Reading Aesthetic: Where Do You Read?

Jonathan Streeter

Staff Writer

Jonathan Streeter battles ennui, comma splices and puberty as a high school English teacher.


Being thoughtful and self-aware far beyond the common man, readers are often also a self-conscious bunch. We appreciate fine syntax, diction, and a place suitable to consume it, while being keenly aware of what we look like doing it and the image we in fact, would like to present.  Thus the advent of the study, office, reading and smoking rooms, the popularity of designer bookshelves, marks and ends and various other reading paraphernalia designed not so much as reading aids rather than an advertisements stating, “Yes, I read and yes it makes me better than you!” (I have a coffee mug with this exact verbiage). Not that every reader is a self absorbed, billboard for the newest literary fad, some just honestly want to be left alone to finish their books. Even then a comfortable, preferably quiet place is desirable.

This seems especially true if the book isn’t really doing it for you. Sure, you might not understand a thing Joyce is saying, but at least you can look good doing it. The inverse is also true, if you can’t put a book down you’re liable to read anywhere. Personally, I’ve been guilty of reading at red lights, on the floor, during a wedding, at a party and professional football game, while pretending to listen on the phone, ect.ect. So, this all led me to examine some of the traditional reading locals and after peeling away all the non essential elements, such as Wi-Fi access or distance from a suitable coffee depot, analyze their suitability for the task at hand, namely reading.



Under a Tree

Aesthetic Appeal: High

Reading under a tree is so classic it is almost archetypal. It is a feature of countless paintings and appeals to the sensitive reader who wishes to glean the secrets of both man and nature. Unfortunately, nature is not always so obliging and often rewards would be literati with an uncomfortable seat due to gnarly roots or wet grass, the constant threat of insect bites and variable weather conditions.


reading at the beach

At the Beach

Aesthetic Appeal: Hot

A close second, beach reading has grown in popularity to the point that book stores now market books specifically as well suited to beach reading. Although I’m not completely sure what constitutes a beach read, I suppose it has to do with thematic relevance, a storyline that is digestible within a day’s perusal, or a chemical quality in the paper or binding that reacts favorably to sand, sweat and saltwater.


At the local Bookstore or Coffee House

Aesthetic Appeal: Trendy

As much as I love coffee and books, the combination seems stifling and I’ve never been able to pull this one off. Admittedly, I’m an easily distracted reader and thus crowded venues rarely work for me.  I also suspect that one doesn’t go to the local Starbucks to read as much as to be seen reading. Still, casual observation tells me that I’m the minority and that the local café will continue to provide haven for the “social reader”.



On the Throne

Aesthetic Appeal: Nonexistent

After an acknowledgement of the obvious downsides: insufficient lighting, drab interior, the ring of shame (think about it for a sec), “the can” isn’t the worst place to read. Privacy is almost always guaranteed, cause really, who wants to mess with the guy who’s been in the toilet for an hour?  If you can get past the potential social stigma, “the throne” can become a reader’s Nirvana and the last resort for those  who can’t seem to find privacy anywhere else.


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