The In-Between by Shawna Coppola

We nerdy bloggers write (and talk) a lot about being immersed in books. We muse, long and hard, about books that make us weep, that cause our abs to ache with laughter, and that move us, on occasion, to toss ‘em across the room in a fit of anger. (Or maybe that’s just me…heh heh.)

How often, though, do we talk about the time that we spend in between being absorbed in our beloved books? Sure, there are many readers who flit easily and seamlessly from book to book, barely having reached the end of one before cracking open another from her TBR stack. But also, there are readers–like me–who, more often than not, desire a quick breather between books for an assorted host of reasons. Perhaps it’s because we’re still savoring the gorgeous, gauzy prose of a book like Emma Cline’s The Girls or are emotionally weakened by the hard lessons from one like Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City; perhaps we’re afraid that nothing else could possibly be as gripping as Andy Mulligan’s Trash or that our next book choice will be even worse than the one we just made. Regardless, some of us need a bit more time before throwing ourselves at the mercy of another heart-wrenching,  gut-busting, and/or paradigm-shifting tome…time that I like to call, simply, “the in-between.”

What happens during the in-between? This is likely different for everyone; during my in-between time, however, I still engage in reading behavior (when I’m not catching up on episodes of The Bachelorette, that is)–behavior that may not be as valued as that of being immersed in a book, but which, in my view, is just as essential to the evolution of my reading life. Behavior that includes:


Knocking off a magazine or two. I read magazines as a fairly regular practice (especially the colorful, trashy ones), but it’s mainly during the “in-between” that I am able to devote the time–and the mental space–I need to read some of the more lengthy features from favorites like The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and Mental Floss. (This practice doubles nicely as counting toward housework due to the decluttering of my countertops it provides.)


Checking out said magazines for book recommendations. I’m lucky in that I can usually count on these magazines’ writers, who clearly share my taste for quirky YA, nonfiction, and psychological thrillers, to help me add to my future to-be-read pile by recommending titles that almost always hit the mark. (Special shout-out to the folks at Mental Floss with their handy “brain candy” to “brain kale”  continuum!)


Downloading samples to my e-reader. Upon discovering a possible title that I might sink my teeth into, I generally take advantage of the free sample available by downloading it into my iBooks library. After a few days, when I’m finally ready to take my first bite, my book is right there, waiting for me. (A fantastic feature of devouring books: no calories consumed.)


Combing through my Twitter “Likes.” I’m a fairly promiscuous Twitter “Like”-er, particularly on Sunday mornings when my Twitter family seems to put forth its best stuff. As of this writing, I have over four thousand “Likes” saved, 80% of which are links to articles on topics ranging from education to pop culture to parenting to anything Roxane Gay has ever posted online. The in-between is a perfect time when I can chip away at my digital reading stack, one Making a Murderer think piece at a time.


Writing more. Seeing as though writing is, save for reading itself, the most readerly behavior around, it warrants a mention here. During the in-between, desperate to reach that cognitive “flow”-like state like that I experience while immersed in a great book, I often turn to writing to fill that void–although admittedly, it’s much easier to find that “flow” while lounging in a hammock than it is tapping away at a keyboard.


In addition to all this, I continue to dip in and out of various professional texts as well as those that need not be read in a linear fashion, like my drawing and travel books. As much as I adore falling headlong into a book, when I need space to grieve a character I particularly adored or exorcise one I despised…when I need time to process a new concept or reexamine a previously-held belief…when I yearn to dally around a flock of would-be reading suitors after emerging from a serious book romance…the in-between is exactly where I like to be.


Shawna Coppola (@shawnacoppola)  is currently not “in-between” books, but rather is  presently absorbed in Tara Sullivan’s heart-wrenching tale The Bitter Side of Sweet, which should immediately move to the top of everyone’s TBR pile. When not writing for The Nerdy Book Club or her blog, My So-Called Literacy Life, she can be found working on the book she’s writing for Stenhouse–or more accurately, drinking overpriced coffee while gazing off into the distance.