Mastering the art of reading in a crowd

BigBookTooHeavyFor some reason, I have gaps of an hour or so in between a lot of things I’ve planned to do here at the American Library Association Annual Conference. Normally, I’m rushing from session to session. Because I can only wander the crowded streets of San Francisco (it’s also Pride Weekend) and can only last about 30 minutes in the Exhibitor Halls before succumbing to head exhaustion or being trampled by librarians after ARCs, I’ve been ending up with a lot of time to grab a piece of unoccupied wall and read.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, I have the following tips for shutting out the thousands of people around you and disappear into fiction:

  1. Choose a book you haven’t read before. If you rely on an old favorite to whisk you away, you’ll find that your brain will probably glaze over the less interesting parts. If that happens, the world will come rushing back.
  2. Choose a book set somewhere or somewhen you’ve never been before. Foreign settings will make you focus on the book and not what’s happening around you.
  3. If you have a choice about the crowd you’re reading in, try to make sure they’re librarians. Librarians will respect the don’t-bother-me-I’m-reading pact.
  4. Don’t try to read a doorstop. Heavy books mean aching wrists mean taking breaks means returning to the world for a bit.
  5. Read slowly. Listen to your internal narrator. The more you concentrate on the text, the easier it is to ignore the noise around you.
  6. Set an alarm so that you can surface before you have to head off for that next session or meeting.

If you can’t concentrate, consider audiobooks or podcasts. One warning about these, however. I was listening to Stuff You Missed in History Class‘s episode on Henry Gerber while people watching and I kept grinning, laughing, and snorting while listening to the hosts. I got a lot of weird looks from people and it was impossible to explain what I was cracking up without making them listen to the podcast, too. So, if you prefer to listen, make sure it’s something you can listen to while maintaining a poker face.


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