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  • Hannah Fielding - Romance Novelist

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Where do you read books? On the train, perhaps, and in a doctor’s waiting room; in a few spare minutes before going out, or while the pasta is simmering on the stove. Keen readers grab moments to read wherever and whenever they can.

But the best reading – the inspiring, transformative, comforting reading – is not to be found in these stolen moments; it is to be found in your reading corner.

An article shared on the LitHub website recently got me thinking about reading corners. In his piece ‘How technology makes us less free’, Franklin Foer writes about silent reading, reading in isolation in a space that is private and comfortable, so that all inhibitions disappear.

“[W]e habitually retreat with our book to private spaces, where we don’t need to worry about social conventions, where the world can’t possibly read over our shoulder,” he writes. “We read in our little corners, our beds and tubs and dens, because we have a sense that these are the places where we can think best.”

As a writer, I am often asked about my writing space – where is it, what does it contain, how essential is the space to my writing? It is accepted that all writers need, in some sense, Virginia Woolf’s vision of ‘a room of one’s own’ in order to write fiction.

But the dedicated reader also needs that room of one’s own. A reading corner, where peace and solitude and security break down the barrier between book and self, so that as you read you are one, infused with the meaning of the words, lost in the story world or moved by the argument.

“I have sought for happiness everywhere, but I have found it nowhere except in a little corner with a little book.” So wrote Thomas à Kempis in The Imitation of Christ (1418–1427). Thomas was a priest, so I imagine he had a good choice of quiet corners available to him in the monastery. These days, books are far more widely available – and there are many more book corners to discover and adopt.

I have two book corners. In good weather, I read in a gazebo in my garden. I love the scent of the flowers, the hum of the insects and chatter of the birds, the caress of the sun and the breeze, and the glorious colours all around. When Nature is whipping up a windstorm or hurling down raindrops from on high, then I have a favourite reading chair in the living room. It is near the window, for natural light, but also the fire, for cheery warmth. It is in close proximity to a bookshelf, which sets the scene and reassures me that once this book is finished there are plenty more to read.

I know other readers whose corner is the bathtub, or the kitchen table, or the bed. One friend reads at a favourite spot in the local library; that is her quiet place.

Do you have a reading corner, a place that you designate for the pleasure of reading? I would love to hear about it.

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