when pondering how much time you can afford. Even better, try to be direct about the time you need and deserve. This serves as an invitation to award yourself with generosity.

Choose A Destination

With time reserved, consider where you wish to read. Do literary Airbnbs interest you? How about bookish cities? Jet to New York City, the “most written about city”; Lisbon, Portugal, the “city with the most bookstores”; or Edinburgh, Scotland, the “best international city for writers.” Check out the best cities for book lovers, and ingest a book smorgasbord in the bibliophilic air of Seattle, Washington; Oakland, California; or Denver, Colorado.

If you’d rather stay home, travel no further than your bed, loveseat, or reading nook. Clock hours in a valley of pillows arranged on the floor. Remember building forts in the living room with blankets, couch cushions, and imagination? Construct a reading cave, seashell, or tunnel for the occasion. If you want fresh air and have access to a yard or porch, follow the sun’s movement outside. If free locations and good weather can lure you away, seek peaceful corners in your local library or an island of quiet at a community park.

Plan Meals

Other than Googling bookstores, I count researching where and what to eat as one of my favorite things about vacationing. Why treat a reading holiday differently? If you muse for hours about your next meal, don’t let brainstorming steal valuable reading time. Schedule food deliveries from restaurants, old favorites or brand-new-to-you establishments. Stock your fridge with shrimp lo mein, hot and sour soup, or other dishes — slurpable or not — beforehand. For quick sustenance, instant ramen remains a classic.

Don’t sleep on drinks and snacks. While sipping hot tea, red wine, or sparkling water, I often pair my beverage and book with salt: cashews, olives, popcorn. If you appreciate variety, consider preparing a grazing board of assorted “small bites.” Because a reading vacation equals something to party about, create, as Rioter Nikki DeMarco suggests, a themed spread of sweets, like mini confetti cupcakes, chocolate-covered strawberries, and Champagne gummy bears. Whatever your cravings or comfort eats, line your cupboard and tote bags with them.

Gather Supplies

Depending on your destination, your luggage might differ. Even if you opt for a staycation, keep your reading necessities handy. No fanciness required: an empty shoebox works. If you practice marginalia, collect an array of your preferred writing utensils: highlighters, markers, pens, and pencils. If you pass on marking up literature, gather Post-its, sticky flags, and extra bookmarks.

Too often, my phone, with its countless conveniences, hurts my reading productivity. I unlock it to look up a definition or record details, then disappear into an internet black hole. If this sounds familiar, grab a dictionary and notepad instead. If you keep a commonplace book or reading journal, set those aside, too. If you adore audiobooks, add headphones.

When staying home, mood-setters help pretty up the ambiance of familiar surroundings. Maybe splurge on a nice candle, incense, or bouquet. If you need brightness, charge reading lights or buy backup batteries and bulbs. Double-check that your softest throw smells fresh for nestling, that your comfiest bookish socks are clean and ready to journey for pages and pages.

Collect Reading Material

Other than the actual reading vacation, this feels like the best part and might come the most natural to you. If you enjoy planning, draft a reading list and pile books in person or across reading devices. If a pet or chore requires attention, borrow or buy an audiobook to fill your ears while your hands tend to business. If you find satisfaction in finishing something in a single sitting, collect titles you can read cover to cover. Some gulpable genres include graphic novels and memoirs, novellas, picture books, and poetry collections.

If you prefer mood reading, ensure you have plenty of titles, in and across the genres you love, on hand. Consider looking into books you can skip around in: anthologies and collections of essays, poems, and short stories. One day, even I, a faithful list-lover, read according to my moods and found glee in the freedom of sampling and deserting selections on a whim.

With that said, I hope this inspires you to begin hoarding books for your own reading vacation. Hang up a “Do Not Disturb” sign because it’s good for you, because you earned it. Do it just because. As soon as time allows, trust that you can find me blocking off my next one in my calendar.

If infusing your R & R with reading intrigues you, peruse I Took An Anti-Burnout Reading Vacation (And You Should Too) and A Complete Guide To Creating Your Own DIY Reading Retreat.