Reading Traditions

Happy Christmas Eve, readers! (And other winter holidays! Yay!)

Despite my best efforts, I could not think of any adequate winter-related, diverse media to review for today’s post (besides A Muppet Christmas Carol, which is my only actual holiday tradition. Technically, they’re a diverse bunch of creatures…), so instead I thought I’d follow-up Chebk’s recent post on her reading history with one of my own.
I know: Sounds not only boring but derivative. Fear not, readers, for what ahead lies a treacherous tale of jealousy, thieves, and plagues.

Here we go~

It starts with not one but multiple plagues. I am a sickly adult that has gone through life as a sickly child: allergies and ear infections kept me home-bound in preschool, while stomach problems and mental health issues took their toll on me throughout high school and college. All that time at home led to my mom teaching me to read early, to placate my woes and eventually wean my attention from her so she could go about her forced days off in peace.
My mom read to me constantly, even when I wasn’t a bearer of ague and mucus: The Berenstain Bears and other picture books during the day and Beverly Cleary chapter books at night, one chapter a time. Relying on a single person to get me through the rest of the story may have been impetus enough, but I was a second child. My brother was a voracious reader from the start and he had three years of reading on me.

It is how I became a thief. Small and jealous, I had somehow decided that the best way to catch up to my brother — as though it were even possible to leap three years in intellect and experience overnight — was to start stealing his books and hoarding them away like a tiny, ineffectual dragon. My mother caught on quickly after finding said ill-hidden hoard. I was forced to give them back. (Thus ends this tale of treachery and swashbuckling.)

Art by Laura at Iguana Mouth.

Eventually my stubborn staring at the page became surprised comprehension. I read a paragraph out of a Boxcar Children book one evening and realized that there was no mystical key to reading besides simply doing it. For a sickly kid like me, reading became a go-to habit and solace. Being not only sickly but obsessive, my reading traditions began early.

In the tradition of bedridden kids, I read The Princess Bride repeatedly, any time I felt a twinge of nausea and couldn’t handle the tension of new books and characters. After Chebk’s impassioned rally to get our group of friends to all read Ender’s Shadow/Ender’s Game, I made it a tradition to reread it at least once a year, which I kept up well into college.

Art by Allie at Hyperbole and a Half.

My top reading tradition recommendations:

1. Read and forget.
I have a bad habit of reading too quickly just to find out plot points. This is great for surprises and bad for memory retention. And I refuse to change. Namely because this allows me to go back and experience books I can vaguely remember enjoy or being exhilirated by and reliving the experience. Best examples: Stephen King’s It, Miyuki Miyabe’s Brave Story, and, above all else, Brooks Hansen’s The Chess Garden. Some important plot points will stick with me and I’ll anticipate them the second (or third, or fourth…) time ’round, but nothing gets me like remembering a vivid feeling just as it reappears upon re-read.

2. Keep a daily page count.
Nobody reads like they do in school (unless you didn’t read in school and still passed classes, in which case, I’m still jealous of you people). I keep the pressure on by assigning minimum daily page counts for my reading or else I’ll read a paragraph a day in the name of “savoring” the text, which really means I am being distracted by Reddit, Netflix, or Candy Crush. (Or it all really just means that I am still the sad Type-A person I was in school. You pick.)

3. Reading hangovers.
Sounds awful, but this is really the best tradition. It starts with saying “fuck it” to the word count and then sprint-reading until ungodly hours — work/school/real world things tomorrow be damned — so you can finish the page/chapter/BOOK. (Let’s be honest: It usually means finishing the book.) The next day is always an awful mix of sleep deprivation and dull emotional trauma of too many plot points, the realization of the book’s climax, and the denouement you skim through just to say you got to the end. Awful and awesome.

Diversity and reading. Nothing better.

So, readers, what are you reading traditions? What books do you re-read and how often? Let us know in the comments so we can get to reading and re-reading them, too!

Also, consider making a donation over at FirstBook to get kids in need into reading! It’s not too late to donate a book for the holiday season.

Chebk will be back on Friday with her blog post. From both of us at OKPotato, we wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Thanks for supporting us. 🙂


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