In Praise of Park Benches
Books I read While in Quarantine
This is going to sound like I’m bragging (and maybe I am, a bit), but I’ve read a lot of books in the last six months. Seventeen, in fact.
That’s a lot for me. In normal times, I might average about one a month. But since April, I’ve been deliberate with my reading, carving out time for it when it used to be last on my list.
Some of this is because I lost my job. In those early days of the pandemic, I was thankful to still have work. It gave my days structure, something to differentiate one day from the next. But then, when my employer let a bunch of us go to save on costs, I found myself unmoored. What would I do now? How could I fill my days with a kind of purpose that might give me a similar feeling of productivity?
So, I decided to make a new daily schedule. And on the top of that list was to start each day with reading outdoors.
There’s a small park not too far from my house called Parc de Normanville. It’s quiet and green, spans about half a block, with houses on both sides. In the centre is a striking gazebo and there is a baseball field and sprinkler and a playground for kids. The terrain is also dotted with park benches.
I don’t think I had ever spent much time in it before, but each morning (weather permitting) I’d walk down to the park with a book in hand and find a bench to sit on and read.
I never really understood the need for park benches before. Sometimes, I’d look at them and wonder if anyone really just came out to the park to sit on one. I mean, what would be the purpose? A place to stop and catch your breath? A place to take a call on your cell phone? Yet here I was, grabbing one daily underneath the maple trees and cracking open the spine of my latest read.
There’s something recharging about sitting and reading outside. I know that will sound obvious to many, or a cliché to some, but it’s true. The world would disappear as I turned the pages, losing myself in someone else’s imagination as children played beside me or people walked by with their dogs. On one occasion, I was even accosted by a stray cat. None of that mattered. Here, outside of my apartment with all of its distractions and appliances and roommates, nature would prove to be the best reading companion, quieting my mind long enough to forget where I was. It was just the bench, the book and me.
I know it’s a tough time right now and that many are finding it difficult to read (trust me, I too sometimes just want to watch episodes of Schitt’s Creek), but if I can make a suggestion: just book the time (pardon the pun). Find a place outside, a corner without distraction, and just sit and read.
My Cat Yugoslavia by Pajtim Statovci
After Elias by Eddy Boudel Tan
Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
You Will Love What You Have Killed by Kevin Lambert
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
Dancer from the Dance by Andrew Holleran
I Hope We Choose Love by Kai Cheng Thom
Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson
Age of Union by Dax Dasilva
The New Testament by Jericho Brown
What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell
Later by Paul Lisicky
Save The Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody
The City and the Pillar by Gore Vidal
An Orphan World by Giuseppe Caputo
On Writing by Stephen King
Love, Loss, and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi