outsidegirl‘Tis the season for beach reading. But have you ever actually read on the beach? Unless you are shaded and in a chair, I’m not sure how well it works, really. The bright, glaring sun gets in your eyes and the sand is everywhere. If you’re primarily reading on a kindle, nook, or Ipad, it just seems like an all around bad idea.

I have a love/hate relationship with outdoor reading. In theory, it always sounds great, but in reality it’s hit or miss. I started outdoor reading as a child when my mother, who probably feared I was developing a vitamin D deficiency even though we had a pool in our backyard, would tell me to “put down that book and go outside.” I’d attempt to obey at least half of the directive, and just go outside with that book. But even though my yard had plenty of shady trees, it also had bugs (and worse, bees, which terrified me). It was never long before I tried to sneak back in to my relatively bug-free house.

As an adult I’ve had more success. When my oldest was in preschool and my second daughter was a baby, I had a favorite bench at Tulane where I’d sit and attempt to read while baby Abigail (sort of) amused herself. If I was lucky, this could last up to half an hour, which at the time was a big deal, because Abigail virtually never napped for longer than ten minutes at a time and spent most of her waking hours either crying or getting into trouble.

I’ve also had fairly good luck on vacation. There are not enough vacations in my life, but if part of the package is a room with a balcony, I am one happy reading camper. My favorite beach reading took place in such a spot, where I could see and hear the beach but was not actually on it. And I still remember what I was reading, too: Laura Kinsale’s The Shadow and the Star.

Fast forward many years and a couple more children. For about six years, I worked in an outdoor mall that had the perfect reading spot. I could sit tucked in a little alcove behind the mall that was perfectly shaded – right during my lunch. Although the mall is full of well shaded benches, they come at a price – you have to listen to loud, annoying music if you want to sit on them. The alcove was blessedly music free, and I had no problem sitting on the ground in the shade. Even better, almost no one walked by that particular area. It was like winning the outdoor reader lottery.

I am now in a new location and still searching for a good outdoor reading spot. Happily in Colorado the temperature is pretty much always pleasant if you are in the shade (something that cannot be said of more humid climes). However, I’m still looking for an area that is shaded, convenient, and free of music and (noisy) people. One of the best shaded areas is full of smokers (not my thing). The outdoor area of Whole Foods is nicely shaded but I often get distracted by people’s conversations (to the girl who told her friend she is secretly dating a fellow employee: I know too).

So I’m still searching for a new reading haven. One place I never read, by the way, is the back room at work. How can anyone ever read at work? People just talk to you all the time, and I talk to people all day.

Are you an outdoor reader? What is your perfect spot? Or like me, are you still searching?

– Blythe Barnhill