There are few better ways to escape the daily grind than with a good book. Ready-made havens for reading are easy to find – from public libraries to sleepy coffee shops, you’re never far from a corner to settle into. But, as four Scottish authors tell Holly Lennon, a great place to read is much more than a matter of finding somewhere quiet
Scotland’s libraries are a welcoming environment for people from all walks of life, and many Scots know their value. Ken McLeod, author of The Star Fraction and The Sky Road, takes refuge within their walls.
“The Reference Room in Edinburgh’s Central Library works for me; also the Scottish Poetry Library. From my student days in the 70s I have fond memories of the Reading Room at Glasgow University, and the MacLellan Library,” he says.
Alan Bissett, author of Boyracers and Death of a Ladies Man, prefers long train journeys to get to grips with a book. “I especially love that Glasgow-Inverness line that takes you into the rugged, often snow-capped Highlands,” he explains. “It’s difficult to find a better view than that. Wonderfully atmospheric.”
“My favourite stationary place to do some reading during the daytime would probably be the cafe Offshore on Gibson Street in the West End of Glasgow, preferably in one of the sofa chairs. I love the way the light comes in through those big windows and there’s a nice hum of creativity around you. At night, I’d probably go for a traditional country pub with a fireside – say, The Brown Bull in Lochwinnoch – where you can sit all warm with a dram and just disappear into the page.”
Being able to bury yourself in a book in a public space can be impossible for some. Instead, many of us wait until we have a private moment to spend a few hours lost in words.
Cathy McPhail, author of Run, Zan, Run and Dark Waters, opts for the comfort of her own home. She says: “I love reading in bed, love the feeling I’m going to bed to begin a new book, or get back into an exciting read. I do have a balcony, and in the summer I love sitting out there, looking over the Clyde, sipping a glass of wine and reading a good book.”
For many, surroundings are important. Often they can add to the story or change one’s emotions while reading. For Zoe Strachan, author of Spin Cycle and Ever Fallen In Love, what’s around you can impact your enjoyment.
“I’d chose anywhere cosy with a view across the Firth of Clyde to Ailsa Craig, Arran and the Holy Isle. Except, of course, with a really good book, when you finally look up it’s dark, and you can’t see the view at all”, she explains.
“A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to do a residency at Cove Park, on the Rosneath Peninsula. I liked sitting on my wee couch in my converted shipping container, reading and occasionally being distracted by Highland cows bathing in the pond outside my window. And beyond that, Loch Long and the menacing (but also thrilling) sight of the nuclear submarines gliding to and from Coulport. I’m quite jealous of the artists and writers who will be enjoying the same view just now, but also pleased that Cove Park has created such a magical place for creativity, studying and thinking”.