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I think by now, a lot of us can relate to the fact that it’s been a hard two years to read and focus on time for ourselves. In fact, it feels like a glorious miracle every time I finish a task lately. I have been in that place for a few months, reading but not really knowing why I was reading, other than reading is simply what I do.
Several weeks ago, I read fellow Rioter Laura’s article on her bookish rituals. I became fascinated by this. While I consider myself a Book Person, I never really thought about any particular ritual I had set up for myself — I just read books, with no real intention other than to read them. And I felt burnt out.
I particularly resonated with Laura’s morning ritual, and I decided to experiment in developing my own. I would wake up 45 minutes earlier than usual (ugh) to make coffee and have a dedicated quiet time to reading, in order to start my day in the best possible way.
Because my full-time job also involves books and reading, I am often exhausted by the end of the day, rarely in the mood for reading more, and when I am, it’s on a very select genre and type of book — typically fast-paced mysteries that grab my attention quickly. There is nothing wrong with this at all — in fact, it can be extremely cathartic and some of the best reading — but I found that certain areas of my bookshelves were being neglected. Books I truly wanted to read, but I never felt “in the mood” for.
Setting the Ritual
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I set up a plan: I grabbed short story and essay and poetry collections I’d been saying “I’ll get around to” for forever. Those would be my new reading material for my slow mornings. During this ritual, I decided, I would read books I felt too fatigued to read at night, books that intimidated me or seemed like “thinking” books.
I wanted to sit quietly and savor in the language for a while, something I haven’t felt I had the energy to do lately. Shorter works tend to be more deliberate with language, having to utilize a much smaller space to convey everything they want, and I knew these were the perfect books for my new ritual.
The first collection I began with was All the Names They Used for God by Anjali Sachdeva. I enjoyed not racing through a novel just for the sake of doing so, for marking it on my shelves and adding to another checklist. I spent time savoring the language and sat with each story individually for the rest of the day, allowing me time to think about it and process it in a way that novels haven’t been giving me the space for lately.
The next book I chose was one that I’d been wanting to read for months, Without You, There Is No Us by Suki Kim. It’s a memoir, but it reads like a series of short essays, so I knew it would be a perfect next book to enjoy my mornings with.
Reading a chapter or two each morning, slowly, as the sun came up and the days got shorter, I was able to sit with what the author was telling me for a much longer period of time. (And it’s a lot, as it’s a memoir about a Korean American teacher who goes to teach English to the children of North Korea’s most respected families, learning just how much the citizens of the country don’t know about the outside world.)
Sure, it is taking me longer to get through these books than it normally would if I were reading them at other points of the day. But for me, deliberately taking my time to read these has forced me to see the beauty of the language again, and I am choosing to spend more time thinking about these worlds, rather than reading them so fast I immediately forget what happened as soon as I move on to the next book.
I’ve been consistently doing my morning reading ritual for about a month now, and I can say with confidence it has infinitely improved my day and my reading life as a whole. At night, when I’m reading my fun mysteries and horror novels, I feel like I have more focus and attention to fully commit to the task of reading. It also helps my mood. No matter what happens over the course of the day, I know I’ve begun it doing the thing I love most.
I’ve just finished my most recent morning reading book, and I’ve already chosen my next two, that have both been on my shelf for far too long: Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks and Where Hope Comes From by Nikita Gill.
I finally feel like I’m reading for the sake of reading again, bringing me back to why I love it in the first place. After a long stretch of months where I wasn’t really sure what I was reading or why, it’s incredible to be back in the world I love.