I’m introducing a new series here at Cask & Quill today: Immersive Reading! The thing I love most about this blog is sharing ways to weave literary magic into daily life. But what if you really want to immerse yourself in a specific book? I am ALL about that. When I read, I love to feel as much like I’m actually wandering through the pages as I can. Good writing can go a long way to making you feel part of the story’s world, but by adding other elements to your surroundings you can sink even further into a book. Even if you aren’t reading it at the moment, you might just want to recreate the way a particular book makes you feel. Whatever your purpose, I’m here with ideas to help immerse you further into a book!
The first book I want to take you into is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban! I have always loved the atmosphere of this book. It’s our first trip to Hogsmeade and, therefore, our first taste of butterbeer. We meet Professor Trelawney and are introduced to Divination class. The Grim adds a spooky sense of foreboding to year three. There’s a lot to love.
I just returned home from one of the most immersive experiences around, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando! I’m already missing my new favorite place, but just because we can’t rush off to a theme park whenever we need a HP fix doesn’t mean that we can’t build up a little magic around ourselves at home.
There’s something very autumnal about Harry Potter, isn’t there? And of course Halloween is nearly here. This time of year always puts me in the mood to read or watch one of these books. PLUS the illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban just came out! It really is the perfect time to immerse yourself in this book!
So, how do I suggest you set about your Immersive Reading experience of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban? First, you’ll need the book! Any copy will do, of course, but I highly suggest picking up the new illustrated version for this experience. Those wonderful illustrations by Jim Kay are sure to help you get wrapped up in the wizarding world.
It might be helpful to decide what feel you’re going for with this experience. Prisoner of Azkaban has a whole lot of atmosphere to offer. You can go big and get the whole picture going or choose to focus on one setting or scene. For me, this book is all about the sense of foreboding and doom. There’s something a little bit Gothic about POA. But there’s also the cozy and fun trips to Hogsmeade and the Three Broomsticks. Or what about something that combines both of those? Divination class seems both cozy AND full of doom.
You’ve got your book and an idea of what you’re going for. Next, we’ll tackle another easy one. Smell is the sense most closely tied to memory. Do you ever catch a whiff of something that instantly transports you to a time or place in your mind? That’s practically magic right there! For your Prisoner of Azkaban immersive read, I suggest lighting incense or this Frostbeard candle to help recreate Divination class. Dim the lights, get out more candles, strew some pillows and scarves around the room to complete the scene. If incense makes you sneeze or you just don’t prefer the smell, make a pot of fragrant black tea instead. Or perhaps a sugary candle to transport you to Honeydukes would be more to your taste? It’s up to you!
Food and Drink
As long as we’re on the subject of tea and sweets, an essential part of any immersive read is the food! Whip up some chocolate frogs or get a selection of your favorite sweets from the store and get that pot of tea or mug of butterbeer ready. For me, snacking on food and drinks from the book is the most fun way to get involved in its world.
For something a little more filling and a little less by-the-book (but POA-inspired) try these delicious pumpkin pancakes with butterbeer maple syrup and thank me later. I like to think they’re something Madam Rosmerta would serve for breakfast at the Three Broomsticks.
A little decoration goes a long way to creating a magical ambiance. If you have a wand, uniform or any wizardy clothing, get them on! Hogwarts or house t-shirts would be perfect.
Maybe you have some other items like a house banner or something you could set out. A time turner, perhaps? If not, look around the house and see what you might be able to come up with. Some empty bottles or mugs on the table with a bowl of nuts might help you to imagine the bar at the Three Broomsticks. Anything that looks like it could be useful to a fortune teller would be perfect. Cups and saucers can be set out for the reading of tea leaves. Spare bits from costumes like a witches hat or robe would be perfect to lay around. Dust off your imagination and get to work!
Don’t let your other senses have all the fun. Last but certainly not least, complete the atmosphere with songs and sounds that bring you to Hogwarts or Hogsmeade. I have talked about ambient literary sounds here and here. Try some out that recreate the pub sounds of the Three Broomsticks, shopping in Hogsmeade, or the bustle of your house common room. Get some rain going with the eerie sound of a howling dog. Instead of ambient sound, simply press play on the soundtrack for the Prisoner of Azkaban film. Or try both together!
So, what do you think? Is this a good start? Give one or all of these ideas a try and let me know how it goes! No need to stop here, either. There’s loads more you can do. Let me know what ideas you add! Plus, you could just as easily adapt some of these to an immersive watching experience if you are more in the mood to watch the film instead.
What do you think of this Immersive Reading series? What other books would you like to see me write about in this way? Let me know in the comments! I really appreciate it.
Happy (immersive) reading!