Photo of Tim Leffel

Tim Leffel

Professional Travel Expert

Best Book Light & Best Reading Light

Go into any book superstore or online book site and you’ll find a dizzying array of products meant to do one simple thing: light up the pages of your book in the dark. There is a big market for solutions to situations where we can’t just turn on lamp on our bedside table. We’ve got sleeping spouses with a different body clock, plus trains and planes where everyone else is trying to sleep or watch a movie.

Early book light designs suffered from large bulbs and large battery packs, making them something easily left behind when it came down to making hard packing choices. Compact LED bulbs changed all that, however, and most lights are now light and easy to carry.

Designing a good book light is still not a science, however. It needs to be bright enough and flexible enough to work for a variety of book sizes, yet be compact enough to work outside your own bedroom. The book lights featured here all take different approaches to the challenge, some in innovative ways, some by just tweaking the standard clip-on light design. All slip easily into your bag for that next journey.

With the best book light, you can continue reading while your partner slips into dreamland. Our best reading light selections are also handy when camping or traveling all night long to your next destination in the car or on the plane.

Best Book Lights by Tim Leffel

The Best You Can Get

  • Periscope Book Light

    Tim says: This Periscope Book Light provides a new approach to the book light choices. A leather cover wraps around your book and then from the top, a telescoping periscope comes out and can extend over the pages of what you are reading.

    In addition to the up and back adjustment, the WALL-E lookalike head swivels back and forth. (The two LED lights look like the robot’s eyes.) It's a bright, two-bulb LED that handily lights up any book in complete darkness, powered by three AA bulbs. The manufacturer claims the batteries will power the bulbs for 40 hours. You can also buy an optional A/C adapter for it, but this would seem to have limited applications.

    You never have to worry about misplacing your light because it's attached to the book you're reading and there’s even a cloth bookmark. If you’re reading a book that you’d rather not have everyone see you reading, the cover also hides what’s inside. The feel of leather on the outside makes the reading experience feel richer, even if there is a trashy beach novel inside.

    The downside of this approach is that book sizes aren’t as standard as these two integrated book lights. The smaller one is only meant for mass market paperbacks, while the larger one is meant for both hardback books and trade paperbacks. Some books will fit better than others.

    • Light incorporated into rich leather book cover
    • Easy to keep track of – attached to your book
    • Uses standard AA batteries
  • LightWedge

    Tim says: The LightWedge is very different than any other book light. The "wedge" in its name comes from an innovative product design whereby tiny LED lights push light out of the base and through the glass, which rests on top one of the pages you are reading. This way the text is completely illuminated, with no dark spots and no eyestrain. The light is bright and with room in the spine of the light for four AA batteries to power it, the light is bright and the batteries will last for book after book.

    Unfortunately, this all requires some extra work on you the reader’s part. Since it's a wedge that goes between the pages, each time you turn the page you have to pull out the LightWedge, turn the page, and then stick it back in. You’ve automatically got a bookmark when you turn it off, but some people will undoubtedly find this to be too much hassle, especially while lying in bed. The LightWedge comes in two sizes, for paperbacks and hardbacks.

    • Spreads light evenly across the pages
    • Innovative design
    • Uses standard AA batteries
  • Flex Neck Light

    Tim says: Sometimes the simplest and cheapest items turn out to work the best. The Flex Neck light is simple and elegant, with just a clip and a flexible neck with a light at the end. There are a few tweaks that make this light special, however. The main benefit is its adaptability to multiple types and sizes of books. This is one of the few lights around that will work for anything from mass-market paperbacks to a 1,000-page hardback biography. It just clips onto the cover of whatever you are reading, with no cords or battery packs.

    The other advantage is that this is the best of the ten featured here for packing light. A hole in the clip part holds the circular light part, allowing the whole thing to fold down into something the size of an Oreo cookie. The one drawback is that the small and lightweight battery is something you would normally find in a watch or calculator, so you can’t just pop in a standard battery you have lying around the house when this one dies.

    • Clips on to any kind of book
    • Folds into itself for easy packing
    • Bright LED light powered by lightweight watch battery
  • Zelco Long Reach Flexible Flashlight

    Tim says: This easy-to-pack, high intensity Krypton light is really a flashlight, but the clip mechanism and nine-inch bendable arm allow it to work well as a book light, too. The award-winning design allows you to wrap the arm around the case for easy travel packing. A snap-on red lens turns it into an emergency beacon. It is waterproof as well, making it a good choice for boaters.

    The Long Reach light uses two AAA batteries and only weights two ounces.

    • Double-duty booklight and flashlight
    • Spot beam to floodlight in a compact package
    • Waterproof
  • Mighty Bright XtraFlex Super LED Light

    Tim says: The compact and especially bright XtraFlex Super LED from Mighty Bright is one of the few that offers two light settings. With a simple tap on the sensor switch you can turn on one or two of the bulbs. The bendable arm is also longer than that on most other lights, offering full positioning options for any size book.

    You can clip the XtraFlex to any book cover (or computer monitor) or use it as a freestanding light on a flat surface when you’re not next to a sleeping partner. Simply tap our proprietary sensor switch. The flexible neck allows you to position your lighting anywhere you want it. The three AAA batteries are not included, however, so factor that into the final cost.

    • Adjustable brightness of one or two bulbs
    • Most powerful bulbs available, with no “dead spots”
    • Can stand on its own base to double as a bedside lamp

You will be happy with any of these

  • The Spike Light

    Tim says: The Spike Light is designed for hardback books, the idea being to insert the clip into the spine of the book, where it will stay secure as you turn the pages. The spike part holds single AA battery, while the light sits at the end of a twisty adjustable arm.

    It is a simple and effective device with light bright enough to illuminate even large hardbacks, though the spike clip design makes it tough to use with paperbacks. It takes up very little room when packing though and is one of the lightest book lights available on just one battery.

    • Long life from a single AAA battery
    • Two bright LED bulbs on a an adjustable arm
    • Spike adheres the light to a book spine
  • Itty Bitty Book Light LED Edition

    Tim says: The Itty Bitty Book Light was one of the original travel lights, but it has had trouble letting go of the past, coming late to the LED bulb leap forward and it still has a very bulky battery pack, holding four AA batteries on the housing clipped to your book. On the plus side, you won’t run out of juice anytime soon: the manufacturer claims that you can read all day for 10 straight years without running down the batteries. (Which begs the question, wouldn’t two batteries for five years be just fine?)

    The batteries are not included in the heftier-than-usual price. This is a commonly stocked book light that you can find most anywhere, but weigh the other options that can be a half or a third of the price.

    • Battery packs lasts for 10 years
    • Widely available model
    • Extends to 7 inches
  • ReaderMate XtraFlex Book Light

    Tim says: Available in three colors, ReaderMate's light features three ultra-white bulbs in a compact design that folds together easily. It uses the classic clip-on design, making it useful for any size book or a computer monitor. The bulbs have an estimated life of 100,000 hours. It is powered by three common AAA batteries. They’re not included though, so stock up at checkout or even better, use rechargeables.

    • Three bright, ultra-white LED diodes
    • Telescoping arm retracts into a compact package
    • Bulbs never need replacing
  • Carson Optical BookBrite Book Light

    Tim says: The BookBrite has a fully adjustable lamp head that is larger than most, powered by three AAA batteries. The head auto-extends and swivels to reach your optimal position. The LED light bulb should last as long as the light itself, without needing replacement. This versatile light clips onto any size book, computer monitor, or magazine, or you can set it on its built-in base to use it as a table lamp.

    Folded up it will also work as a flashlight, eliminating the need to carry another separate item when traveling.

    • Versatile light works as flashlight or table light also
    • Runs on standard AAA batteries
    • Flexible neck on standard clip
  • Zelco Serpent Lite Flexible LED Book Light

    Tim says: The Zelco Serpent Lite does indeed look more menacing than most, in black only and looking like something out of a “robots-gone-wrong” movie. It has more of a desk light feel than a normal book light one, shining as much light above the book as below. It uses the clip light system that works for any books though and has a flexible arm. Plus it’s one of the most reasonably priced lights available — lithium batteries included.

    • Flexible neck puts light where you need it
    • Lightweight and easy to pack
    • Long-lasting single LED light

Related Articles

Read with the best book light even when the sun sets. These reading light selections offer compact LED bulbs that emit a bright enough light to read in bed while your partner sleeps or when you're snuggled up in a sleeping bag at your favorite camping spot. When you can't find a desk lamp, these booklite choices make the most sense, especially at the best price.