My Reading Corner

Bella Mackie

We’re fascinated by the curious ritual of reading and how creating a space to read often can be an anchor in our days, weeks and months and how it can inspire the mundane with something magical. We take five minutes with author and journalist Bella Mackie to consider the bathroom floor as the ultimate spot for getting stuck into a book and reading as a way out of our own minds for a while. Bella shares the best bookshop in London and the books that have stayed with her, long after she’s finished reading them.

Where is your favourite spot to read at home?

This is going to sound strange but I like to sit or lie on the floor in the bathroom. It’s a sun trap during the day and I’ve always sat on the floor to read, ever since I was a kid.  

What is it about your reading corner that allows for stillness and escaping to another place? 

It’s warm, quiet and I can shut the door so the dog doesn’t barge in and try to play.  I think being away from the parts of my home that my brain has designated as “busy” helps. The kitchen, sitting room and bedroom all feel too lively somehow. There’s no distractions on the bathroom floor. Of course, the lack of dog plays a big part too. 

What time of day is sacred reading time for you?

My husband has to go to bed early for work so I tend to read in the evenings mostly. In the summer, I get the last of the light. In the winter, I sit under a lamp and can often read right up to 2am before I drag myself to bed. 

How do you display books at home? Do things have an order or process to them?  

I don’t like houses without bookshelves. It unnerves me. That said, we were overflowing with them and cluttering up every available space, so I had two huge extra bookshelves made to house the overflow. They are really special. They ‘float’ on the walls. But I don’t colour code or alphabetise them. I should, because once a book is filed, I never remember where it’s gone.

The elusive question - how do you decide what book to read next? 

Ha! Sometimes it’s a book I see in my local bookshop Owl Books, sometimes it’s one someone like Jessie Burton recommends on Instagram. Occasionally my mum will drop off a book she knows I’ll like. I often pick up a stack when I read reviews for future reading. 

What is the reason for putting reading at the centre of your life? 

Oh man, so many reasons. I’ve been a fanatical reader since I was tiny. When I was about 8, I realised my greatest and only skill was that I could read a book in a few hours, and the pleasure it gave me has never faded. As a pretty anxious person, the chance to spend a few hours out of my own brain, and in someone else’s is a total dream for me. Nearly every book I read expands my world in some way, or challenges my thinking. The best books linger on in my head for years. Joy. 


The book you’d most like to pass on to everyone you know:

Mine, so I can retire and read other people’s. Failing that, Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan or On Golden Hill by Francis Spufford. For memoir, Nobody Will Tell You This But Me by Bess Kalb and for laughs, anything by Dorothy Parker or Carrie Fisher. 

The book you’ll be tucking into over the festive period:

I’m going to finally try and tackle The Secret History by Donna Tartt. 

Dog ear pages or bookmarks:

Crack the spine and turn the pages, underline at will. Use the book as you like! 

The most hopeful book you’ve read:

My memory is so rubbish and I forget books I read more than a year ago, so I’ll say Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell and Intimations by Zadie Smith which I read during lockdown and found incredibly helpful. 

Favourite bookshop in the world:

Oh, Owl in Kentish Town. The manager Gary is just lovely. Or Daunts Books in Marylebone. Or Waterstones in Hampstead because me and my dad used to go every weekend and those memories of mooching about with him make me happy. 

If you could spend a day reading in any house in the world, where would you go?

I’d like to be in a large Italian villa on a veranda drinking wine and sitting on a lounger, thank you very much. Or by a fire in a Scottish cottage.

A scent that makes you think of home:

Ooh. The dog - warm fur. Or candles that smell of cinnamon. And my mum’s cooking. 

Follow Bella: @mackie_bella

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