Whenever I have time off coming up at work I always start the same routine: beginning to eagerly stack up books that I’m sure I will finish over the long weekend or holiday break, eagerly anticipating hours of uninterrupted reading time and checking books off my TBR list. Before Thanksgiving, I compiled a collection of new releases and backlist titles that I was sure would provide the perfect mix of escapism and more serious topics over the holiday weekend. I then proceeded to read none of these books, ignoring them for some library holds, of which I finished one.
I think one of the reasons so many readers, including myself, are drawn to building TBRs, adding books to our “want-to-read” category on Goodreads, and reading the newest lists of upcoming releases, is that they all allow us to indulge in not just books themselves, but in the fantasy of being a reader. While I’m not reading much now, by making these lists I can tell myself that just as soon as I have more free time, I’ll be the kind of person who finishes a book in one sitting. And, therefore, I’ll be the kind of person who eschews Netflix and my phone in favor of the pages of a book. In this daydream, I’m curled up on the couch with my dog and a blanket, with just the perfect cozy, snowy kind of day outside. The room is filled with the soft glow of Christmas tree lights and the scent of a seasonally appropriate candle and the house around me is spotlessly clean, providing no distractions from my reading time.
In reality, this room of my dreams looks a little different. We don’t have a Christmas tree yet, because my husband and I have been too busy with work and school to get one. My only Christmas-y candle is one I bought from a school fundraiser a couple of years ago, and by this point it’s so burnt down that it doesn’t stay lit for long. Various glasses, textbooks, and dog toys clutter the living room and half the time I can’t find my current read, because it’s hidden under my work laptop. In the middle of it all is me, perched on the couch, not with a book but with my cell phone looking at pictures of other people’s books on Instagram.
Daydreams are great, because not only do they allow us to look forward to something, but also because they allow us to look forward to the kind of person we’ll be then. In my daydream, it’s not just about the fact that I have time to read or that it’s the holidays, it’s about the kind of person I think I’ll be as soon as I have more time. I’ll be calm and relaxed, the kind of person who naturally keeps her house clean and turns to books over television or social media. Sometimes, I think this is also part of why I like reading in the first place: because it allows me to temporarily take on attributes of characters I admire and escape into their view of life. It’s the same reason that New Year’s resolutions have so much appeal: we imagine that when January 1 rolls around, we’ll be the kind of person who can tackle [insert goal here]. My fantasy reading afternoons are part of a more idealized version of myself that I believe I can be, just not today.
If you have reading daydreams of your own, I’d love to hear them. Maybe you dream of being able to travel and read on the beach again, to read aloud to your extended family, or just to curl up in the corner of a beloved library branch. Even if you can’t do those things right now, I hope you find a book that is transporting enough to help you escape reality for a while.