5 Steps to Organising a Reading Retreat at Home

A cup of coffee on a table next to some books and a candle to illustrate ideas to help you create a reading retreat at home.

In recent years, we’ve treated ourselves an overnight reading retreat at the historic Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden, but this year it’s sadly been cancelled due to Covid-19. So with restrictions tightening everywhere (and birthdays coming up), we decided to gift ourselves a cosy one day bookish retreat at home instead.

In these difficult times we need things to look forward and this seemed the best way to escape for while. What’s more it’s cheap, comfortable and theres no time wasted on travel or checking in. In fact the only barrier has been our own guilt surrounding the concept of lounging around pleasing ourselves for a few hours.

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What is a reading retreat?

In a nutshell, it’s time set away from all duties to read books without distraction, an opportunity to hide from the real world for a few hours.

When is the best time to organize a day to escape with books?

You can grant yourself a bookish day at any time of the year, but we prefer an Autumn retreat. The months of September to November are ripe for absorbing new ideas and just cold enough to justify wrapping yourself up in blanket.

Is it better to do a reading retreat at home on your own or with other people?

If you only have half a day then we’d say it’s better to do it on your own. Those minutes will fly by and you want to save every millisecond for your books. However, if you have a whole day or a weekend then sharing your bookish retreat with another bibliophile could really enrich the day. You could even read the same book and discuss it afterwards.

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

― C.S. Lewis

Do I need to budget for a reading retreat?

Creating a bookish sanctuary at home can be as low-cost or as expensive as you want it to be. The three essentials you need are:

  • Time
  • A book
  • A place where you won’t be distracted

You can add to this as you see fit and we’ve added some suggestions in the 5 steps below:

Step One: Book Off Time to Read

This seems obvious, but how many of us actually gift ourselves space to enjoy reading without interruption? We definitely don’t. There’s always something else to do, especially with a young person to take care of. Weekends can be the best time, but taking a day off work for your bookish retreat can be extra-special. If you live with other people then the second option is also often a safer bet for peace and quiet.

Once you’ve made a decision, put your date in the diary and stick to it. Let friends and family know you’ll be busy on that day.

Step Two: Choose Titles for Your Reading Retreat

To reduce the chances of a book slump on the actual day, we recommend lining up a few reading options. These could include:

  • Short books (128pp max)
  • Books you really want to read from your TBR pile
  • Poetry collections
  • Middle-grade fiction
  • A classic novel you’ve always wanted to start

To give yourself the best chance of gathering the books you most want to read, start to plan a month ahead. If funds are low then check out some of the suggestions in our post about building a book collection on a budget.

Don’t worry about finishing your books either. The main thing here is that you have time to read and explore ideas. No one will be judging your reading speed or completion rate. This is just about you and the words.

HOWEVER – if you would prefer to join a group and read together then check out these 8 reading challenges and readathons.

“A good book is an event in my life.”

― Stendhal, The Red and the Black

Step Three: Prepare Your Book Nook

You don’t have to create anywhere specific for your bookish retreat, but setting up a small book nook will add to the experience. If you already have a favourite reading spot then maybe focus on this area. Add cushions and throws to make the space more comfortable and re-arrange lighting to suit. We use stacking tables to get our reading station sorted so eveything is in easy reach.

Step Four: Stock Up On Supplies for Your Reading Retreat

The sole aim of your reading retreat is to block out time for bookish pursuits so make sure you have everything on hand a few days beforehand. Here’s what to consider:

  • Snacks, food and drink (as easy to make as possible). Takeaways also an option
  • A notepad and pen to record ideas
  • Sticky tabs to annotate pages
  • A scented candle for mood
  • Playlists if you like to listen to music while you read

Something like this

The Ultimate Book Lover Gift Box

Step Five: Block Out Distractions in Your Book Sanctuary

Blocking out all distractions during your reading retreat is vitally important if you’re going to get the most out of your time to read. You can probably guess our top tip before we write it…switch your phone off!

This is one of the reasons that we haven’t included audiobooks in your retreat book list. If, like us, you listen via your mobile phone, the temptation to scroll will be too strong and you could end up losing a lot of previous bookish time on social media. If you want to take photos then do a before and after – that way you’ll have a record of the day and a decent page count.

Other distractions to avoid include:

  • TV
  • Radio
  • Laptops, PCs, tablets – anything with an internet connection (if you’re reading an e-book then disconnect the Wi-Fi)
  • People who dont share your need for time to read!

Of course if you desperately want these, then add them, but bear in mind that you may not get the most out of your time to read.

“A book is a garden, an orchard, a storehouse, a party, a company by the way, a counselor, a multitude of counselors.”

― Charles Baudelaire

Are there organized reading retreats that I can go on?

If you prefer to escape completely, here are a couple of companies offering reading retreats (note we have no personal experience of these so research them thoroughly before booking).

Reading Retreat

Reading Retreat organizes short breaks at venues across the UK where you are fully looked after and have the chance to receive a tailored book prescription. They aren’t operating in 2020 due to Covid-19 but keep an eye on their website for 2021.

The Book Matchmaker Reading Retreat

The Book Matchmaker is running a book retreat in Herefordshire 16-19th October 2020 with all food and drink provided. It looks as if some rooms are still free.

Personally we love the idea of going away for a bookish retreat where you can just sit back and dive into books all day so hope this concept will continue to grow. In the meantime, we’re looking forward to our own reading retreat at home. How about you?

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  1. Nancy Moon
    October 2, 2020 / 5:02 pm

    I love this Mel, I desire a reading nook….well actually a full tiny house for my quiet time. So I’m working on the nook now. Be well and happy October.

    • thebookfamilyrogerson
      October 2, 2020 / 6:17 pm

      That’s good to know that you have place for peace. Many of us feel like escaping now. Love to you and yours x

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