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How To

Eating and Reading at the Same Time

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Anna Gooding-Call

Staff Writer

Anna Gooding-Call is a librarian and writer originally from rural central New York. She got her BA in the city that inspired "The Twilight Zone" and confirms that the hitchhikers really are weird there. Today, she lives in Massachusetts with her wife and two cats.

Anna Gooding-Call

Staff Writer

Anna Gooding-Call is a librarian and writer originally from rural central New York. She got her BA in the city that inspired "The Twilight Zone" and confirms that the hitchhikers really are weird there. Today, she lives in Massachusetts with her wife and two cats.

I’m the kind of gal who likes to eat. Man oh man, do I like to eat! However, I also like to read! WOW, do I like to read! These two desires, which exist at approximately the same level on Maslow’s Hierarchy for me, often conflict in my life because I have very little time to just sit down, let alone stuff my gob/complete an ARC. When I do, I have to wrangle pages and take attention away from my book in favor of successfully forking food into my mouth. Not with great success, I might add! To solve this problem, I’ve developed some strategies for eating and reading at the same time.

There are other ways to eat food than with a fork and a knife. Chopstick and hands-on consumption strategies might both be more conducive to page-turning than your typical food shovel. However, the vast majority of my personal experience has been with Western consumption patterns. If you have thoughts based on non-Western eating utensils and the average person’s ability to integrate them into a reading experience, tweet @BookRiot and @annagoodingcall.


The time-honored way to read and eat is to choose a heavy book and set your elbow upon the lighter side to prevent it from snapping closed. This requires a bit of dexterity when you have to turn a page, but if you’re willing to put down your fork, sandwich, burrito, chopsticks, etc., it’s possible. The trick is when your meal is gooey, like an orange. You don’t want to get ooze on that book! Plus, who wants to drop a fork just to turn a page? If the book is small, you may be able to hold it in front of your face and turn the page with your thumb. This requires the dexterity of a master thief and may well result in you dropping your book into your food.

Suffice to say that the time-honored elbow strategy is not excellent. You can do better.


I’m a big fan of audiobooks. I listen to them whenever I have a spare moment—in the car, on the train, while doing boring or repetitive tasks, and even while cooking and eating.

Boom! This is probably the easiest way to maintain a traditional Western consumption style while also getting your book in. You can easily handle a knife and fork while listening. Aside from that, your only responsibility as a reader is to make sure that the path from your food to your mouth is not obstructed by a wire.

Libby is a great app for borrowing library audiobooks on your phone, and also lets you send library ebooks to a Kindle. Go take a look!

Liquid Meals

If paper is your enduring love, then you might want to consider the humble smoothie! These don’t have to be part of a dumb cleanse gimmick or weight loss strategy. Alas, you can’t really avoid quasi-scientific pseudo-health nonsense if you want to find a good smoothie recipe. Even so, there are a lot of cookbooks out there that claim to contain “detoxifying” smoothies and actually succeed in presenting a reasonably tasty ginger-apple blend. The Smoothie Recipe Book is a good source, as is Green Kitchen Smoothies. If you don’t want to directly encourage a cottage industry that hints that the secret cure to cancer is a bougie milkshake, you can also check out smoothie recipes online by typing “smoothie recipes” into pretty much any search engine. There is no shortage.

Smoothies can contain fruit, tofu, yogurt, milk, chocolate, peanut butter, greens, veggies, spices, and anything else you could possibly want in a lunch. Once you detect the pattern of 1. stuff things you like in blender and 2. blend it, you’ll start inventing your own with alacrity.

After that, all you need are a reusable container, one of those big fat reusable straws, and your beloved book. Now you can read with both hands, merrily drinking your lunch as you go!


First of all, they lay flat on the table. That’s a big plus. You can place a ereader carefully off to the side as you mainline your leftover lo mein, turning the page with the merest press of a button. There’s no spine to flip on you at the worst moment, no pages to flutter into your line of sight. In many ways, ereaders are a wonderful solution to the problem of eating and reading at the same time. They’re easy to clean, lightweight, and logistically conducive. Personally, I prefer the e-ink varieties.

Cost is a downside to the ereader strategy, but if you’re a heavy reader anyway, the purchase will be well worth it in the end. This is especially true if you borrow library ebooks instead of buying. Ereaders are also a little more vulnerable to the world in the sense that a tipped glass of water can destroy them. Not necessarily a good combo with lunch, but if you’re experienced, it’s an option worth considering.

Book Stands

This strategy is only for the very serious table-eater. I’m talking about commitment here. I’m talking about nights at the dinner table, poring over Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead. I’m talking about the serious epicurean who requires a genuine three-hour feast to accompany The Water Dancer. Are you the kind of person for whom eating and reading at the same time is an average Tuesday? Are you ready…for a book stand?

If so, then a very basic wire library model will set you back about $7. Fancier ones may cost $10 or $15. You may find that you’ll use the stand in other areas of your life too, such as when you work out or when you needlepoint bookish decor.

Handy Snacks

Sandwiches. Power bars. Apples. There are lots of compact foods you can eat one-handed. If the problem of eating and reading at the same time seems unassailable, consider downsizing your food to an array of snacks, possibly spaced throughout the day. Grapes, quartered sandwiches, wraps, and baklava are all ideal.

Why baklava? Why not? I like it and it’s less messy than spanakopita.

If you need a book-worthy meal, you could do worse than these sci-fi and fantasy cookbooks! If you’d prefer to eat with your book club, we’ve got some potluck cookbooks for you, too.