Photographers from DailyExpertNews visited beaches, parks and cafes to capture readers indulging in a timeless pleasure.
Enjoying a book outside is one of the simple, iconic joys of summer, like running through a sprinkler, seeing the first firefly of the night, or scraping a flat wooden spoon over a cup of Italian ice cream burned in the freezer.
This year, the practice has been complicated by blistering, record-breaking heat, leaving many of us feeling like reading in a toaster oven. It’s hard to focus on a novel when your back is shedding as much liquid as Niagara Falls.
Yet few voyeuristic pleasures are more satisfying than going out and seeing someone lost in a book. You have the thrill of recognizing a kindred spirit, the impromptu eye test of deciphering a title from afar, plus the potential to have a new mystery, biography, memoir, or graphic novel to add to your own list. It’s like getting menu ideas from a stranger’s shopping cart, minus the sheep over your own unhealthy snacks. Fortunately, there is no judgment in public displays of literacy — just the casual hand visor of a book lover saluting another.
So what makes reading outdoors more memorable than reading a book in the privacy of your own home? A sofa cushion is certainly more comfortable than a sand headrest, and you don’t have to pay attention to the weather or go to the nearest amenities. Why do we get a sudden wave of calm when we plop down on a hot park bench, a shattered deck, or a dandelion-dotted lawn with a paperback in hand? Why do we subject our backs to the relentless bark of a tree?
The answers depend on a Choose your own adventure of small decisions: beach towel or chair? Barefoot or in slippers? Sunglasses or baseball cap? Picnic basket or measly plum? Do you read with earplugs or rely on the birds and the ice cream truck for your soundtrack? Most importantly, what book did you bring for company? Will it energize you for a round of paddleball or prelude to a long summer nap?
There are only a handful of non-negotiables when it comes to reading in the open air: sunscreen, hydration, repeat. You don’t want to get up and see stars – they belong between the covers. The polite reader also leaves speakers at home. No one wants to hear your Jimmy Buffett playlist, not even in Key West.
This summer, DailyExpertNews sent photographers to beaches, parks, courtyards and cafes across the country — from New York City to Minneapolis to Seattle — to capture our fearless tradition of enjoying words and nature at the same time. Their photos recall the splendor and magic of this combination.
Produced by Rebecca Halleck