“You’re bringing a book?!”
I am frequently asked this question. Reading a lot requires always having a book around. Always having books around requires taking books to seemingly strange places. Even though I don’t read from it every time, the act of bringing the book along wherever I go reinforces my commitment to reading.
I’ve taken books to the synagogue, to the DMV, and to the gym. I took one to my colonoscopy.
But I mostly read in the same few places. They lack distractions. They’re comforting, familiar, and full of positive associations and memories.
Here are my favorite places to read, in no particular order.
1. On airplanes
Even though I’m claustrophobic, I’ve always loved flying. Maybe it’s because planes present such a good reading environment.
Your movement is restricted, which instantly puts you in a mind-over-body mode. It’s uncomfortable enough to seek escape, but not so terrible to hinder concentration. Most of all, it’s austere. Disconnected from the world below, there’s little to occupy you (resist the siren call of in-flight Wifi!).
Perfect uninterrupted reading time.
Sometimes I fall asleep, especially reading something dry. To prevent this I try to get enough rest before the trip and drink tons of water.
2. On my couch
Tea, jazz, and reading on the couch with my wife: that’s an ideal evening. A nice big window and some bookshelves in the room are imperative.
The comfort level is basically the opposite of a plane, so I’m careful not to recline all the way. Otherwise my brain switches off.
I’ll even make watching a game more productive by reading a book during the commercials.
3. At libraries
Hard to outdo a place that’s literally engineered for reading. It’s dead quiet. It’s a community of devoted readers. And being enveloped by books is inspiring — it’s like knowledge is penetrating you via osmosis.
Honestly I don’t get to the library a lot these days, but that’s something I want to work on.
4. In cars
I’m blessed with high motion tolerance, so I rarely get carsick. This is great on long drives and road trips, which are restricted environments just like planes.
Obviously it doesn’t work if you’re driving, in which case… audiobooks?
5. In my office
This might outdo the library — setting up a room exactly how I like it: a nice hard-backed chair with an ottoman, and a reading lamp hanging above; four full bookcases to get me in the mood; personal totems galore; blankets for staying warm; a big window right next to me.
Creating your own reading environment is a sweet privilege.
6. At restaurants
I’m weird: I enjoy eating alone. But really I never eat alone; I bring a book. This is tough where there’s dozens of TVs bleating at me, but it’s heavenly in more contemplative atmospheres. As a nice bonus, it makes me eat slower, so I enjoy my food more.
7. In bed
I’ve heard advice that a bed should only be used for sleeping and sex. I’m lucky enough to have no issues with sleep, so I ignore all that. (Sex on the other hand — well, never mind.)
I almost always read fiction in bed, following a tip from Tim Ferriss in The 4-Hour Workweek. It helps me wind down and stop thinking about the day’s trifles. It works best if I go to bed right when I start to feel tired, and stop reading when my eyes feel heavy and I start losing track of the plot. Evening rituals are important, and reading is an essential part of mine.
In fact, routines are important in all facets of life, and having dedicated places for reading helps you read more and read better. Taking the time to think about where you do your reading, and what you can do to make those places more conducive to you, is well worth it.