Our Reading Lives

Let’s Put Book Benches EVERYWHERE

Josh Corman

Staff Writer

Josh Corman is a writer and English teacher in Central Kentucky and a Contributing Editor at Panels. He also writes for Kentucky Sports Radio’s pop culture blog, Funkhouser. If he’s not reading, he’s hanging out with his wife and two young children or cheering on his beloved Kentucky Wildcats.   Twitter: @JoshACorman

Since I don’t live in a big, cool, obviously literary city or even a small, cool, secretly literary backwater, I rarely have cause to brag about the bookish goings-on in my area.


I’m so, so sorry about that. I’ve really got to learn to celebrate more gracefully.

An unpainted book bench. (Credit: LexArts)

Anyway, it was recently announced that Lexington, Kentucky, in conjunction with local organizations like the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning, will place book-shaped benches around the city during the summer of 2018. The benches will feature designs—submitted by local artists through an open call—that will celebrate Kentucky authors and our state’s literary history. In October of next year, the benches will be auctioned off, and the proceeds will be funneled back into the Carnegie Center and a couple of local arts organizations. How cool is that? (It’s pretty flippin’ cool, is the answer.)

What’s that? London already did this in 2014? The sale of the book benches netted more than £250,000 for charity? STOP TRYING TO HARSH MY BOOK BUZZ, FACTS!

Again, so sorry.

Ok, so maybe the most famous literary city in the western world already did something similar, but here’s the thing: Lexington ain’t London. It’s not the most obvious place in the world to launch an artistic appreciation of a region’s literary legacy, but that’s exactly why I think that it’s a perfect place for this kind of project. In fact, I think that cities everywhere—especially small-ish cities whose bookish contributions to the world might not be quite so well-known—ought to take a run at book bench projects of their own.

So, to every city, town, village with even a modicum of literary tradition: steal this idea! Appeal to any arts- or book-centric non-profits in the area and see if they can work with you (and perhaps a few private entities willing to spread a little good will around the community). If you have public spaces with public benches, be they parks or bus stops or schools, replace those boring old benches with bookish wonders covered in the beautiful designs of local artists and students.

Like Lexington, you can auction them off after a time, or simply leave them in place to enrich your locale and inspire those who gaze (and sit) upon them. After all, what better time to steal a few moments with your latest read than while sitting upon a book-shaped resting place?

Think about it: book benches are a great way to remind people everywhere that books are great, that reading should be celebrated, and that THEIR place of residence (even if it’s not New York or London or wherever) has played a meaningful role in the world of books and reading. That’s the kind of powerful, not-at-all-inconsequential reminder that folks—even the most bookish among us—could use from time to time.