HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >

Discussion

Reading a book while sitting alone at the bar...yay or nay?!!

I found myself doing this again tonight...after work I stopped by a downtown bar for a few beers on the way home (don't worry, I take the subway, I don't drive) and sat at the bar reading my book while enjoying my drinks.

Someone once told me people that "don't read at the bar", that it looks strange. C'mon, it's ok, right? The bartender seemed cool with it. (Plus, didn't Diane Keaton do it in Goodbar?). I just don't want to think that other people in the bar are snickering at me.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
    1. re: bluemoon4515

      I agree--nothing wrong with reading at the bar. In fact, beers and a book are a delightfully civilized way to unwind!

      1. I can think of no situation, in which one is not interacting with or listening to another person, where reading a book would be inappropriate. In fact, I wish more of those people yakking on their cell phones would pick up a book instead. And, when I was single, I accorded prospective dates automatic points if I saw them reading a book;)

        1 Reply
        1. re: visciole

          Good points, thanks. I agree about the cell phones.

        2. WTH? If you're quietly reading a book, you cannot be disturbing anyone. If someone says otherwise, I suggest you pop them one in the snoot.

          1. I think that anybody who gets bothered by a stranger quietly reading in a bar needs to find themselves some real problems to worry about.

            1 Reply
            1. Nope, not a problem at all. I've lately made too many trips to the airport and stayed at a Holiday Inn with a bar and restaurant very close by. There's always someone reading the newspaper at the bar. I never think to take anything to read since hotels are my only chance to watch TV (The Food Network or Travel Channel) and usually end up chatting with other people.

              Lately my job seems to be to tell men that it's time to go back to their rooms and go to bed, they've had enough and are likely to get into trouble.

              1. I am a HUGE fan of reading alone in bars and never thought it to be "weird" until (multiple) friends of mine mentioned it as "strange" behavior. It started years ago when I was telecommuting and was basically aching to get out of my apartment to "unwind" without necessarily having quality human interaction. I've actually met WAY more interesting people while reading alone at a bar than while being out with people (I guess the "what are you reading?" angle is a good segue for random conversation...)

                Point being... read up! And, as a sidenote, I've had more than a handful of people tell me they wish they were "ballsy" enough to read alone in a bar (generally later in the evening when I've gotten caught up and read 100 pages or so)... whatever that means, I guess we're "brave" individuals haha.

                7 Replies
                1. re: CarmenR

                  Hmm...i think it's much easier to read a newspaper or magazine..Reading a book signals you planned to be there dining alone which isn't very common...

                  1. re: burlgurl

                    Why on earth do you think that dining alone isn't very common (particularly in bars)? When I travel on business, I often dine alone, and often sit at the bar to dine if it is allowed/encouraged. Sometimes I even dine alone when not traveling. IMO dining alone has many advantages. I particularly enjoy going to high end restaurants when traveling alone, because hubby doesn't enjoy them as much as I do, and in any case it costs half as much as the meal would if he were along. Indeed, I recently spent several hundred dollars for dinner (and a drink, and wine) at Tobolobambo in Chicago (really need to do my report on the Chicago board). Had a great time, was treated extremely well.

                    Of course, I don't usually bring a book to a high end restaurant, not so much because I think it is wrong (Indeed, at Lacroix in Philadelphia I was once offered a choice of magazines to read by my server, when dining alone) but more because when I am spending that type of money I want to be able to concentrate on the food and surroundings (not to mention people watch).

                    but at a bar, of course I'd bring a book and not give a moment's thought to what it might signal.

                    Besides, doesn't everyone carry their current paperback around with them just in case they have a few minutes to spare to indulge in reading a few pages?

                    1. re: burlgurl

                      This makes no sense. Yes, I planned to be there alone, which is why I brought a book to enjoy.

                      1. re: burlgurl

                        What difference does the type of reading material make? If anything a newspaper would seem to be a little cumbersome to read at the bar.

                        Dining alone is quite common. Sure beats sitting around cooped up in a hotel room.

                        1. re: Withnail42

                          I find reading a book at a bar as one of the rare times I actually get to spend a few minutes for myself! I look forward to being able to do that when traveling or waiting for a friend.

                          As to the type of reading material--newspapers can be dangerous! I once was reading the paper at a bar with little candle votives and the edge of the paper caught on fire! Thankfully I knew the people and the place and we put it out with zero drama or damage. They did give me the business, though, for many visits afterward! I got known as the newspaper girl who almost burned the place down!

                          1. re: Billie Jean

                            I've seen a paper or two go up in flames myself. That's why I burlgurl comment curious.

                          2. re: Withnail42

                            ...and dining alone sure beats room service -- especially those food odors that linger long after your tray has been removed.

                      2. I think men who read are sexy :) Men who read in a bar instead of screaming at a TV about a fumble are even sexier :)

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: gryphonskeeper

                          Agreed. Just like I want a guy to be open to new eating experiences, I want him to be open to new intellectual experiences. And readers score better on that scale than do sports fanatics.

                        2. YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!
                          I do it regularly, provided there's enough light.
                          One bar I go to has newspapers on the bar for patrons to read.

                          One of my favorite movies "The Quiet Man" directed by Joh Ford, has a scene in an Irish Pub where an oild timer is reading and drinking his pint oblivious to both a bar brwal taking place, and the publican locking up for an afternoon break. When the publican returns and un;ocks, the oldtimer is still in his seat reading and nursing his drink.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: bagelman01

                            The other thing I ALWAYS have handy (besides a book, that is) is a book light (e.g., Mighty Bright). Small, portable, doesn't bother other people. Light is never a problem! In addition, the light is at least as good at starting conversations as the book itself.

                            On rare occasions, someone will make a snide comment, but I figure that reflects more on them than on me.

                            Oh, and to the OP: I wouldn't use "Looking for Mr. Goodbar" as a source of encouragement. Remember how Keaton's character wound up! (Although, maybe the real lesson is: she should've stuck to her book....)

                            1. re: brandywiner

                              Get the iPad, it has a back lit e reader. I LOVE LOVE this thing.

                              1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                Hmmm....

                                $10 (plus batteries) for my book light that lets me read any book or magazine I choose

                                OR

                                $500-600 for an iPad that lets me read what Apple feels like letting me read.

                                Thanks, anyway....

                                (No offense intended; I'm just not an early adopter by nature.)

                                1. re: brandywiner

                                  Compromise--the Kindle app for the iPhone (also available for the iPad). I love it and it's a discreet way to haul around reading material.

                              2. re: brandywiner

                                Brandywiner, no need to worry--I have no intention of ending up like Diane Keaton's character in Looking for Mr. Goodbar! I'm somewhat more cautious than she was!

                                As aside/trivia, I believe the book Diane was reading in the movie was "The Godfather". I can't remember whether I got that from the movie or from the book on which the movie was based.

                                1. re: john333

                                  Yup! According to IMDb, it was "The Godfather" in both the novel and the movie. Having never read the book, I remember assuming "The Godfather" was in the movie as an inside joke, especially given that Gere mentions that he'd seen the movie!

                            2. is this specifically American mentality?

                              it's absolutely fine at least in western Europe's traditional pubs [no telly screens and/or even music. it's about good beers and enjoying them.]. there's always reading material in pubs such as newspapers and beer related books. i read the papers and also my own books every time i go to my regular pubs, which is quite regularly. not only it's so nice to read, it also sort of 'deters' undesired strangers from wasting one's time.

                              enjoy your books!

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: Pata_Negra

                                I presume, then, that you're not including Britain in West Europe (although surprising, since that is home to far more pubs, than France or Belgium or Spain...).

                                That said, have read in bars in a variety of nations and have yet to have anyone comment as to its rudeness-- and that includes the USA, so no, not a question of a specifically American mentality. I'm not sure how much of a deterrent it is, though: how many times have we had strangers interrupt us to ask what it is we're reading? (Again, a transcontinental phenomenon.)

                                1. re: Lizard

                                  Why wouldnt you include Britain?

                                  It's commonplace for folk to read in pubs. Mainly newspapers, rather than books. And I agree with Pata Negra, the decent places usually have a supply of newspapers or magazines. But I often take a book with me, rather than a paper, when I'm eating (whether pub or restaurant), as it's easier to manage.

                                  1. re: Harters

                                    I would. I'm simply commenting on Pata Negra's declaration that pubs in Europe have no television screens-- something that goes well against what I've seen in the UK. Pubs are also about enjoying the footie (as demonstrated yesterday when cheers ripped through the streets of Scotland).

                                    1. re: Lizard

                                      Ah. Apologies. Thought you were referencing the reading comment not the TV comment. In that case, I agree - many pubs and bars throughout Europe have TVs - the most irritating of which have several screens usually showing different programmes (but with no sound and loud music over the PA).

                                      And, whilst the pubs I frequent nowadays are the type which are likely to offer you a newspaper to read, I know several places locally where an attempt to read a book would be a invitation to have scorn poured upon you, no doubt accompanied by questions about your masculinity.

                                      1. re: Harters

                                        let them question, i say. if you're spoiling to get into it with explain why reading makes you more of a man, and how you feel no need to question anyones masculinity as you are secure enough in your own.

                                        1. re: thew

                                          Maybe I'll take up your suggestion - next time I feel the need for a visit to the local Accident & Emergency :-0

                                2. re: Pata_Negra

                                  seeing as every american who has posted on this thread has said that they enjoy it themselves, it would be hard to say not doing is specifically american, or even different from what you describe

                                3. As a woman who used to travel for business, I ALWAYS read a book when eating alone at a bar. The book often provided a deterrent to strangers who wanted to strike up a conversation (or worse) as well as providing entertainment for me.

                                  If other people in the bar were snickering at you, ignore the fools. They don't know a good thing when they see it. Whoever told you that people don't read at the bar is clearly incorrect. I've been in bars - in the US and abroad - where reading material is provided. I don't think it was for design purposes ....... Read away and enjoy your time.

                                  Edit: upon re-reading my post, I realize that I should make it clear that the bar must be "reader-friendly". I don't frequent a happening, loud, dimly-lighted bar expecting to read in peace.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Sherri

                                    Me too. I don't want fast food, I don't want room service, I want to eat a nice meal in a nice place. If I want to watch football, then I'll go to a sports bar. Otherwise, you'll find me perched quietly close to a light, and minding my own business...reading a book.

                                  2. jfood travels a bunch for business and he always has his book with him and he mostly sits at the bar in front of the TV with book open and reading. Totally fine. and for what it's worthg jfood also thinks it is OK to have a conversation on a cell phone if doen at the proper decibel level, just as having a face to face at a proper decibel level is OK.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: jfood

                                      I think jfood is probably correct about mobile phone use - at least in so far as usage in America is concerned. I find, on my trips to his side of the Atlantic, that phone users seem to usually apply "good manners" about their usage - something generally lack on my side of the pond. But I say that as one of the small breed of folk in the world who don't generally carry a phone :-)

                                      1. re: Harters

                                        you and my bf... he doesn't even own one. And to be honest, I hardly ever use mine... so i guess i can't scoff.

                                    2. Nothing what so ever wrong with it.

                                      Perhaps reading merely looks strange to the people who told you that.

                                      But why even worry about it. if you find it a good way to relax after work or to enjoy a meal enjoy!

                                      1. I travel alone for work all the time, and really hate room service, so you'll generally see me at the bar, with a book. The book excuse is great, too - if someone is bothering me, I can say 'sorry, I'm at a really good part' and just ignore them until they go away. I don't go anywhere without a book!!

                                        1. I see no problem with it. I found myself wishing i had one just last week when i was out of town and stopped in a local small town brewery because everyone told me I had to try their beer. (They were right... Hank is Wiser Brewery in Cheney Kansas) I sat and drank alone, but ended up mentioning to the waitress/owner that I wish I had brought friends with me as they had a great shuffleboard table. In about 15 minutes she had rounded up 3 of the shuffleboard regulars and we had a game. Great time. But still... I would have felt less awkward with a book.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Firegoat

                                            I have been traveling on and off for business for twenty years and I always have a book. How could you get through a 4 hour plane ride without something to read? Same thing with dinning or drinking alone. No one has ever said anything negative, in fact it is just the opposite, people either leave me alone or or ask me what I am reading in a friendly way. If the lighting is bad or there is loud music I just leave and go back to my room or read by the pool.

                                            On the plane I augment the reading with playing scrabble on my phone. There is nothing wrong with entertaining yourself when you are alone.

                                          2. I often go out to eat alone (at home; I enjoy eating out and just can't be bothered to rustle up company sometimes) always sit at the bar when I do so, and often bring a book or crossword puzzle when I do so. I can honestly say it's never occurred to me to wonder if anyone else thought it was odd.

                                            1. One of my favorte indulgences is dining alone with a good book, and sometimes yes I do like to sit at the bar and read...
                                              It has never occured to me that soem people might find it to be strange!
                                              And now that I know -
                                              Well I couldnt care less!

                                              Actually, I met my hubby while reading at a bar!

                                              1. Reading the Bible at the bar is the way to impress.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: beevod

                                                  lol. whatever floats your boat i guess

                                                2. The correct reply to an idiotic comment like "people don't read at the bar" would be the one my grandmother used : "Now, my dear, you really mustn't say things like that. It tells people more about yourself than you probably want them to know."

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: mandycat

                                                    That is the perfect response! I'm taking it from your Grandma!

                                                  2. I don't, but to each his own. For me, it takes away from the meal; it's akin to having dinner on the sofa glued to the tv. A good conversation, however, often *adds* to the dining experience....

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: OCAnn

                                                      Even if you're dining alone? As another frequent business traveler I'll chime in that I never go to a restaurant solo without some reading material, be it a book or a magazine.

                                                      The only time I was ever reproved for reading while eating was in the mid-1970s, dining at a vegetarian restaurant in Hamburg, Germany run by a cultish group, followers of some guru or other. The waiter told me I would hurt my digestion by not focusing entirely on the food. I told him I was doing perfectly well focusing on the gestalt of the food and the book, vielen dank.

                                                      1. re: BobB

                                                        Yes, even if I'm dining alone. =)

                                                        The reason is two-fold. First, I become completely engrossed in a book and I derive more pleasure in focusing on either the book or the meal, but not both.

                                                        Second, when travelling in my 20s (pre MrOCAnn), I wanted to be the fearless independent world traveller and saw books as a crutch/security blanket. Before any travel (business or personal), I would research and select restaurants and sit in the dining room, rarely eating at the bar--I wanted to engage with those around me, people watch or just enjoy the whole experience. On occasion, I might have some docs for light review (on business trips) or a pad, pen and a small map (on personal trips) to plan out my visit--otherwise, I sat sans book or magazine.

                                                        I'm weird that way, but I've met a many great people and had lots of interesting conversations. Dining out for me is a complete experience--and books would take away from that.

                                                        EDIT: Going back to the OP, I see nothing wrong with sitting at the bar, reading and killing time--but I just don't.

                                                        1. re: OCAnn

                                                          This will get removed, and I'm fine with that, but I find it interesting that everyone I've ever met who felt books detracted from life all hailed from So Cal. As I've noted above, bringing books has never stopped people from engaging, for good or ill. And how far I get, depending on the atmosphere, is another issue entirely. But still, never leave the house without reading material 'just in case'.

                                                          ETA: Wait, one of those people was from Colorado.

                                                    2. don't think of it as sitting in or at a bar reading a book. Think of it as time for yourself to enjoy a good book with a nice cocktail (or beer, or.....) along with some easy to eat food.... How often do you have that luxury?

                                                      Is it something to do at a sports bar during super bowl, or on friday evening in the hottest pick-up joint in town, probably not. In a high end restaurant where you are paying beaucoup bucks for the meal? Unlikely. But in a nice reasonably well lit or windowed cocktail lounge, where you can do some intermittent people watching, you becha!

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                        Can't comment on the pick-up joint, but I've happily read in each of your other scenarios more than once, not to mention rock clubs & jazz bars (between sets, of course!), ballparks (between innings, but not between pitches a la Diane Chambers!), etc.

                                                        FWIW, at a truly high-end place, the reading will be mostly confined to before/between courses.

                                                        1. re: brandywiner

                                                          Agreed, with the comment that I usually find it too dark to read in clubs. But high-end restaurants between courses, absolutely!

                                                          1. re: BobB

                                                            Not only clubs and bars; even a number of mid-scale restaurants have lighting that's too dim to comfortably read. Hence, my mini book light!

                                                      2. If it's a problem, just find a new bar. I can imagine there are certain bars where it would be looked at askance, but they should be avoided unless you're in the mood for a fight. :)

                                                        1. I'm rarely without a book tucked under my arm or in my bag. if i were dining alone, i would absolutely eat with my book open beside my plate and never mind who thinks what about it. :)

                                                          1. For the record, John? I doubt anyone's snickering at you. Why would they? There's nothing wrong with what you're doing.
                                                            And if they are, who cares? It's their problem.
                                                            For more tips on solo dining, see boldlygosolo.com (the dining solo category.)

                                                            1. The only issue I can see is if the establishment is busy. I have seen people go out to breakfast and tie up a table or chair on a busy Sautrday morning, line out the door, long past their meal was done reading the paper. This is NOT cool IMO. It hurts the business owner's pocket, it hurts the servers pocket, and it annoys other customers waiting anxiously to sit down. A restaurant/bar is not a library, and if there are other patrons waitng to be served one should be courteous enough to realize that.

                                                              On the other hand, a slow tuesday morning? take your time.....

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: joe777cool

                                                                In principle, I agree, but I have to ask: would you feel any differently if that same table were being tied up by a couple chatting away long past the time they were done eating?

                                                                1. re: brandywiner

                                                                  No different, really. In a busy place at peak meal time with people waiting to sit down, hanging out and chatting after you're done would be rude. When the place is not packed - no problem, nor is reading. Though I would mitigate this slightly by saying it correlates inversely with venue size - it would be more rude at a busy little ten-table diner than at a large establishment with scores of tables.

                                                                  1. re: BobB

                                                                    Fair enough. Certainly I try to be conscious of exactly those factors. If the place has filled up and people are waiting, the "week in review" section can wait...

                                                                    1. re: brandywiner

                                                                      BobB shared my sentiments.....

                                                                      As a former server (in my HS days) nothing annoyed me more than having a party sit and sit and sit for 3-4 hours and then leave a normal 15-20% tip. Those tables, and the ability to turn them over are a servers livelyhood. If you are going to tie it up you need to pony up the $$$.

                                                                      Like Bob said, its even worse from a small business owners perspective. Imagine if a small place has 10 tables and all 10 parties decide to just hang out for the night and catch up...... you cant make a living that way.

                                                                      If the place isnt crowded, and as long as you tip the server/bartender appropriately (including the time factor) I dont see an issue.