These 4 Popular Reading Spots Are Actually Awful

Close your eyes and imagine your ideal reading spot.  You know, the place you most want to go and cozy up with a book on your day off. 

Picturing it?

I bet it’s an awful place to read. 

I’m not trying to be rude! I only know this because I too once convinced myself that these so-called Ideal Reading Spots were the places to be when it comes to enjoying a book. Give me a chance to explain why these reading spots are so terrible, and I’ll even offer better alternatives. 

1. Reading in bed

The ultimate in comfort is actually the ultimate in falling asleep three minutes after you start reading. I have made this mistake again and again. I figure I’ll snuggle up and enjoy my free time with the book I’m currently reading, but fast forward to two hours later and I’ve accidentally taken a nap, and have to rush off to whatever I have planned next, having completely wasted my time. 

One person’s fantasy reading spot can be another person’s nightmare zone. I felt a vital shift once I realized all the reading spots I was supposed to love were actually awful.

Where to read instead:

Invest in a reading chair, but one that offers upright back support and is just comfortable enough. I have learned I enjoy books the most when I’m awake and alert, even if I’m not covered in pillows and blankets.

2. Reading a coffee shop

I know, I know, a latte and a novel seems like the perfect combination. You get the best seat in the cafe, soft indie music is playing, and everyone else around you is on a book based adventure as well…in a perfect world. Let’s be real, though — usually the cafe is packed, the best seat is taken, or when it finally becomes available people give you looks of disdain for sitting in it for too long. The barista asks you if you’re going to order another coffee at some point, the music is a never ending loop of Jack Johnson and John Mayer, and people are either furiously typing away at their laptops or talking way too loudly. 

Where to read instead:

The library. Not only are you surrounded by books, but it’s free!  You’re more likely to find a good reading chair, and no one is waiting for you to leave. The best thing? The quiet. Libraries are so, so quiet.

3. Reading on the beach

I wish reading on the beach was a good experience, but it never is. Gosh, there is so much book risk. You’re up against sand getting in between your pages, water getting in between your pages, and ocean winds flipping your pages! Most beaches are pretty crowded, and you usually have to be on the lookout for a flying beach ball or a seagull attacking out of nowhere. All the while, the sun is beating down on you. With all this stress, there is no way you’re going to stay focused on your story.

Where to read instead:

If reading near bodies of water is your thing, I would suggest some lakeside reading time instead. The winds tend to be less powerful, the shores calmer and not so noisy, and there will most likely be more shade.  Ah yes, I feel relaxed already!

4. Reading on a blanket in the park

This is one I still try to make work, as there is a lovely park in my neighborhood that I really enjoy visiting, and I have a blanket that’s perfect for solo reading. However, after I roll out my blanket onto some rocky, uneven grass, I have to switch positions every five minutes for comfort’s sake. Why is it so hard to find a good position on a blanket? I tend to look for a shady spot, but have to shift the blanket over as the sun moves, which seems to happen in seconds. The faint smell of goose poop is never too far away. Perhaps the biggest distraction of all, though, is the constant parade of adorable dogs! I can’t read one paragraph without a cute pup catching my eye. It is devastating.

Where to read instead:

Keep in the spirit of the park, but visit a sculpture or botanical garden instead. There are benches and sitting areas all around, some quite secluded and serene. Again, sitting upright in a seat that provides good support is best for reading, and you’ll still be surrounded by the beauty of nature. Perfect!

One person’s fantasy reading spot can be another person’s nightmare zone. I felt a vital shift once I realized all the reading spots I was supposed to love were actually awful. 

When someone asks me if I want to “curl up in bed with a good book,” I scoff!

 “No, I’d like to sit up straight and at attention with a groundbreaking novel!”

Please feel free to challenge my newfound opinions, or offer other great places to crack open a book! Happy reading.

Christine J. Schmidt

Column by Christine J. Schmidt

Christine J. Schmidt is a writer originally from New Jersey. After receiving her BFA in Dramatic Writing from SUNY Purchase, she worked at Seattle Repertory Theatre as their artistic literary intern. She recently left Brooklyn, where she was a bookseller and events host at WORD, to reside in Los Angeles. She has previously written for New York Theatre Review, and her plays have been read and produced at theaters in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Washington. Coffee is her favorite thing.

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Kushagra Shukla_2's picture
Kushagra Shukla_2 May 30, 2017 - 8:37am

this reminds me of a time when i was reading a novel that i had to finish at any cost within that night, but my roommates wanted to sleep so they were adamant about turning lights-off, ultimately i had to spend the rest of the night in washroom because i had to finish that novel anyway.

SammyB's picture
SammyB from Las Vegas is reading currently too many to list May 30, 2017 - 9:55am

I still read in bed, but I bought one of those chair pillow things. It props against the headboard or wall and is pretty comfortable. This keeps me from falling asleep. My favorite reading chair wouldn't fit in my apartment, so I have to improvise. I agree with the other places being terrible though. Every year there is a list of "beach reads" and I think, "Why would anyone want to read at the beach?" I would also add bathtub reading to the list. It seems like a good idea, but you get the book wet. Or maybe I'm just not very skilled at reading in the bath? Haha.

reading32pages's picture
reading32pages May 30, 2017 - 10:54am

Nice to know someone else was also not really into reading on the beach or in bed.  I like to be outside and in my own backyard where it is very quite. And no, I do not want the cat curled up in my lap while I'm reading. 

helpfulsnowman's picture
Community Manager
helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman May 30, 2017 - 8:43pm

Beaches are the worst. In every way. Did anyone ever get killed by a shark at somewhere that's not a beach? I think not.

The bath tub works for me, but there's a trick to it. The kind of thing you want to read in the bath tub is the kind of thing that you want to read in a solid block without interruption. Also, drink one beer (or drink of choice) before getting in, and bring a second with you. And just accept the pee as it comes. 

SammyB's picture
SammyB from Las Vegas is reading currently too many to list May 31, 2017 - 7:10am

Haha, Peter, I love the advice.