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My Perfect Reading Day, Imagined

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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

Homie cover

Since last March, I’ve been sheltering in place. Like so many people, I miss a lot. It’s been over 14 months since I hugged a friend, ate at a restaurant, cut my hair, flew on a plane with a paperback novel, or attended a reading then drank wine from a plastic cup while wandering aisles and perusing displays then bought books after holding them in my awestruck hands. If I had suspected that all of this could — and would — happen, I envision past-me saying yes to more outings, ordering more than seafood gumbo and a French 75 at that bar, grooming this mane sooner, staying an extra night or three in Houston, and purchasing more titles at Brazos Bookstore along with Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Chronology of Water and Danez Smith’s Homie.

I’ve been lucky to have spent much of my pandemic-time pie chart with book stacks by the window, on the loveseat, and in bed. Even though I adore reading at home, I miss taking my books elsewhere, too. As you may know, I used to indulge in reading (and writing) vacations. Once, there was Salt Lake City and a few trips to Los Angeles.

As I wait until it’s safer to go elsewhere, reading daydreams have been steeping in my brain. In “What’s Your Reading Daydream?,” Katie Moench guessed right. Mine involves a beach. Whenever I visit Hawai‘i, my home of homes, I want to do all of the things, eat all of the things, and see all of my people. So, of course, my perfect reading day semi-aimlessly unfolds there, and I’ve pondered it enough to know what this luxurious fantasy would look like.


With my love, I wake up at The Royal Hawaiian, early enough to watch the sunrise. On the balcony, we sip vanilla macadamia nut lattes and eat banana macadamia nut bread. (No, this is not too much macadamia nut.) Because I like beginning my days with poetry, I study poems between appreciating the sky and my nutty breakfast. Perhaps “Kissing the Opelu” by Donovan Kūhiō Colleps and “Perihelion: A History of Touch” by Franny Choi. Maybe I flip through Bluets by Maggie Nelson. Inspired and caffeinated, I scribble down several lines of my own.

Sabrina & Corina cover

At 8 a.m., we head down to the cabana with towels and literature. My straw bag doesn’t snap under the weight. In the shade, I turn to books I’ve been meaning to reread, like June Jordan’s Haruko/Love Poems, Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s Sabrina & Corina, Zeyn Joukhadar’s The Thirty Names of Night, and Justin Torres’s We the Animals. I don’t worry about eye strain and headaches because, every page-flip, I gaze at the horizon. In the distance, a dolphin flips. We fall into the same rhythm. Like friends fall into step together, we flip together. My darling and I sip sparkle water and snack on açaí bowls. After savoring and digesting and finding a good place to pause, we walk to the water, and the sand doesn’t sauté our feet. While swaying with the tide in a sandbar, we discuss our books.

Back under our pink umbrella, we dry and turn and tan and never burn or get hot enough to sweat. My beloved reads something funny. (For the record, this is a natural choice and not me assigning reading.) Every now and then, he cracks up in the middle of a paragraph, one of my favorite sounds in the entire world. I listen until the giggles cease then ask after the source of all that laughter.


World of Wonders cover

For lunch, we drive to Piggy Smalls. On the way, we listen to an audiobook. Possibly The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz, or World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. We rewind to relisten to passages that make our hearts expand, brains wrinkle, and breath hitch in our throats. Near the window, we share headphones. I order the “vegan pho” and my darling the “smoked brisket pho French dip banh mi” with noodles. While slurping, we continue reading with our ears. Our knees and toes touch under the table.

While in Kaka‘ako, we must swing by Nā Mea Hawai‘i. Looking for recent issues of Bamboo Ridge, we purchase an overflowing tote bag of books, ignoring the airline’s 50-pound limit. The employees would just say, Hey, great taste. I love that book, and not charge us for the extra weight. To finish our audiobook, we drive to da Shop because I’ve been wanting Laurel Flores Fantauzzo’s My Heart Underwater since learning about it in the Kaimukī bookstore’s newsletter. This time we fill our second suitcase’s empty space.


Space Struck cover

We lug our book hauls back to the cabana and read until sunset. After watching the sun kiss the horizon, we sit at the Mai Tai Bar for an umbrella-ed drink. We chat about our favorite characters, their motivations, and memorable scenes, while popping wasabi peas into our mouths. I scribble a stanza on a cocktail napkin, then we saunter back to our room, where we moon- and stargaze on the balcony until a ramen dinner arrives. My slurping form is immaculate. No soup splatters in, on, or near Space Struck by Paige Lewis and A Treatise on Stars by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge. I finish every drop, then return to poems with comfy soup-belly and a mug of green tea.

When yawns begin, we climb into bed, where new-to-me books pile on the nightstand. By lamplight, I sample the first pages to decide which one to gulp next. I admire the purple orchid lei draped on the beige shade. Waves lull me to sleep. In my dreams, an image, a phrase, or a title for that piece I’ve been working on comes to me. I win a shopping spree at one of my favorite independent bookstores. My meant-for-me agent emails to say, I love your latest piece. Do you have any working projects? (I do.) I would love to read them. Welcome to my dream within a daydream.

In case you’ve also been thinking about where to someday spend time with books, check out these posts for some inspiration: Plan Your Dream Reading Vacation In A Literary Airbnb, 50 Black-Owned Independent Bookstores You Can Support Today, and our Literary Tourism essays.