I am admittedly rough on books. Underlining or highlighting favorite sentences, writing notes in the margin, and dog-earring favorite pages are all signs that I truly love a book. And books I read outside during the summer have mud and dirt smudges from falling out of trees (I like to climb trees, even at the age of 22), smushed bugs and blades of grass, and faded corners from sitting in the sun. But I think my books take the worst abuse when I read during a bath.

I get bored reading in the same spot all the time. The comfortable overstuffed chair in my room often doubles as a laundry pile; the cats crawl in my lap and chew book corners when I read on the living room couch. Yet I never get tired of reading in a warm bubble bath! Something about an indulgent hour spent reading and soaking makes even the most stressful day suddenly ok. After years of dropping favorite books in the water and spilling bath oil on the cover, I’ve created a few basic guidelines for reading in the bath.

1. Create the perfect stay at-home spa

Ok, this one doesn’t specifically have to do with reading, but who doesn’t love to feel a little spoiled and pampered. As a college student and now a young professional, I’ve had plenty of time to perfect the at-home spa. And part of a good reading experience is being relaxed, so taking the extra few minutes to set the mood will pay off in the end when you leave the bath feeling refreshed and well read. If you are the bath oil/bubble bath type of person but cannot afford expensive luxury products, I’ve found Johnson’s baby products to work great. They leave your skin feeling soft and smell great, and work well on sensitive skin because they are designed for newborns. Candles are always fun, and I never take a bath without listening to music.

2. Pick a fun, easy book to read

Sticking with the relaxing theme, pick a book that is fun and easy. Put away that thick text-book or dry history book and grab something that makes you smile. Romance, fantasy, and motivational self-help books work best for me, but every reader has a genre they turn to when they need to relax. The point is to read something that will relax your mind in the same way the water and bath oils relax your body. More often than not, I’ll even reread an old favorite. Despite the large pile of TBR books you need to catch up on, bath time is for relaxing and having “me time,” not for working on that to-do list.

3. Have designated “bath time” books

After the first time you drop a book into the bath or accidentally splash and ruin the cover, designated bath time books will make sense. Even if you aren’t clumsy like me, all the steam from the water will warp pages over time and condensation on your fingers will smudge the pages. Never use a library book or something borrowed from a friend, as neither will appreciate getting their book back damaged. What I’ve found to work the best is stocking up on cheap books at garage sales, flea markets, and bargain bins at book stores. When a book only cost a quarter, you won’t feel so bad when a page gets wet or the cover has fingerprints on it. I have even bought two copies of some books I really enjoy, one for normal reading and one for the bath.

4. Schedule a large chunk of time to reading and relaxing

If you are rereading an old favorite, you should know roughly how long it takes to read the whole book, or get to a good stopping point. For example, I know it takes me a little over an hour to read half of  Richard Bach’s Illusions (my favorite bubble bath book), and I enjoy the first half much more than the ending. I also know that once I reach that halfway point the water will be cool and the bubbles are mostly gone, so it is a great time to end the bath. You want to stay long enough to read a large amount and relax, without getting dehydrated or hungry (am I the only one who always drinks a huge glass of water after a hot bath or shower?) or taking so much time you can’t get anything else done that day. And if you share a single bathroom with other people, they will eventually need to use it too.

So there you have it, my guidelines for reading in the bath. I would love to hear any tips you may have, as these are only the things that work for me personally. Plastic covers for your books? Books on tape? Movies or TV instead of reading? Share them all in the comments!