Where to read can be as important as what to read. I have books that I wash my hands carefully before reading. Books for buses and for sitting in corridors and waiting for doors to open. Books for shopping trips and for protracted enforced ‘family time’. Those are books for times and places, and I also have many places that affect my reading habits. Here are some of my most favourite places to read.
- Inside the Hancock Library Basement at the Australian National University. In any of the stacks, really, though the Hancock Basement has a certain quality. It is dark and quiet, and there is restricted airflow; warning signs recommended during my undergraduate years that no student spend longer than one or two hours at a time in there. Reading there, there’s an intimacy. Your breath, the dust and weight and solitude of all those old bound and rebound periodicals and documents.
- One winter, in one of my various parents’ Defence Housing rentals, wrapped in a doona and pressed up against an old glass window in an afternoon rain and thunderstorm. I feel it is almost impossible to wholly enjoy gothic fiction without recalling those afternoons. My feet were warm and dry, and my forehead was stinging against the crispness of the glass. I was surrounded by musty smells. I am afraid that I will never be able to find such a good place to read in again.
- During role-playing conventions, I enjoy the dimly lit and empty stairwells of the empty high schools that such events are held in. These are places always so busy, that it feels clandestine and wonderful to just be there quietly and immovably for an hour or so. It also helps one escape from the inevitable theatre sports that occur in the registration and tea areas.
- Sitting on the driveway (if we’re living somewhere that has one just for our use) at night in summer. There’s something about citronella candles and silence and bugs and the radiant heat of the concrete. I barely survive summer at the best of times, and I tend to slump and die during the day. At night I have recovered enough to read and think, and I just love driveways then.
- In old abandoned trains. In many country towns these have been turned into museums of gold mining or P.O.W camp local history, and there’s usually no attendants and minimal foot traffic. I like to read the plaques and history, then find a good corner to settle down in.
I suppose a lot of my places are very isolated, or at least rely on being alone. I do enjoy reading in cafés and with others around me, but I often enjoy the books more than the locations. It’s these times when I’m alone that I don’t have to shut out my surroundings, and I can really appreciate both the books I’m reading and the sense of place that surrounds me. I know that I have very few regular readers here, but if anyone has their own favourite places to read – or good memories of places – please let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear about them.