Where One Reads

Whenever I receive notice that Ste J from Book to the Future has written a new post, a smile comes across my face.  I know that I will either be introduced to a new book or revisiting an old favorite.

But it’s not just that he discusses books; it’s how he discusses them.  He loves books – tattered secondhand ones, the great classics of our times, pulp fiction, obscure ones on cartography, and he describes each reading experience through his unique wit and style.

I asked him if he would be willing to write something for my blog about where he reads as it’s something that always intrigues me about his posts.  Much to my delight, he agreed. Here it is:

provided by Ste J of Book to the Future

provided by Ste J of Book to the Future

Before it gets too cold, I thought I would try my hand at reading in a church yard, which is very distracting as it’s too peaceful, which it turns out is a real thing. Yet it does feel good to read somewhere that creates new thoughts and so brings life – in it’s own way – to the tranquil graves .

It did get me thinking about the effect that the nature of one’s chosen reading place has on the book itself. The book as we know exudes its own powerful effect on each reader and spending so much time in intimate contact with your book there must logically and inevitably be mutual give and take on both sides, a symbiotic relationship if you will.

By reading in a certain place, we associate the book with certain elements, be it the smell of coffee, the song that’s always on in the pub or perhaps just the short length of sanity a break allows at work. These stimulus allow the book to live on and be recalled, recommended and scattered to readers elsewhere, it is one of the more subtle evolutionary traits, I find.

Having started a new job recently, people are already asking what I am reading, my debut novel, What is Religion? by Leo Tolstoy gave them an impression of my tatses which was quickly changed as I then went onto Crabs: The Human Sacrifice, but it’s this playing with genre and reading location that keeps the experience fresh and can keep a book alive longer in the mind, even if the world tries to get in the way.

For me I love to read in a pub with a nice pint of whatever guest ale looks the most inviting (by which I mean the one with the best name), mainly as a little alcohol opens up the brain circuits (I’m guessing) and allows you to see more deeply into the book, literally after a few pints. It’s not the beverage I’m imbibing so much as the ambience, the gentle murmur of talking, the gaudy flashing of the slot machine, the regulars known by sight and of course having your own table.

It’s almost a home from home, I have been known to stand at the bar as my table and back up reading table were both taken and I wouldn’t have been able to read anywhere else, I’m not weird I’m dedicated to my art. The idiosyncrasies of book lovers have always fascinated me and I would be most intrigued to hear of any eccentricities that my fellow readers embrace to enhance the pleasure of our wonderful pastime.


If you’re not already following Ste J, check out his wonderful blog here: Book to the Future.



63 thoughts on “Where One Reads

  1. A truly enjoyable post. And thank you again, Letizia, for introducing me to Steve and his blog. Reading is an important part of my life, but I guess I never really gave much thought to how where I read effects what I take in. I’ve gotten into the habit, like so many others, of reading in spurts and after reading your post, Steve, I can see some of what I’ve been missing. Readers do so much for the writing world when they express their feelings.

    • We rarely think about where we read, it’s true, Dannie. In one of his recent posts, he mentioned that he was reading Tolstoy in the cafeteria of his work and that image made me smile and think about where we all read.

    • I am a recent convert to observational musings and it is a rich source of material when we stop and analyse our thoughts and ways. If there were no readers there would be no writers so I like to think u bloggers are the best of both worlds, a public service if you will.

  2. Wonderful post. Now that I think about it, I am more comfortable reading in some places than others. I prefer reading at home, curled up on my couch or even walking on my treadmill. Reading in a library is a close second. But although I read many other places (airports, in planes, doctors’ waiting rooms), I’m much more easily distracted in these locations. I’ve never read in a pub before though. May have to give that one a try. 😉

    • I know what you mean about silence, Andrea. to really concentrate, I either need a lot of quiet or a lot of noise (it’s the in between that I find hard to tune out). Thanks as always for dropping by – hope you’re having a good week.

  3. I love the idea of reading in a pub…. It seems very French to me, like Jean Paul Sartre or Simone de Beauvoir in their St Germain cafe in Paris,,,,, but for me reading is a more solitary activity and I love to read in bed….. Late at night being the best!

    • It’s true, it is very similar to reading in cafes, the world buzzing around you as you read. I used to read in cafes a lot when in Paris but here I haven’t found a cafe I like enough to sit for that long.

      Reading in bed tends to keep me awake, haha!

  4. Awesome stuff! Letizia, didn’t we just talk about bar reading recently? I think we did.

    Anyhoo, I love either reading in complete silence at home or in a quaint cafe somewhere. The worst is trying to read in a quiet room—say, the break room at work—when 2-3 people are having a conversation. I can’t read at all during those times, because I automatically start eavesdropping!

    • It’s so true, if a lot of people are talking, then that’s fine, but if it’s just a couple of people, then it’s so hard to focus on the book and not let your mind wander to their conversation!

  5. Interesting post, Letizia. I read at home on the porch or on the couch or in bed at night. I take the kindle to appointments and read on planes, but I don’t have a cozy pub. I need a quiet place to read.

  6. An excellent topic – one that really sets my thoughts in motion. My reading time is limited, so every moment is precious; hence my reading takes me to many locations. I especially liked the words: “These stimulus allow the book to live on and be recalled, recommended and scattered to readers elsewhere, it is one of the more subtle evolutionary traits, I find.” A profound statement that I will continue to ponder. Thank you for another excellent post and for introducing me to a remarkable blogger.

  7. Very interesting! I had never thought about how the ‘where’ effects the reading experience… However, just coming off my first time doing Grand Jury duty, where I read from ‘We Fed Them Cactus’ (a New Mexican Hispanic pioneer memoir) in spare moments (working on my Spanish), I can see the effect for myself! As I was reading these stories set in a ‘wild west’ of the past, I was actually listening to real time events occurring in a sometimes ‘still wild’, New Mexican west! Not much has changed here, it seems! 😛

    • Being on a Grand Jury must have been a fascinating experience, and I can imagine that you would have a lot of downtime to get some good reading done. And a good time to perfect your Spanish. Good for you!

  8. I prefer to read in bed but where we read is very important to how we experience a book. I read A M Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea whilst I was at a cottage by the sea. The impact of the book was profound. I must begin to pay more attention to where I am reading and change my reading places. Enhance my reading experiences!

    • I like that you read Gift from the Sea while at the Sea. When I travel to a new country, I like to read a book from an author from that country if possible, but the idea of reading a book in the same setting is fun – I will remember that.

      • I usually read on bed… And if I don’t, quite probably on a couch in the living-room. I “can” also read in the train when I go downtown, even when it is more randomly….
        I liked your idea of reading an author whose nationality is the same than the country you are visiting…. I also tend to read authors from the same country (one after the other). Or same genres. Or same authors. Or Nobel Prizes. All successively… It gives the reading a thelos, a subtle teleological sense.
        Great post dear Letizia. Un abrazo, Aquileana 😀

        • On a further note regarding “Reading and Trains” (Happy coincidence!, quite eloquent). Aquileana 🙂
          “Reading railway station (formerly Reading General) is a major railway station and transport hub in the English town of Reading. It is on the northern edge of the town centre, near the main retail and commercial areas, and also the River Thames”.

        • I love reading on the train too. Even more than on the plane for some reason. I guess it’s because I can look out the window and see the landscape and people going by. I’ve never been to Reading, England yet but have heard of it. It would be fun to go to!

  9. You’ll never be without ideas for books to read with Steven around–nor ideas for interesting places to read said books. I wouldn’t want to read in our local pub though, way too noisy with the number of televisions hanging around the walls every few feet, so patrons won’t miss out on their league, soccer, rugby, cricket, basketball, baseball or golf. The noise of all seven sports at once is not very conducive to a quiet pint and a good book 🙂

    • I agree, those multi-tvs all over the pubs make it difficult to talk much less to read! But perhaps if there is enough noise (or if the book is really a page turner!), then one can drown it all out.

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting, Lyn!

  10. This is very interesting, and I think it depends on what you’re reading also, as to where you read. If I’m reading something nonfiction, I can easily be around people. Not that I can’t read fiction that way, but I want to get more “lost” in story so prefer more quiet. Regardless of where I am, I want to be comfortable, which is more difficult for me as time goes on ’cause everything ends up aching, no matter how I sit. My favorite thing is a comfortable chair where my feet are either planted firmly on the floor (not dangling) or propped up comfortably, with an armrest the right size for me to prop my arm/book on, preferably with a pillow beneath the book. I want lighting that’s “just right” ’cause I don’t want to be blinded, nor do I want to strain. So that’s about it, I’d say 🙂 Love to hear about different preferences with this!

  11. Wonderful that you have Ste over here today Letizia, I’m a huge fan of his for all the reasons you describe 🙂 Ste, you create the perfect reading ambiance here, whether sitting in the pub with its buzz or in the tranquility of the graveyard. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am in awe of your reading and excellent reviews (not to mention your wonderful wit). Reading your post here brings back a memory of my eldest son. Always an avid reader, he never understood that the only time he ever got in trouble in school was for reading in class when he would have been listening to the teacher 😉

  12. The picture of the puppy reading immediately caught my attention because I read Ulysses two years ago. One of my friends who reads books for a living (great job if you can get it) bet me I couldn’t finish Ulysses. Well, I HAD to finish it just because of the bet. It was an interesting experience 😉 Anyway, I’m getting way off track here.

    I can read anywhere. I particularly like reading on planes because I’m terrified of flying and it takes my mind off that ‘imminent crash’ feeling.

    Thanks for the introduction to Ste J – I’m heading over there now 😉

    • Ulysses is a reading experience for sure. I’m glad you did it!

      Reading on the plane is great as it makes the time fly (haha). Sorry to hear about your fear of plane travel but glad reading helps.

  13. Letizia: nice idea for a guest post.
    Ste J: What are your ideal pints? Mine go well with reading: Sneck Lifter, Wolf, or Old Peculier.
    Both: Perhaps this is a subject for another post?

  14. Terrific post. I envy you your comfortable pub, as these houses were favorites of my husband and me when we lived in England (hundreds of years ago). Still, for reading, while I imagine I’d like nothing better than a big overstuffed chair and good light as my best place, more often than not, I find myself sprawled in bed, where I can move around as the story and the thoughts and emotions within inspires that moving (yes, I’ve been known to pull the covers up at scary places in a book :-).

    Thanks, Letizia, for introducing Ste J, and for your continued force for literary excellence in our world. Have a great day.

  15. I hate being interrupted when I’m reading, because when the book is good, I tumble straight into the book’s world. So, anyplace that I can be assured of quiet, reading privacy works for me! Great post.

  16. Thank you for introducing me to Set J’s Blog – we have connected with each other and I look forward to receiving his great posts from now on. In the meantime, I think his post on your site, and the subsequent comments show that none of us can be less than about 10mm away from some sort of reading material at any time, wherever we may be!! 🙂

  17. Nice post and an unusual ‘take’on the act of reading. Regrettably any pubs that would have been suitable for reading books here in Jersey C.I. have long gone. The remainder want crowds in and crowds don’t go well with a peaceful read.
    Love the Joyce-reading dog 🙂

  18. I have thought about where I read. I do love to read in a pub with a pint 🙂 but unfortunately I haven’t a pub available these days. I have often wished I could read in nature, but I can’t, or I can’t read well in nature, too distracting. Mostly, I read on my couch, with a cup of coffee or wine, an afghan, and a dog trying to get more room on the couch than is necessary 🙂 great post, thanks for introducing me to Book to the Future.

    • Reading in nature can be a bit distracting, I agree. On the couch works well, with coffee (or tea or wine). And yes, the dog does always want to take up more room than necessary, haha!

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