Sunday 1 December 2019

ON READING IN BED by Penny Dolan

It’s the first of December today. As the colder weather closes in, I grow even fonder of one of my favourite activities: reading in bed. 

Various books with spectacles on a table Photo | Free Download 

Reading in bed sounds a simple activity but in my experience, one needs generous covers. I like a king- size duvet to pull up around my neck, a trio of pillows stacked comfortable behind me, a roomy bedside table with space for pens and notepads and oddments, and a mat for a friendly hot drink.
I need, now, a pleasant light to see by and eye-glasses to hand (or nose). Many books now especially paperback non-fiction cram their pages with the meanest and tiniest print. My Kindle can help, of course, by expanding fonts, but I am not fond of reading from the device. Moreover, my Kindle can't expand pictures or diagrams - can any? - so I save it for fiction, usually book group titles where the library hasn't supplied enough copies for everyone, and the next meeting is coming up fast.

But back to my bed. (Yes!) I am a reader who suffers from insomnia so I keep several books by or under or alongside the table, ready for reading during different stages of wakefulness.

My current insomnia tome is William Morris: A Life for Our Times by Fiona MacCarthy. It took a recent trip to the William Morris Museum in Walthamstow to make me hoik the thing out from my bookshelves and try it once more. 

This was purely because the book was not easy at the start; not because of the writing, which is excellent, but because of the way it has been constructed.

William is an over-fat paperback with a too-thin cover. Before, whenever I started on it, the weight of the whole volume worked against the flimsiness of those first open pages. It was almost impossible to hold and read at the same time and sudden night-time thuds aren't kind to other sleepers. However, I've now read far enough to be beyond nocturnal book-juggling so it is my book for now.

William Morris: A Life for Our Time By Fiona MacCarthy ...
William makes for good night-reading. There is so much to him and his life that even a few pages creates a satisfied, unpressured feeling. 

Soon my eyes will close contentedly . .  .

Besides, some of the story I know so I’m not facing the unknown on every page. This makes the experience fairly restful, as long as I ignore the oddity of many of the whole Pre-Raphaelite & Co gang.

This same weak-and-feeble binding issue has stopped me getting very far with Hilary Mantel’s far weightier tome, A Place of Greater Safety, which annoys me. Though I will try one more time; maybe add it as a 2020 reading resolution perhaps.

Usually, during these wakeful patches, I avoid fiction written for children as they can bring on bouts of writing angst. I feel that children’s books are for my daylight hours reading, unless they are classics or beloved writers or especially comforting.

I do read fiction: novels of some sort are always waiting by the table, despite these titles being dangerous even when carefully chosen. 

They are a danger because, if the plot is too enticing – a Mick Herron, for example - my night might become one made of short naps and long reading. I cannot resist finishing the naughty thing.

This is partly because I am a greedy reader. I end up reading fast but not well as I struggle to finish the book before my eyes close. This can really spoil a night-time novel, in my experience. The book is read, but not read, alas. Greedy reading is a very bad habit.

On the other hand (she mused) I have just bought Crooked House by Lissa Evans. the prequel to her delightfully cranky Old Baggage. Right now I am trying to resist the urge to gobble Crooked House down, starting tonight. 

Help! Even typing those words is starting a Reading Itch. Quick, bring out the heavy William.

Another title by my bed is slim and small: it is Phillipa Perry’s How to Stay Sane. This is one of the easy, self-help-style books I might go for if I find myself on a third wake too early morning. A friend uses such inspirational titles as a way of gathering herself together before she starts a stressful day.
My own encouraging books pile includes a contemplative book on writing, and a couple of poetry books or pamphlets. These are good for setting thoughts and word music playing in my head, whether it is time to sleep again or to wake. 

So much nicer than a six-am blast of the news headlines. (Or waking because I really needed to edit this post again?) 

 And written with apologies to those with young children.

1000+ Amazing Dawn Photos · Pexels · Free Stock Photos

That’s it. Done. 
I’m almost ready for bed again now. 
For a second time.

And of course I forgot to mention a very important thing:  a notebook (or two) with enough empty pages so that I can scribbling away worries and/or catch hold of those ideas that surface on waking.

Plus a few sharp, soft pencils and a good pen or two.

Hope you slept well, everyone!

Penny Dolan



Joan Lennon said...

Sleep should be simpler (I wish!) but since it isn't ... wise use of wakefulness!

Linda Strachan said...

Love your 'Greedy Reading', am guilty of that myself, especially when reading late into the night.