The Joy Of Outdoor Reading: A Personal Retrospective

During the COVID-19 pandemic, one of my most enjoyable outdoor activities has been reading.1 The above photo depicts my 2020 reading location on the deck of our Chapel Hill, NC home. Last week offered two special treats: Squeeze Me, Carl Hiaasen’s latest tale of Floridian misadventures, and All the Devils Are Here, the most recent Louise Penny Chief Inspector Gamache novel.

Settle down with books like these under North Carolina’s clear September skies, add a few morsels of cheese, an icy glass of lemonade, a playlist heavy on Leonard Cohen, Willie Nelson, Springsteen, Allison Crowe, & Warren Zevon — and life is good.

in 2010, long before the coronavirus darkened our international doorsteps, I published an analogous entry.

Vacation Reading 2010

Discerning readers may note that, notwithstanding the 10 years, 800 miles, and radical shifts in technology between the photo atop this post and the one directly above, taken in the backyard of my Bull Valley, IL home, there is a certain similarity.

For the record, recommendations from that 2010 post were Little Green Men by Christopher Buckley, The Sound of Trumpets by John Mortimer, and Other People’s Children by Joanna Trollope.

Heck, an even earlier post was

The Lincoln Lawyer – Lead-Off Book For The Summer 2006 Reading Season

The rightness of my recommendation, The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly, has now been established by its years of popularity and requires no further explanation. Another section of that 2006 entry holds some interest:

The Setting For Reading The First Book Of Summer

The success of First Book Of Summer depends not only on the reading material but also on the setting.

The summer pertinent to The First Book Of Summer is certainly not to be limited by the whimsical dithering of Julian calendar dates but is rather a spiritual designation which may be safely determined by adhering to the I’ll know it when I see it criterion.

Since the optimal environment is outdoors, comfortable meteorological conditions are essential (don’t forget to consider wind velocity which is often overlooked, and a too-vigorous breeze can be quite distracting).

Milton’s sparkling “blue firmament” is desirable but not always possible, and even a mostly cloudy sky is workable as long as there are appreciable patches of blue.

While a beach can be magnificent, one should not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. A patio in the back yard or a condo’s balcony are dandy as well and, in fact, their convenience and availability may render them preferable, especially if more exotic locales require significant travel.

A comfortable chair is a must; I personally prefer an upright lawn chair with a footstool rather than a lounge chair which promotes a nearly horizontal posture that can be fatiguing when one holds a hefty hardback aloft for extended periods. I am especially fond of Adirondack chairs; not only are they comfortable and solid, but they also have those wide armrests that can comfortably support ones own limbs and also accommodate the book, reading glasses, and even a refreshing beverage.

And, indeed, a drink can provide a distinctive accent to the event although the wise celebrant will maintain an awareness of ones tolerance and fortitude and select the potable’s ingredients and their ratios accordingly.

Finally, one should arrange for at least one hour of uninterrupted time; even better is setting aside the end of the work day to allow that first read to begin without the irksome concern of a deadline curtailing the session.

Above all, the occasion demands that the setting, the book, and the reader fit into tidy complementarity.


  1. Indoor reading ain’t bad, either. See DrHGuy & Duchess Install Neil Ellis Reading Room Dedication Plaque []

One thought on “The Joy Of Outdoor Reading: A Personal Retrospective

  1. Love your selections throughout the years. In Los Angeles right now, there is too much smoke in the air to enjoy reading outside But it will be resumed.

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