When learning how to use a sword, the most common stumbling block is footwork. Most folks get hypnotized by the eye/hand aspects and just brain-whiff on stability/movement – as if the rest of the body just stopped existing.
Reading is no different.
When you read, your brain/soul/heart – fed by your eyes – are contending with information, a story, someone’s experiences and so on, not one bit less than if you were physically contending with them, with, like, a sword. So, what kind of stability/movement are you giving yourself during this most taut and involving of actions?
Here is a list of easy-to-master reading positions, some of which you no doubt already use, with a few pros/cons when appropriate.
Sitting bolt upright in a proper chair, both hands on the book, elbows resting comfortably on the edge of a table.
While this position is 100% devoid of “chill”, it will get the job done. In most cases, however, someone seen reading in The 4.0 actually has another book inside the book they appear to be reading – a comic book, for example.
In a high-backed chair, preferably of an antique-style, leaning ever-so-slightly on the armrest, cross one leg over the other (knee on knee, not ankle on knee), hold book at comfortable focal length. Fully correct form requires spectacles. The only drawback is when the antique reading lamp you are using only covers one side. This makes for a fairly rigid position. The scotch should be taken neat, but this is not a requirement of The Cosmo, it’s a requirement of drinking good scotch.
Book in both hands, your torso positioning may range anywhere from elbows on knees to sitting back with the book up, typically uncomfortably close to the face. No table, no leaning to the side.
This is a rough-n-ready position, requiring 3 points of contact – butt in chair, both feet planted on deck – but does allow for backwards and forwards movement. Very common among far-gone book addicts. People are regularly found in this position, dead.
Book splayed open across steering wheel, vehicle in motion. Caveat: this one causes death, with few exceptions. It is like holding your sword at the pointy end; don’t do it.
The body is supine, with the head just slightly tilted forward, chin on or near the chest, book two-handed at a comfortable focal length. Except for the book positioning, you should look very like a luge racer. Toe-pointing is unecessary as despite how this position feels you are not actually in motion.
This is the most common bedtime reading position, but don’t be fooled by its apparent laconicity: you can plow thru serious page-age with this one.
Again, body supine, but the head is back, and the book is held directly above the face at whatever comfortable focal length.
This is a good technique if you are Luging, but having trouble staying awake, due to physical fatigue. (If it’s the book that’s putting you to sleep, get a new book.) It’s called Alarm Clock because if you start to fall asleep, you will drop the book on your face – presto, you are awake again. Caveat: to maintain its effectiveness, do not overuse this technique: your body can subconsciously learn how to slowly lower the book onto your face as you drift off. This leads to nice, shady naps, but the efficacy of the alarm is lost.
Body is prone, typically on a bed or grass, up on elbows, book in front. This can be tough on the lower back and shoulders, but a good book will mask the pain. Variation: The Side-Flop, which is dangerously close to The Sexy Roman.
THE SEXY ROMAN
Reclining sideways on a couch, divan or chesterfield, especially on a chaise or “fainting couch”. Proper form is to have the legs stretched at length, but a little curling of the legs is ok during the good bits. Other than folks throwing silk underwear at you while you’re trying to read, there are no drawbacks to The Sexy Roman.
This is a specialized reading position, sometimes classified as a variation of The Flopper or called an Inverted Luge. The reader is prone, at full length on a soft surface (bed, armless end of a “fainting couch”, futon), with head looking over the edge, down at the book. This is easy on the lower back, but the neck can get tired unless the chin rests on the edge of the soft surface. The Hang-glider is a finishing move for a book.
Curled up in “window nook”.
Usually only seen in advertisements for any number of items (tea, homeowner’s insurance, feminine hygiene products), it is unknown whether or not “window nooks” exist in the real world. We’ve never seen one.
Standing while reading.
This could be in line in a store, waiting for the train, or for no reason at all. It could involve pacing. This is a fairly advanced technique, as you may have to divide your reading attention with whatever activity you are standing for, eg careful not to wander off the train platform. Sometimes called THE HAMLET.
These fundamentals (and caveats) should keep you grounded, and, as your skills develop, your reading positions will become more fluid. As with blade-work, the key to mastery is to perfect your use of basic technique to the point where you can add your own flourishes and stylings. Stay connected to your body, and in no time, you’ll be reading with panache.