One of the greatest assets of reading as a hobby is that it can be done virtually anywhere, and all bibliophiles will know that leaving the house without a book always feels like a missed opportunity – you can never be sure when you’ll get the chance to steal a few precious moments to become absorbed in a good book. Nonetheless, there are some places where reading becomes exponentially more magical, and the experience is heightened to new levels of joy. My top three places to sit and read are: on a beach during the summer, by a roaring fire in the depths of winter, and in a quiet bookshop or library. These idyllic scenarios align perfectly with your reading, a complete immersion of delight.
A winter’s day – the world outside is freezing, the weather hostile and bitter as a vicious wind blows. You are safely ensconced indoors, with nowhere else to be and need to rush. Tuck yourself up by a roaring fire: light and heat emanate, and you are curled up with a book. A hot drink steams by your side, and this is the very definition of cozy, as you luxuriate in a quiet solitude that brings peace. The choice of books in this setting matters. You turn the pages of literary classics, the epitome of storytelling. Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie’s beloved mysteries, the Brontë sisters, Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, Charles Dickens: the authors at the pinnacle of their craft. Snuggled under a blanket, you feast on novels that will warm you from the inside out. The soundtrack of crackling logs and the smell of woodsmoke is a perfect backdrop as you delve into the past, captivated by page-turners pulling you into other realms. Hours can slip unnoticed as the world beyond this room ceases to infringe – you are entirely elsewhere, invested in a fictional history, on the wild moors of, Yorkshire or in a grimy, Dickensian London, wrapped up in another family’s trials and tribulations. The weather permits you to stay inside, and these are the ideal moments to find solace in being alone, to relish the lack of demands on you and your time.
In total contrast, but equally blissful, are days spent reading on the beach. The concept of a “beach read” has become common parlance as every summer magazine, and blog release lists of the ultimate beach reads. Beaches and books are recognized as a perfect combination, and every beach bag needs the addition of a good paperback. The sound of gulls shrieking, waves crashing to the shore, and the cheery cacophony of delighted children playing makes a joyful backing track as you dive into a novel. The sun beats down upon your skin, and the scent of sun lotion, salt water, and ice cream hangs in the air, the whole beach buzzing with the carefree ambiance found only on vacation. Let yourself slow down and ease into resting, fully: this is your downtime. You sip a cold drink, lie back, and begin to read. This is a truly transportive pastime, and relaxing by the ocean is the ideal spot for more light-hearted reads – plunge yourself into a romance novel, or fast-paced paced thriller. Action-packed thrillers put you in the best of both worlds: your physical self is taking in all the natural joys of being outdoors while in your imagination you are carried along in a gritty whodunnit, swiftly turning the pages, wholly immersed in the depths of the underworld as you enjoy the dreamiest moments of your own life. A romance novel is an excellent choice too; it’s easy to envision being swept off your feet in a halcyon tale of love at first sight while you soak up the sun’s rays, the sound of the sea luring you into believing wholeheartedly in a meet-cute love story.
And, finally, here is the place I believe to be the most idyllic location to sit and read: a peaceful bookshop or library. Nowhere can be more suited to reading than a room filled with books: a space entirely dedicated to manuscripts of all varieties. It is a special kind of utopia – the awareness of all the knowledge and stories available within this hallowed space is almost overwhelming as well as humbling. You can read intensely, without apology, knowing you are in the perfect place for this pastime. The shelves are crammed full of possibilities, myriad stories at your fingertips, and endless information ready to be learned and absorbed. Poetry is here, too, amongst the dusty shelves, beauty, and truth filling the pages in carefully crafted stanzas. Any book works in this kind of haven, but it’s always extra magical to look at the kind of tomes you never normally have access to. Stunning pop-up versions of a reimagined Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, rare first editions of Tolkien, historical volumes specific to the local area. These are opportunities not to be passed over, and the books must be treated with the reverential respect they deserve. It is a privilege to be in a space where books are known to be sacred, and this sanctuary should be appreciated. Let your fingers trail down the spines of beautifully embossed hardbacks, reveling in wisdom passed down through generations and discovering archives you never knew existed, preserving history in the way only the written word can. You carefully turn the pages in delicate pamphlets as you read poetry that takes your breath away, the verses drilling into the truth of what it is to be human. Soak in the unique smell of books, inhale that indescribable scent that gives any book lover a dopamine rush. It doesn’t get better than this.
Ultimately, reading is possible anywhere and anytime. But, when you can, it is worth gifting yourself the joy of becoming engrossed in a great book in a great setting. Take the time to truly bask in your surroundings and appreciate how it enhances the sensory experience of reading.
Essay/Article commissioned by: TDLM Editorial
Written by: Ellen Clayton [Bio – Poet; Lancaster University; Theatre]Graphics/Art/Illustration by: TDLM Design Team
‘Where to Read – Anywhere, But We Can Always Do Better’ First Published in The Daily Life Magazine on 30.11.2022