Monday, May 6, 2013

Hiding From Distraction: My Favorite Reading Spots

by Ross Wagenhofer

When I was younger, I read a lot on the school bus. It was a designated time where nothing was happening and I had nothing to do but either talk with my brother, play Pokèmon, or read. Of those choices, reading almost always trumped the others. It was the perfect way to escape the monotony of the daily bus ride home. I was eager in high school to ditch the bus for a car, and it wasn’t until senior year that I began missing those thirty-five minutes of time where I had all the freedom just to read, mostly distraction free. I didn’t get back that dedicated reading time until I moved out of my college dorms to Jamaica Plain, a good twenty-minute subway ride into the city. Reading has once more been my go-to source of overcoming the tedium of my every-day commute.

The subway isn’t the only place I love to read, of course, but it’s one of the best. My trip from home to campus or work is exactly long enough for a single magazine feature or a short story from a literary magazine. If I just have a book on me, I’m sometimes hesitant to read it on the subway out of fear that I may be interrupted by my arrival just as I’m getting into a good part. But with short form writing, my trip time is ideal. I now always carry both a magazine (or literary journal) and a book with me at all times to suit my reading location.

A moving train is one of the best places to read because it’s boring, mostly free of distractions, and away from either television or the internet. Sometimes (only sometimes, though), I wish for a longer train commute so I had even more perfect reading time. Since being in college, I’ve found myself a victim of the now-ubiquitous 21st century plague of distraction. I used to be good at tuning out the noise around me and ignoring the pull of the TV and the computer, but I’ve lapsed considerably with these skills the past few years. I’ve had to cultivate strategies, and most importantly, places to help me hide from distraction.

Emerson's Iwasaki Library (Credit:
My college library, first and foremost, is one of the most beautiful places to find solitude. It’s a deceptively large space, despite being nestled away on the third floor of a building in downtown Boston, and has numerous nooks and spots where one can hide away. I can go hours in the evening there with little indication of an outside world.

Besides the library, the second best place I’ve found to read is on my bed, the classic spot. I’ve tried my desk, but with my computer and charging phone right there in front of me, I can often be pulled away by the blinking indicator LEDs now affixed to nearly every electronic device. My bed is the perfect distance away – near yet far – and is comfortable enough to sustain even the lengthiest of forays into a separate literary world.

The Thinking Cup (Credit:
And third is the coffee shop. I used to be very resistant to the idea of using a café as a place to read or write, as I tended to think of the people who I saw in those places being more exhibitionist than otherwise. I’m the kind of person who will remove a dust jacket or hide a magazine cover to avoid conversation about what I’m reading, detesting the interruption. But the coffee shop has become a favorite spot of mine for a couple of reasons. The proximity to quality coffee is a large draw. While I’m not dependent on coffee, I might say I’m reliant on it; it’s often a useful friend to lean on. Second, cafes and coffee houses offer a space away. The library serves a similar purpose, but I can always count on stopping into any coffee place in any part of the city, or a different city, and having a roughly similar environment.

Where do you like to read, and how? How best can one either drown out distraction or escape it? Drop us a comment below or share a tweet with us at @GodinePub!

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