A Highly Scientific Analysis of the Best Reading Position

Natalie Meyer

Staff Writer

Natalie Meyer quit her psychologist job to travel the world with her husband and a Kindle loaded with books. In her spare time, she can be found taking photos, reading, and writing about her , travel adventures.

I’m a very restless reader. If you did a time lapse of me while I’m reading, I’d probably look like a pig on a spit. Finding a comfortable position was taking time away from actually reading and distracting me from books.

One day I figured that enough was enough. I decided to put it to the scientific test – what is the best reading position?

Method: “Best reading position” was defined as the one that I can stay in longest while reading. Each reading position was given 3 trials and a stopwatch was used to determine how long it took me to feel fidgety. At the end, all times were averaged. Various books were used in order to minimize the effects of a particular book on a position White Fang by Jack London; David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell; and The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey were the main ones during this study.

Results: Below is a list of the reading positions and their Average Reading Times (A.R.T.):

Position Average Reading Time
Sitting on a bench in the park 48 min., 6 sec.
Laying on stomach 32 min., 12 sec.
Standing up 27 min., 24 sec.
Sitting in a pub 25 min., 45 sec.
Laying on back 17 min., 39 sec.
Laying on right side 16 min., 36 sec.
Laying on left side 11 min., 36 sec.
Sitting cross-legged 11 min. 9 sec.


Discussion: The best reading position was sitting on a bench in the park. I was able to move around, there was background noise, and it feels really cool to be reading outside. Unfortunately, there were some drawbacks. It was cold on some of the days, benches are not comfortable, there were bugs, and a pigeon was looking at me funny. I was surprised that reading in a pub did not go as well as I thought it would. It was comfortable but the background music was distracting. Plus, you have to buy something and I prefer free places. Sitting in a criss-cross position was just hard on my knees and back so I didn’t last long with that one.

When laying down, there were really no surprises. Reading on my stomach was the second most effective position overall behind reading in the park. My arms kept falling asleep when I read on either side. It was actually better to read laying on my back than on either side. However, reading on my stomach allowed me to set the book on the bed, take notes with one hand, and even reach for a drink while reading.

Reading while standing up went surprisingly well. I never read standing up but I thought it would be interesting to try. First, I felt like a smart professor about to give a lecture. Second, I was able to walk around the room and run my feet through a swishy rug which let me both fidget and get exercise. Third, I could stop to take notes, drink water, and even eat food while standing. The negative, of course, is that it’s weird. My husband said it made him nervous to have me pacing around the room. Still, if I am able to stay engaged in a book, get exercise, and eat or drink then maybe I should incorporate reading while standing up into more of my reading time!

Conclusions: In order to make the most of my reading time, I should probably take a blanket to the park and alternate between sitting on a bench, laying on a blanket, and standing (or walking!) in and around the park. That would be the most effective use of my time.

Limitations: The major limitation of this study, of course, is that I was the only subject (N = 1). I don’t know how my anatomy effected the results (as a woman, as an inflexible person, etc.). Plus, I am traveling so I have some limitations related to the books (I only have an ereader) and furniture (I don’t have access to a couch, a recliner, a regular chair, etc.). There need to be more subjects and more results before we can definitely answer which is the best reading position.

It’s time for you to peer-review me! What other positions are comfortable and effective for long reading days? What did I miss? How poor is my scientific method? Post your observations and reading times below!

P.S. Reading ergonomics is an actual field of study. If anyone’s looking for a dissertation idea, I think I’ve found it for you!


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