We’re fascinated by the curious ritual of reading and how creating space to read can be an anchor in our days: something to look forward to; a way of resting; a way of learning about ourselves and the world. We take five minutes with author and journalist Elizabeth Day to explore the art of creating the perfect reading corner: somewhere cocooning and comfortable where you can feel connected to home while you allow yourself to disappear into another world for a few hours. Elizabeth shares the importance of keeping her favourite books physically close to her and why she continues to place reading at the centre of her life.
Where is your favourite spot to read at home? What makes it such a good reading corner?
I have a special library nook - it's a narrow room next to the kitchen (essentially a glorified corridor) and it's where the previous residents put all their children's toys. I've filled the shelves with books and I have also put my favourite and most comfortable chair there. It's an Ikea chair from when I first moved out of a house-share and lived on my own and it's upholstered in blue corduroy and I love it so much. For many years, I had to put it into storage as I moved around a lot and couldn't take it with me, but now it's dusted off and fits perfectly into this spot. We furnished this part of the house specifically with reading in mind, so I thought through all the things I want when I'm tucked up with a good book: a comfortable chair, a small table I can put a cup of tea on, a radiator and great light. The ceiling is glass, so I can look up at the sky and watch the seasons change in between chapters.
What is it about your reading corner that allows for stillness and escaping to another place?
I like the fact that it feels contained: it's the smallest room in the house and so you feel cocooned there but not entirely separate. I can hear cooking noises from the kitchen or Huxley, our ginger cat, will come and purr at my feet, but I can also be totally immersed in my imaginative world.
How do you display books at home? Do things have an order or process to them?
No. I have an aversion to alphabetical or colour themes when it comes to books because I feel they should each be valued on their own merits, rather than lumped together according to an arbitrary system! The closest I get to organisation is that I do try and keep books by the same author together, and I also have a shelf of favourite books which I return to again and again, like the old friends they are.
The elusive question - how do you decide what book to read next?
Well, there are lots of books I have to read for work so deadlines mostly dictate which one comes next. But when I'm left to my own devices, I like to read books that have been personally recommended to me by a handful of friends whose literary sensibilities are similar to mine (I include my mother in this - she has great taste). I also like to mix in the odd classic here because I think we can all get too hung up on having to read the 'latest' publishing sensation. Sometimes it's nice to go back in time and read a book from a different decade.
What is the reason for putting reading at the centre of your life?
Reading has helped me understand the world and myself. It fosters imaginative empathy and is an antidote to loneliness. A great book can make you feel so seen on the page that I simply can't imagine my life without it. Reading has genuinely made me who I am, and continues to shape my perceptions.
The book you’d most like to pass on to everyone you know:
The Weather in the Streets by Rosamond Lehmann
The 2022 release you're most looking forward to:
Love, Marriage by Monica Ali
Your favourite poem about love:
Rumi's The Guest House. Not technically about love, but then again aren't all poems about love in some way?
Dog ear pages or bookmarks:
Bookmarks. But a dog ear if it's a quote I want to revisit.
The most hopeful book you’ve read:
That's such an interesting question. I think Plato's Republic - I'm comforted by the thought that the best ideas stand the test of time, and also by the hopeful sense that ideal societies can continually be re-imagined.
The book you feel most understood by:
Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason
Favourite bookshop in the world:
I have a fondness for Skylight Books in LA, even though I'm told the building is owned by Scientologists.
A scent that makes you think of home:
If you could spend a day reading in any house in the world, where would you go:
Follow Elizabeth: @elizabday
Elizabeth’s latest novel Magpie is out now, published by 4th Estate