Our Reading Lives

How Book Stands Let Me Lose Myself in Books Again

Isabelle Popp

Senior Contributor

Isabelle Popp has written all sorts of things, ranging from astrophysics research articles and math tests to crossword puzzles and poetry. These days she's writing romance. When she's not reading or writing, she's probably knitting or scouring used book stores for vintage gothic romance paperbacks. Originally from New York, she's as surprised as anyone that she lives in Bloomington, Indiana.

If there’s any feeling in the world I’m trying to chase, it’s that feeling of devouring books. I think of being a surly teen, shipped off to my grandparents’ house for a couple of weeks in the middle of the summer. I’d pack stacks of paperbacks scavenged from garage sales and Friends of the Library shops. John Grisham, Michael Crichton, Maeve Binchy, and the other greatest hits of the ’90s were my traveling companions. Hiding out in the finished basement on a couch upholstered in a groovy ’70s plaid, I’d tear through book after book. I think of those days with such unalloyed joy. Oh, to get so wrapped up in someone’s fictional legal woes or terminal Catholicism (I could relate) that I could guzzle each book like so much root beer from the fountain at Pudgie’s, my grandmother’s preferred pizza establishment. 

I’d read until my grandmother wanted to feed me or take me shopping, or until it was time for my grandfather to yell at the Wheel of Fortune contestants. An idyllic time. What would it take to get back to that place?

You Can’t Step in the Same River Twice

The real answer, of course, is a time machine. I had no responsibilities and a grandmother who sternly refused all help with household chores. Time stretched before me like an open highway. Barring lottery jackpots, necromancy, and the fountain of youth, none of that is coming back to me. And returning to faves from that time is not necessarily the answer. So the best I can do is cultivate a mood. 

At my grandparents’ house, there was nothing better to do than read. That sounds like perhaps I’d rather have been playing video games, but no. I had the ideal setting for reading and capitalized on it. At home, there’s literally always something “better” to do than reading. I try not to ascribe morals to the annoying practicalities of life, but it’s hard. Reading can feel like a luxury when there’s a sink full of dishes or floors that could use a good sweep. So I have to carve out space for myself and trick myself back into that mood. And that’s where my book stands come in.

Free Your Hands, Free Your Mind

I have two prized bookstands. The first is this heavy standalone model I roll around my house and out onto my porch. The second is a tabletop gadget, perfect for travel. (If you’re looking for more book stand options, we’ve got plenty more book stand options.) While both of these stands accommodate tablets or ereaders, they are perfect for paper books. I don’t like to romanticize paper books over electronic versions, but I find that for cultivating that perfect mood for an extended reading session, paper books are preferable. To me, ereaders are great for snatching more reading time out of the nooks and crannies in the day. This is why I keep both around.

The benefit of the book stand is keeping my hands free to fidget. This was never a part of my reading life in those halcyon days where I could disappear into a book easily, but it certainly is now. Smartphones might be to blame, but my phone is not allowed near my sacred reading space. My preferred form of fidgeting is knitting. It can take a few years of practice to knit simple stitch patterns without looking, but there’s honestly nothing better. The rhythm of knitting puts me into the perfect mindset of calm focus. I get the most out of what I read in this state, and I honestly can’t recommend the combination enough.

While knitting is a productive form of fidgeting, there are plenty of things that will do. The satisfyingly snappy pieces of Wacky Tracks, for example, have been constant companions since I was a kid. And speaking of a companion, it’s much easier to pet a dog or cat while reading if you’ve got a book stand. I’m currently pet-free, but I recall my dearly departed cat Purrsimmon’s seething resentment for books that stole attention from her. If only I’d had a book stand then.

Above and Beyond

In the case where I want to be take notes on a book, the stands come in extra handy. I am someone who benefits from note-taking when books have a large cast of characters and numerous made-up places/deities/concepts (Sarah J. Maas, this is what you’ve done to me). There are plenty of other situations where I can benefit from ease of note-taking, though that’s mostly secondary to the real purpose of the stands for me.

Ultimately, my bookstands give me that one extra degree of freedom that helps me keep focus on my book. From there, I can further build the mood if I so choose. A nice candle, a favorite beverage, perhaps some music of the soaring and ambient variety. Enough to engage all the senses. But I find that really, the reading stand and the fidgeting is often enough.

My Wish for You

To say these stands have changed my reading life is an understatement. I’m no longer daunted by long books. I’ll find I’ve read a hundred pages in the blink of an eye, a feat that had been escaping me for years. And even after a long day, reading can finally compete with screens.

I know I’m not alone in chasing that dreamy, escapist reading feeling, so I wanted to share my one weird trick. I’m hoping you can find a trick that works for you and schedule a day or two for getting lost in a book, because it’s the best place to find yourself.