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Our Reading Lives

How I Create My Own Main Character Energy By Carefully Curating What I Read in Public

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Abigail Clarkin

Staff Writer

Abigail can often be found holding a book in one hand and an ice cream cone in the other. When she is not devouring stories (or dessert), Abigail trains for marathons and writes poetry about growing up with eight brothers and sisters. She enjoys working in marketing for a real estate developer and creating Instagram content for fun (@marathonandmunch) about all the tasty eats found in Providence, RI.

You know the scene. It’s in the stacks that the two characters strike up a lively debate about which long-deceased author was the better poet. She leans against the shelves, tilting her head just so, and he cannot help but angle his body just a little bit closer. Or, there’s a scenic daily routine: a lovely steaming latte, a notepad laid open on the cafe table, and a book in his hand. It’s romantic, mainly because of repetition and the fact an attractive lead is found at the same place every morning, mysteriously reading a battered copy of a well-known philosopher’s greatest reflections.

Again and again, pop culture centers love stories and adventures amongst ancient tomes. Entire personalities and relationships come into being because of reading choices. Somehow — perhaps simply by osmosis — these moments began to make an impact on me some years ago.

And so entered my completely and wholly inadvertent attempts to channel my own main character energy by carefully curating what I read in public. Here are three situations in which I have bashfully beckoned the spotlight to alight upon me. If you too seek glory, may you find yourself on centerstage by following my cues.

1. Parks and Rec[commendations] from Poets

I live fairly close to a wonderful public park in Providence, RI. There’s an ice cream shop on one corner, and a bustling playground set in the middle. Dog walkers, picnickers, and parents toting bulging diaper bags and squirming toddlers are often seen here. It’s a peaceful place, apart from the occasional dirt bike parade.

So when heading there on any sunny spring day, I must wonder who will witness my undeniable presence. Say a fine specimen, dog leash in one hand and a coffee cup in the other, were to stroll by… Would this be my moment to shine? Could this be my meet-cute? Could the stars truly align amongst ice cream bar wrappers and stray dog waste bags?

With all these things to consider, the natural reading choice here is to go with a book of poetry. Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong for gravity, or What Kind of Woman by Kate Baer for a firm stance on feminism. Perhaps Obit by Victoria Chang if I want a double take. (And you know I can’t turn away a good double-take.)

2. Olive Oil Versus Synthetic Oil

If one lives a life of leisure, perhaps there is no need to take care of such mundane things as car repairs and maintenance. But alas, I do not live a life of leisure and must worry about such pedestrian things as my own mortality and the possibility of my brakes giving out… That’s why glamorous and lengthy outings to the mechanics are commonplace. I often spend a great deal of time in the lobby, waiting for the work to be finished. Locals stop by, with thick Rhode Island accents and miles of car woes. Customers range from elderly men with questionable ringtones to students waiting for their parents to pick up both them and the bill.

Thus, one must change tactics drastically, far from the wordless wooing in the great outdoors. Instead the focus has to be on how far I’ve gone in life! (Intellectually, if not geographically, seeing as I’m still frequenting a mechanic shop only a few minutes drive from my parents’ house.)

It is here I recommend a thoughtful book of essays. You will get extra points if the material is challenging enough to make you look good, but not so challenging you cannot half-listen to that morning’s soap opera as it plays on the lobby television. I myself have chosen in previous visits to thumb the pages of The Best American Food Writing 2020. I mean, look at me, a girl from the woods, reading a delightful array of french cooking terms I cannot possibly know how to pronounce out loud.

3. Small Planes and Big Books

When traveling, it doesn’t matter if there will scarcely be room in your suitcase for that thin, rather terrifyingly political DVD a relative will want to foist upon you. (You will, of course, convince them there is not a spare inch of room.) But what is there always room for? At least one oversized novel.

Spending hours seated in the same spot means there is not only plenty of time to tear through the pages, but also that others are guaranteed to be a rapt audience. Is the girl across the aisle trying to watch a particularly gory Korean television show while visibly wincing? Good luck, kid. Is the man next to you continuously drinking an exorbitant amount of water and yet never asks you to move so he can head to the bathroom? Wonders never cease.

To truly embody a main character while reading in public, I recommend picking up all the books on your TBR list and weighing them. Is one heftier than the others? If even you are surprised at its sheer, delightful bulk, then this is the book to choose. Somewhere in the 500-800 page range is the sweet spot. Pack the title that is going to call attention to itself — and, likewise, you — while also not causing you to sprain your back while carrying it across state lines. I’ve found most of the later Sarah J. Maas books do well, A Court of Silver Thorns for example.

When all is said and done, though, creating main character energy while reading in public only requires two things: a fair amount of confidence and an absolute stunner of a good hair day.

Interested in reading about other ways I’m getting into the best sorts of trouble through reading? Check out How Amish Fiction Served As My Gateway to Loving Romance.