My Best Reading Place (I have a few to choose from..)

Of Chairs and Books..

When I worked as a supply teacher, it was always a matter of concern as to where I should sit in the staffroom.  I knew that permanent staff usually had their own chairs, their places of safety where they could relax for a few minutes with some easy conversation, until the bell went and called them back to duty. How many times have I stood uncertainly hovering, until I was sure of a spare chair? It wasn’t deference or a sense of unworthiness that made me hesitate. Somehow I knew how important those chairs were to their occupants, a small home-from-home in the challenging world of school.  

At home, I have my own precious armchair , my own ‘girl cave’ actually, because it’s much more than a chair. I think I could live there, you know, with only occasional sorties to the kitchen or the ‘facilities’ and the odd visit from friends. Maybe I will when I’m really old and doddery (even more doddery that is). I think some very old people do ‘live ‘ in their armchairs, which might seem sad to the lively busy ones, but might be quite comforting if you’re too old and infirm to move or travel, as long as you have all you need within reach.  Yes, I know there’s a bad side to this. 

Have you read ‘The Machine Stops’ by E.M Forster?  You can download the ebook for free here.

I’ve harped on about this story lots of times, because although it was first published over a hundred years ago, in 1909, and then included in a collection of Forster’s stories, The Eternal Moment and Other Stories,in 1928, it seems prophetic and to be coming true more and more, that we’ll all end up each in our own chair, in our room, communicating only through a machine. I'm half way there! 

I try not to spend too much time in my chair, but it is very tempting! I’m a bit sedentary and reclusive by nature, and now I’m having joints replaced, moving about’s a bit tricky, though that should improve soon, when I can go for long walks and get back on my exercise bike! 
(Blah blah blah-di-blah. As if that's ever going to happen! I hate exercise!)

My chair’s a wonderful reading place, because, besides a pile of books, I have my baggy cardi hung over the back, next to a warm blanket, my handbag, of course, within which my life, my little feather cushion, for tucking into my neck for sleeps, my laptop, Ipad and smartphone, pen, notebook, and next to and around, all the other accoutrements I need for further entertainment and comfort. There’s my knitting bag, full of yarns, needles, patterns, half-begun projects, assorted medicaments, plenty of mints and chocolate raisins, handcream and headphones.

So, what’s in my reading pile next to my chair? Some are books I’ve read and not put away yet, and others are ‘to read’. 

At the start of the year, my beautiful nieces challenged me to take part in a game of Reading Bingo, organised online by Random House.

This is the link if you’d like to join in.

As you can see, it involves crossing off squares on a game card, each of which has a book suggestion, such as ‘book with blue cover’, , ‘book more than ten years old’, ‘book set on a different continent’.  There's no prize, it's just a different way of choosing and sharing your reads. We’re in June, and since January, I’ve managed to cross off about half of the squares, and incidentally come across some interesting books.  Without the prompt, I doubt I’d have read ‘Penguins Stopped Play’ by Harry Thompson, one of the funniest books I’ve ever read, or ‘Death in the City Of Light’ by David King, the true account of a wartime serial killer in Paris, which was gorily fascinating. 

Next in the pile is 'Dear Life' by Alice Munro - a collection of short stories. I loved her collection 'Runaway',  so I was looking forward to reading these, but, unfortunately, though well written, the stories deal with the bleak side of life, so that the title takes on the meaning of ‘dear’ in the sense of 'expensive', or what life costs us.
Not an easy read.

Then there's 'The Tribute Bride' by Theresa Tomlinson, a wonderful story set in 7thc England, about Princess Acha, who is sent, instead of grain, as tribute to the overlord, when the crops fail. It was very enjoyable and full of interesting detail about the Saxons. 

Now, what's this? Oh yes. Nice one.
'Ash on a Young Man's Sleeve' by Dannie Abse, is a memoir of the poet's life as a child growing up in Wales during the 1930s and similar in tone to other childhood memoirs, such 'There is a Happy Land' by Keith Waterhouse or Dylan Thomas 'A Childhood in Wales'. I enjoyed it. 

Next in the pile is 'The Business' by Iain Banks.
I'm a great fan of Iain Banks' books. They are all so different. You might enjoy this if you persist with it, as it's a bit slow to start with.  Set largely in Nepal (I think, or Tibet) it's the story of someone being sent to prepare a region for its sale to big business as a bolt hole, somewhere under the radar, where the fat cats can conduct their operations unhindered. The female protagonist is expected to smooth the sale through, by cuddling up to the king, who is about to sell the kingdom without telling his subjects.Once there, she finds things are not quite as expected. Brilliant! He's such a clever writer!

And, finally, there are two great YA books in my pile, both by Caroline Pitcher.

’11 O’Clock Chocolate Cake’ is Bridget Jones for the 14-16 years olds, a funny slice- of-a –teenager’s-life, absolutely hilarious and well worth getting as a lighter read for your teen, re-issued this year by Cybermouse Multimedia Ltd.

‘Mine’ is a more serious read, about teenager, Shelley, who can hear voices from the past in an old Derbyshire mine and behind the wall in the old cottage where she and her family have recently moved into. It’s a beautifully written heart-wrenching tale, which I also loved for the historical detail and sense of place. This is also a new edition from Cybermouse.

So, where’s your best reading place? Do you have a ‘chair’ and reading pile?   

Pauline Chandler    


madwippitt said…
Book Bingo sounds interesting - and might be a good way (adapted a bit)of maybe encouraging children to read more, perhaps?

And I do hope you get your joints all sorted and behaving soon :-)
JO said…
I have a sofa, and a loungey thing in the garden, and my bed, and cafes and buses and trains ... I have been known to read standing up by the cooker, stirring something.

Once i read while pushing a child on a baby swing - and my back 'went'. Then I had a problem - if I put the book down to get the child out of the swing I'd not be able to bend down to pick it up again!!
Book bingo could be useful for kids! Great idea! Thanks, mad, for your good wishes! The best thing about jointy things is getting them sorted. My metal hip works perfectly. I'm sure my new knee will too!

How lovely to have so many places, Jo. You made me laugh about the swing! It's a problem!
Susan Price said…
Jo, your comment about reading at the stove and while pushing children on swings made me laugh, because it rang a bell! I was notorious in my family as a child, for reading at table, while lacing my shoes, while dressing, while brushing my teeth... And my partner hides newspapers and magazines when I go over to his house because he says, otherwise, I straightaway start reading.
Flann O'Brien identified the problem back in the 40s. There is a drug in printer's ink, he said, and we're 'addicted to passing the eyes over print.'
CallyPhillips said…
Pauline, I hate bingo with a passion - because it is all about numbers - but book bingo looks really interesting! Thanks for that.
I'm not a fan of E.M.Forster, but the title of that free ebook intrigues me enough to download it... and then I had to STOP and will return to the other suggestions, I'm drowning in books to read at the moment. AND drowing in places to read, having spent the last 3 years setting up reading places all over the house/garden. I have (not that I'm bragging here as to 'I have most places to read') a Walton's style swing seat- for when you want to read on a swing. An italian patio with table for when I need computer/books and table facility (and can rig up a cover to hide screen glare) I have a specially fashioned 'grotto' (or as George said by mistake the other day 'ghetto.' in which I now have a wonderful chair made out of an old pallet (we are into pallet furniture at the moment) which nestles in between bushes and has pots of jasmine and honeysuckle for scented reading, I have a rocking bench on our new (pallet construction) decking for the afternoons and evenings and we have a picnic table for reading at the table. That doesn't stop me from trying to read while cooking (always disasterous as a chapter is rarely the right length for checking on food) and upstairs a sofa for reading on (the light is better) and all this because the downstairs sitting room is too dark to read in except between the hours of 11 and 2 if it's a sunny day. And no way of getting a light source (lamp) to where my sofa is - being old house with dodgy wiring. But none of it has stopped me from finding all these reading places - finding the time to USE them is something I'm still working on! I shall post pictures of all my 'spots' on my FB page tomorrow (today I'm out picniking!) Thanks for the post and the heads up on the books. Appreciated.
Thanks for the Flann O'Brien reference, Sue. Reading is an addiction, something I'd rather be doing than almost everything else!
Cally, I LOVE the sound of all your reading places. I want a swing one now and a scented one. Love your pallet seat idea.
Elizabeth Kay said…
I did The Machine Stops for GCE English Literature, and I still remember it very clearly. I've often thought of it since, and how life seems to be following art yet again...
Lydia Bennet said…
yes the machine stops is scarily prophetic, the way they sit in their rooms communicating 'ideas' just like us on fb! I like to read in bed before I go to sleep. And when I have an Epsom salts bath. I used to read everywhere too as a child, walking down the street, etc.
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