A recent Post-Gazette article by local author Sherrie Flick pondered the phenomenon of reading in bars, which has been Quite A Thing in other parts of the country, and has now made its way to Pittsburgh as a trend. The Eleventh Stackers were, of course, tickled to learn that the zeitgeist has finally arrived on our doorstep, and a few of us wanted to chime in with our own thoughts on the matter (especially since today is National Happy Hour Day). Enjoy our book/beverage pairings, and other boozy — or not-so-much — miscellanea.
One of the nicest bars for reading that I’ve ever encountered was in Toronto, Canada. While looking for a café to read in, I stumbled upon the Tequila Bookworm. The name alone clearly announces that readers are welcome! On a summer day, I imagine I’d be reading a dark mystery on their patio and sipping Sangria. Winter would call for something long or possibly Russian, with a Stout or a warming cocktail at my side.
I like the idea of drinking in bars, though I don’t frequent them much anymore. If it’s socially acceptable for me to be seen in one with a book, though, I just might go back and give it a try. Kelly’s is still my favorite Pittsburgh bar, and I would very much like to curl up in one of the booths, reading Mary Daly and drinking whatever LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails) creation is currently featured on the drinks menu.
The most fun I’ve had actually reading a book in a bar was a cold, wintry night at The Squirrel Cage. I was waiting for a friend so I treated myself to a Baileys and coffee and snuggled up with A.S. Byatt’s Possession. I honestly don’t remember how long I had to wait, because the moment was perfect, quiet, and timeless (yes, even surrounded by bar noise — good novels will do that for you).
If you have to pick just one combination, you couldn’t go wrong with a whiskey at Dee’s Cafe, while reading Bukowski’s You Get So Alone at Times That it Just Makes Sense.
Other resources to consider:
Book Girl’s Guide to Cocktails for Book Lovers, Tessa Smith McGovern
To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion, Philip Greene
Cocktail Therapy, Leanne Shear
And a few fiction picks:
Happy Hour of the Damned, Mark Henry
Killer Cocktail, Sheryl J. Anderson
When the Sacred Ginmill Closes, Lawrence Block
Not much of a drinker? You can still celebrate happy hour – and you could argue that any hour spent with a book and a beverage is a happy one! Observe.
My preferred drink/book/location combo, if I’m being safe-for-work, would be The Monogram Murders, the new Hercule Poirot novel by Sophie Hannah, and a cup of English Breakfast tea on my front porch. If you’re a big Agatha Christie fan and were concerned about someone else taking Poirot over, rest assured that it’s fine. Ms. Hannah did well, in my opinion, and I’ve spoken to more than a few other rabid Christie fans who agree. I can’t think of a better way to spend a late summer Sunday morning. The only thing that I needed was a cat on my lap!
I like to have an iced tea while I’m reading John Grisham. If that iced tea is being refilled by a waitress, even better. Most of my reading happens in diners or small restaurants. I have a geographic memory, so I can tell you where I was when I read Cross Creek by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (Keystone Café, Monte Cello’s in Shaler). I read The Mysterious Benedict Society at the now closed Downtown location of Franctuary.
Sometimes a waitress or another customer will ask me what I’m reading. Once a mother came up and said she was so jealous that I had the time to read. At the Johnny Rocket’s in the Pittsburgh Mills mall, I wrote down the name of the Isabel Dalhousie series by Alexander McCall Smith on the back of a business card for a waitress. My bookmarks are always those pieces of paper used to wrap napkins and silverware. Now that I take my lunch to work more often, I’ll have to add “Break Room, CLP — Downtown & Business” to my list of rotating reading spots.
Your turn: what book would you read at the bar? Which bar? What would you drink? Designated drivers, we’d love to hear your non-alcoholic alternatives, too.