On Sunday, I woke up feeling like the world was falling around me (there were, to be fair, a few triggers—but this feeling comes in waves these days, obvious triggers or not). I had been carrying a novel around the apartment with me for days like a security blanket, plopping it on the couch without moving past the first sentence. Feeling uninspired, I opened the first page for the thousandth time. But then I didn't stop. I let my coffee go cold as I fully immersed myself in the story, in a way that isn't possible when you read a few pages or a chapter at a time, as I usually do. For the first time in weeks, I felt like I had left my apartment.
I used to love reading a book in one sitting. Yesterday, my mom and I laughed as she read a passage to me from my eight-year-old diary she had uncovered while spring cleaning. I wrote, "Just started Absolutely Normal Chaos," then, presumably a few hours later, "Just finished ANC. It was fantastic!" That (and the next few lines about my hair being too greasy, discovering GoGurt, and liking 'the new nice boy' in my class) is proof that some things never change.
It's probably no coincidence that my favorite books have always been those I've finished in 24 hours or less. I don't think I would have been so enraptured by the gritty world of a women's prison in Rachel Kushner's The Mars Room if I had paused to work out, to clean the house, or to watch an episode of The Office.
But in regular life, reading a book in a day or a sitting can feel insurmountable. Who has the time to read, let alone read an entire book? It turns out, you do! Days off now come with a new level of restrictions, but also freedoms. Without plans or outings (I'm looking at you, beach goers...), there's quite literally nothing better to do than curl up with a book. Here are a few tips for making it even better:
1. Set up your space. First thing's first: Put your phone far away, where you can't see it. I love Instagram, but it is Enemy #1 of reading. Enemy #2 is the group chat that's trying to schedule that evening's Zoom. Curl up in a comfy chair with a blanket and your favorite snack. Heaven to me is a bowl of olives (something you can eat mindlessly without even looking down from the page) and a cocktail, or a cup of coffee and something sweet like biscotti or cookies from the night before. But you do you!
2. Don't feel overwhelmed. It can be difficult to start, but in reality, reading an entire book only takes about four hours, maybe up to eight. Just take it a page at a time—you'll go through phases of boredom, but I find that those quickly pass as the plot picks back up.
3. Pick a book you know you'll love. Kelly and I shared our favorite bingeable books here, but I'd recommend starting with one of these: The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (bestseller), Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (speculative fiction), The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy (memoir), or Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (thriller). If you want to start small, try The State of the Union by Nick Hornby, and if you want to start with something meaty, try The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne.
4. Give it some time. The first forty or so pages often feel like the beginning of a run to me (uncomfortable and awkward) until you hit your stride. Soon, you'll go 100 pages without evening thinking about the laundry you should be getting to.
5. Pick another book right away. Finishing a book in a day can feel like a rush, so keep up the momentum! Pick your next book right away, so you can dive into it that night or the next morning. Rinse and repeat.
If you've cruised through a book recently, I'd love to hear about it! Share your recs in the comments (please and thank you!!).