The Constant Reader

When I think of ideal spots to catch up on reading my mind goes straight for the cliché. Convention dictates that most of the reading we do for enjoyment takes place in an over sized and massively comfy chair, preferably in a home library with a fireplace. We could possibly also be enjoying a quick flick while at the beach, or lounging on a sofa, but mainly it’s all about massive chairs and total immersion.

But a quick think about the most recent people I saw reading brings up a distinct paucity of over-stuffed upholstery and a wealth of dedication to reading in less than ideal environments. I see plenty of people reading while in waiting in shops and cafes, or while on transport; on the train, the bus, in the car. (Not if you are driving, please. I don’t care how long those traffic lights take.)

And we all know people – and in fact, may even be the person – who insist on dragging a book to the bathroom for, um, longer stays. There are even books specially for them. I wasn’t a huge fan of this until I stayed in a house where the bathroom was lined with walls of book-cases. On the minus side it meant that even a brief trip to the ladies tended to take at least 20 minutes, on the plus I did get introduced to some great new authors. As Margaret Atwood said in The Atlantic Wire, “Bathroom reading is a certain kind of reading–episodic, but encouraging first thing in the morning. The bathroom is a place where you can go in and pretend to be doing one thing while actually you’re reading. Nobody can interrupt you. Compendiums of this and that are very useful for bathroom reading: small reading packages within a larger book. You wouldn’t want to read War and Peace in there. You’d never come out. They’d probably call the police and get the door broken down.”

I’m less likely to be found in a huge chair myself and far more likely to be found catching up on the sofa while my partner watches the cricket. Reading in bed? All the time, especially when I should be getting up or going to sleep. Reading in cafes at lunch? Sure. Outside on the steps on a sunny day? Sounds lovely, let me get my shades and sunscreen. Reading while walking? Um, maybe not. Wouldn’t you trip over things?

But someone I work with loves to read while walking. And They think my habit of reading in the car is strange – don’t I get motion sick? Shouldn’t I be watching the view? Personally I can’t understand people who read while exercising, on a bike or treadmill or whatever. Whenever I hit the gym I’m too busy trying to stay upright and moving to pay any attentions to plot and I suspect trying to read while running would just result in fraustration and eventual bruising.

The drive to distract your mind and catch up on that book can lead to some pretty interesting choices of locations. One person’s reading chair is another’s heresy:

  • Literally – this lady reads in church and reckons every other organist out there also does.
  • This guy reads when he should be driving the train – I’m not recommending this one (see my point on traffic lights, above) but I can understand the urge to get away from work for a few minutes.
  • This guy has challenged himself to read in the most unusual places he can find.

Me? I can’t stop reading in the car. I’ve had my nose stuck in a book all over the world; when I should have been looking out the window at the Swiss Alps; right through the twisting coastal roads of Monaco; across most of Ontario and Central America. What about you? Where is the weirdest place you find yourself craving to open that book?