Last month, we talked about reader pet peeves—those annoyances that really make us mad—but this week is the fun part. Here are some things that will make any reader want to do a happy dance. Enjoy, share your own ideas in the comments, and pass along to a reading friend…or maybe a friend or spouse who doesn’t quite “get it.”
One: Reader-to-Reader Understanding
Whether it’s checking in constantly with a friend to see if you can finally gush about your favorite novel with someone else or sharing those relatable memes on social media about books, the need for more books, or the need for less feedback from people who think you have enough books already, readers love to be understood. And who can understand them except other book-lovers?
This is also present in a more negative way when you need to vent with someone who agrees that the movie adaptation falls dramatically short of the book or that so-and-so *must* get together with what’s-his-name in the sequel or you will riot.
My Happy Reader Level: 4-6 depending on the depth of my need for reader empathy.
Two: Canceled Social Events or Obligations
Okay, so this isn’t always true—readers like people too—but every now and then it’s nice to have an unexpected evening to curl up with a good book. So don’t feel too bad if you have to unexpectedly change plans…chances are your reader friend will hang out with a party of fictional characters instead.
My Happy Reader Level: 2 most of the time, occasionally 4 (sorry, I’m an extrovert).
Three: Casual References to a Classic Novel
Whether you’re name dropping Big Brother or Mr. Darcy or sneaking in something a little more obscure and hoping someone else will be a kindred spirit and pick up on it, it’s fun to see nods to some of the literary greats. And for the record, if you say, “Speak, friend, and enter” when I knock on your door, you better believe that we will be friends from then on if we weren’t already.
My Happy Reader Level: 6, with an 8 for references to lesser-known favorites
Four: Overhearing Strangers Talk About Books
You know you feel a small sense of kinship when you spy someone in the dentist office reading a favorite novel or you hear someone in the library two shelves over recommending a beloved kids’ book. Whether you respond to the stranger or not, it’s fun to know that there are lots of readers out there in the wider world. My favorite example of this happened a few years ago while in line at a Subway at the Minneapolis airport. Two traffic control employees were making small talk behind me that went like this:
Guy: So, you’re more of a Shakespeare girl, then, huh?
Girl: Yeah, my favorites are Much Ado About Nothing and Romeo and Juliet.
Guy: I gotta be honest: I didn’t read any of them in school when we were supposed to. What’s the draw?
[Girl proceeds to summarize the plot of R&J, to exclamations of surprise from the guy—“You’ve gotta be kidding. Why didn’t he check to make sure she was dead?” etc. While girl moves on to the difference between comedies and tragedies, guy smoothly pays for girl’s sandwich. Girl feigns protest, guy gallantly says it’s the least he can do for the literature lesson.]
If you do not find this heartwarming and adorable, I don’t think you are really a reader.
My Happy Reader Level: 9 for this story, 6 normally. I can’t help it; I love eavesdropping.
Five: Finding a Character Who is Like You
Spotting your name in a book is always fun (although apparently my first and last name was once the victim of a gristly murder, so that’s unfortunate), but personality traits and physical quirks are always delightful too. You know, like: “What! A heroine with different-colored eyes! I thought I was the only one” or “This character’s stress-shopping for housewares online is the most relatable thing ever.” The only downside is realizing that the person you would be best friends with doesn’t actually exist in real life. Bummer.
My Happy Reader Level: 4, when I’m not the murder victim.
Six: Recommendations of an Amazing Book
Whether you let someone know that a bestseller actually earned the hype or you suggest a “hidden gem” that very few have discovered, a couple of spot-on recommendations and you’ll be a reader’s friend for life. There’s a special excitement when you love a book from a new-to-you author and then find out that the author has a book list of a dozen more already published. Backlist party!
My Happy Reader Level: 7, with occasionally bouts of 9 and the rare 11 for a Top Ten recommendation.
Seven: Beautiful Libraries and Bookstores
Okay, let’s be honest: pretty much all libraries or bookstores, but the ones that are cozy or grand or delightfully interactive are especially fun to visit. (If you’re ever in Minneapolis, be sure to check out Wild Rumpus.)
Just make sure you have some time if you take a reader into one of these sacred spaces…there’s no such thing as a “quick peek.” Unless by “quick,” you were measuring in hours instead of minutes. Possibly days…
My Happy Reader Level: Base of 3, with my happiness rising a level for every 15 minutes I get to spend there.
Eight: Book-Shaped Presents
Am I the only one who, as a kid, purposely scoped out the haul under the Christmas tree to set aside, with great glee, the smooth, rectangular ones with just the right heft to be a book? It got to the point where my parents were wrapping books in shoeboxes just to maintain an element of surprise. There are other perfectly serviceable present options out there, of course, but how else can you gift wrap an entire world? Nothing else quite measures up, in my opinion.
My Happy Reader Level: 7, unless I actually open those presents and find out it’s a stationery kit or cookbook or something. (Nothing against cookbooks, they’re just not straight-through reads, and also feel slightly unattainable.)
What else is guaranteed to make you happy, readers? Or which one of these on the list have you experienced lately?