Football season is approaching—or has it already started? Honestly, I know next to nothing about American football (same goes for European football, come to think of it). I do know that the Super Bowl is a Thing and tailgating is also a Thing. When Harry Potter was at its peak, we all gathered at midnight at the nearest Barnes & Noble in our cosplay getups and maybe shared a few snacks while waiting in that Basilisk-long line like it was our own Super Bowl, but looking back, that was a missed opportunity. Why didn’t we tailgate?
Okay, I was only fifteen when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out, so maybe that’s why I didn’t, but that’s no excuse for older Potterheads.
Big new book releases are a perfect opportunity to meet fellow book nerds. While we’re perhaps less likely to go out and socialize by choice and reading tends to be a more solitary activity, there’s no doubt there are those of us who wouldn’t mind a little bookish company now and then. What better time to make that company happen than the celebration of the thing we all love?
Imagine this: we gather well before the midnight release hour in the parking lots of bookstores. For stores without parking lots or those in more urban areas, we close down the street (this is admittedly ambitious). We make food and plenty of it to be shared with our fellow nerds. Those who wish to, enjoy a beer or glass of wine. There’s no reason not to get fancy. Others might prefer coffee or tea. Passersby glance quizzically and shake their head with disbelief and a lack of understanding when they realize they’ve come upon a horde of bookish folks. Our costumes remain a staple of our party, naturally, but be careful—you don’t want mustard on your new mockingjay pin.
Of course, we aren’t likely to get another Harry Potter anytime soon, neither in the specific or the more general phenomenon. But this doesn’t mean our bookish tailgating has to be the recipient of a dementor’s kiss.
Imagine, if you will further, this: We gather on ordinary days, our hatchbacks up and the beds of our pickup trucks open, lawn chairs out, grills smoking. We hold books in one hand and a drink in the other. Our decorated coolers profess our favorite lines. Games of cornhole with themed beanbags—team Jane Austen and team Charlotte Brontë, for example—dot every so many parties. One car of people play bar and make F. Scott Fitzgerald-inspired cocktails. At the head of the lot, a group recites Langston Hughes poetry in a recreation of his readings. The occasional ambitious set do reads of Shakespeare at card tables unfolded on the uneven pavement.
We read, take a walk around, ask what others are reading, engage in a brief and polite conversation before returning to our own little, private, fictional worlds. A thousand stories floating in the air above our heads, adjacent, but not intermingling. Harry Potter is oblivious of his forefather Frodo next door. The sun is our book light and with our ereaders adjusted just so, everything is perfect. We have created our own utopia.
A shared love of something, community, food, a bit of alcohol—maybe these football fans are onto something.
Getting out to socialize can be tough. It seems a lot of readers are also introverts and vice versa. Bookish tailgating provides an opportunity to fulfill the social needs of such human animals (of which I am one) without overstressing the introverted sensibilities of many of us. Our book tailgating includes, of course, signage: “Ask me what I’m reading!” “I’m up for a chat about anything!” and “Please do not disturb,” for those of us who like to read in company but not with company.
Once the winter months drift into the northern hemisphere, book tailgating might not be such a comfortable idea, so we’ll revert to our old ways of reading at the fireside by our lonesomes or, if we’re lucky, with a few close friends. Until then, I’ll be watching for invites to your very own book tailgating events.