On a nice day, go outside and read. A good book is the next best thing to a friend to accompany you outside, and much more likely to be at your beck and call. It’s better than a portable music or movie player because it does not impair any of your senses. You can still hear and see everything. Even in New York City, on a nice day, it smells great (in the parks, at least.) The other day, I went for a nice reading walk: I walked, I sat and read, I walked, I sat and read, etc. When I sit and read outside, I like to be near a body of water. In Central Park, there are plenty of those kinds of places.
Near the statue of Alice and her Wonderland friends in Central Park that serves as a jungle gym for children, there is a shallow pool where remote controlled sailboats race and run into each other. An excellent place to sit and read. I don’t know why or when I decided that near water was where I preferred to read. It could just be that I prefer to be around water in general. It’s always good to have it nearby. When I lived up in Rochester, NY, I enjoyed sitting by the Erie Canal to read.
I also love ponds, like the one in the lower east corner of Central Park. When I discovered this area of the park, it automatically became my favorite part, since it reminds me of the pond down the street from where I grew up, around which I used to hunt for Easter eggs in the spring. Up on Fifth Avenue, near the Central Park pond, are several tables and a few portable closets full of books: The Strand’s Central Park outpost. If I don’t already have a book to read, I can pick one out and go right down to the pond and read it. It’s also nice to just look at all of the books out in the fresh air.
The pool in the middle of Lincoln Center Plaza was my last stop on this particular reading walk. I climbed up the grassy hill nearby for the first time, and I sat and read in the top corner, while children of all ages ran around and pulled up the grass. I later walked to the shade of the trees across the pool from the hill, because it was very sunny. Just feet from me was the Vivian Beaumont Theatre, which recently housed the play adaptation of a wonderful book, Moss Hart’s Act One. I wonder how many people took in a matinee of that, then bought a copy of the book and enjoyed it in the plaza.
I could have gotten more reading done, incorporated more readable places in my walk. There are fountains in Bryant Park, Rockefeller Center, and Columbus Circle, all nice places to sit and read. I was, of course, occasionally interrupted in my reading, which might seem like a strike against reading walks, but in fact is kind of the point. In the comfort of our beds or chairs, we do not experience our own world as we escape into another. With reading walks, we do both.
I can get obsessive about finishing books, and it is easiest to just sit and read inside, away from the world. But that sort of thing needs to be broken up. Reading walks can be taken anywhere, not just New York City. So pick a route with a few stopping points, could be anything from a nice long canal path with a bunch of benches to the Great White Way, and plan to sit and read in intervals. I read slowly, so I like to go with five or ten pages at a time. You’ll get a good amount of reading done, and also fresh air and exercise. Every part of the body wins.