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Reading in the waiting room: It's not just old magazines anymore

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Ever find yourself seated in the fluorescent purgatory of a doctor’s waiting room, wishing that you could find something to pass the time, but there are only three identical copies of Yacht Aficionado and a medical equipment catalog? If you’re lucky, there is a decade-old issue of this illustrious magazine with Stone Cold Steve Austin on the cover, but don’t hold your breath.

One possible stab at a solution comes from CavanKerry Press, which has put together The Waiting Room Reader, a collection of poetry meant to be somewhat more inspiring and enjoyable than those pamphlets on the dangers of childhood obesity. Last year, 5,000 copies of the book were sent to 200 waiting rooms in 28 hospitals for free as a sort of test run. Successful feedback has now led to a second printing that is being sold to doctors’ lobbies across the country. “Our goal was to provide reading material that people would actually want to read,” says Joan Cusack Handler, the collection’s editor. “The waiting room can be a worrying place, so it’s nice to have something other than a few golf magazines. Honestly, I can’t believe no one ever thought of it before.”

It’s an interesting prospect, even if you’re not big on poetry. I, for one, would be glad for a little more variety while waiting, and literature doesn’t go out of date like magazines do. Novels would probably run a little too long (although, at some appointments, I’m not too sure), but what about short story collections? Nothing like a bit of Alice Munro or John Cheever to prepare you for your GP’s prodding fingers. What do you think, Shelf-Lifers? Would you like to see something different in the waiting room the next time you’re there? Or are you happy reading up on the latest news about the 2004 election?