Where is the best place to read?

In bed? Outdoors? On a train? Our editors bring scientific rigour – and passion – to the age-old question.

Penguin editors
Illustration: Janice Chang for Penguin

Since the dawn of humankind, readers have sought to answer that most elemental of questions: where, actually, is the best place to snuggle up with a book? In a coffee shop? Outdoors? In bed? On a train?

The science for calculating the reading metrics – measurements of data concerning comfort, focus, ambience, page-turnability and more – has long been imperfect, but we’ve tasked our Penguin.co.uk writing team with coming up with some answers. Below, five of us have written passionate defences of our favourite place to read, interspersed with some answers we received from you, the readers, online. Behold: the best places to read…

In a coffee shop / in public

Picture this: tucked away from the busy streets sits the perfect hidden gem of a café, its steamed-up windows and aroma of freshly-ground coffee already calling your name. You order a large cappuccino (or pot of tea) with a slice of the most extravagant-looking cake on display, and jostle your way to that inviting plush leather armchair sitting unclaimed. Finally, it’s time to crack open a book and put your phone on Do Not Disturb. (Can’t be reached for an hour or three? Blame it on poor signal!)

This is why the humble coffee shop offers an unrivalled reading experience. It’s a makeshift reading nook away from home, at once a refuge from the outside world and a whole little world in itself. Tune out to the white noise of gentle chatter and the intermittent whirr of the espresso machine, or test your multitasking skills by eavesdropping on the awkward first date happening just within earshot. Whatever your taste in books or beverages, sitting in a café makes a delightful ritual out of reading.
Rachel Deeley

“At breakfast in a coffee shop before work. Anywhere I can balance a book open, sit still for a moment or hide, in summer, in the garden. We read to know we’re not alone - but also to travel and dream.”
- @MelanieHewitt61

“Been known to read while standing in a queue waiting to be served in a shop.”
- @ameliarate123

In bed

Illustration: Janice Chang for Penguin

Virginia Woolf knew the value of having a room of one’s own – of course, she was talking about the pre-requisites for writing a book, but the same can be said for reading one, too. For it is only when you are wrapped in your duvet, enveloped in the soft silence of your home, that you can truly immerse yourself in the story you are reading.  

The main appeal, other than the comfort of being horizontal for hours, is that you will be totally undisturbed. Unlike reading in the park, where there are insects and (even worse) other people, or reading in a coffee shop, where the passive-aggressive waitress will ask if you’re sure you don’t want another coffee, reading in bed affords one true Alone Time. 

So, light a vanilla-scented candle, grab a green tea, and allow the warm glow of your bedside lamp to illuminate the page as you lose yourself in a fictional world. 
Katie Russell

“My bed next to my dogs”
- @Clubdino3

“In bed on a Saturday/Sunday morning. With coffee.”
- @DropCapCopy

In a park / outdoors

My favourite place to read has to be lying in the park – or at least somewhere outside – when the sky is perfectly blue and the day is warm. I have never required concentrated silence to read, so when one of these rare days comes along, I tuck a well-battered paperback under my arm and march off purposefully to my local park just down the road.

Once I’ve set up camp against a tree – I am always a shade-reader – the background noise of other people conducting their daily lives around me, perhaps with a dog or two in tow, makes me feel perfectly at peace. Unlike them, I have nowhere I need to be. I am relaxed, spoilt with my time and maybe even a little bit smug about it. My perfect reading spot also has a secondary benefit of allowing me serious main character energy: in my head I’m cosplaying an intelligent yet aloof lead in a film or book, luxuriously living her best life; think Julia Roberts in Notting Hill or Anita in One Hundred and One Dalmatians and you’d be in the right area. I couldn’t recommend it more.
Lucy Hall

“Absolutely love reading outside in the warm sunshine. But anywhere I can really”
- @silveralso

“Under a tree in a park :)”
- @Shubhanshu__

In transit / on a plane or train

Illustration: Janice Chang for Penguin

I’m a big enough person to admit it: it’s nicer, maybe, to read a book in bed; more whimsical to read it outdoors; better for your ego, surely, to be seen reading in a coffee shop. But the question is, where is the best place to read a book? And that has to be on an airplane or train.

At home and around town, I’m eternally tempted away from my book: by friends; responsibilities; every horrible, howling notification from my phone. Sometimes, I wonder if I’ve fully lost my ability to read like I used to. Then I board a plane, or a train, where the wi-fi is either too spotty or too expensive; suddenly I’m unfettered, free to allow myself to sink wholly and undistractedly into my book, able to gulp down hundreds of pages in one sitting, only looking up occasionally to gaze out the window or nosh another crisp. A good way to get some reading done? Nah, the best.
Stephen Carlick

“I deliberately take the train to London when I need to visit, 7 hours of uninterrupted reading. Lovely"
- @thedubhdog

“Commute(train, tube, airplane) + in my courtyard”
- @MarcelaM11

By a window 

If I’m not spending my spare time between the pages of a book, then I’m usually found outdoors, ideally somewhere deep within the countryside. It, therefore, may come as little surprise that my favourite place to read is by a window – usually the one that overlooks my garden. 

There is something quite special about being absorbed in a literary world while glancing up at the real one, watching the changing seasons and adapting my book choice to match. I am the type of person that reaches for a novel set in a snowy landscape when the first flurry falls outside. I also love the soundtrack of an open window: birdsong on a summer’s day, or a dousing of rain hitting the rooftops – and bonus points for a rumble of thunder to enhance those extra cosy reading vibes.
Sarah McKenna

“In the summer in my back garden. Colder days at home.”
- @richard12296523

“On the sofa with a cuppa & a bite to eat ... lunchtime or teatime, either suits me!”
- @PiercyRohase

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