The Friday Fillip: Reading in Bed

I like reading in bed. In fact it’s got to the point where I must read before falling asleep, even if it’s only a line or two. It probably all started with being read to as a child, a bedtime ritual both pleasurable and soporific, and a fitting introit to the land of dreams. At some point that ritual became self-administered, though the stories were rather more exciting as I recall — exciting enough that I, like so many of you, read on under the covers with a flashlight after the official “lights out.”

In bed at the end of the day you can let go of duties and petty distractions, too late for one and the others are out of sight. (I pass over in silence the Great Distraction that you might find in your bed.) The reading lamp draws the world down around you to manageable proportions, your body’s relaxed, imagination is loosed finally after having played second viola all day: you open the book. Eye, hand and brain, that Tinkers to Evers to Chance trio of smarts, begin to play — and you’re gone. To wherever it is your chosen book will take you.


I’ve noticed there’s often a fair bit of fussing before this nirvana can be attained. Things might have to be just so. Certainly, gravity will have to be overcome, for even paperbacks have mass. And if you, like me, wear specs, they’d better be the right kind for the job, because your progressives just won’t cut it in bed. Do you lie on your side? Your back? Or, rara avis, your belly? Or do you flop around like a trout? If you’ve got a partner who shares the bed, there’s the matter of reading lights and whether one of you is able to sleep while the other continues to read.

Fortunately, there are technological solutions to many of these difficulties. If you read on your back, you might like a pair of prism glasses that make your vision turn a right angle. Seems these have been around since 1936 and are still available today.


All manner of devices are available to help hold your book in troublesome positions, such as the Book Gem, which appears to be simple contraption involving clips and legs. And although it’s unpleasantly hot as I write this, winter will come and exposed body parts will feel chilly. If you’re troubled by cold hands and arms while you read in bed (and yet are without vanity at bedtime), may I recommend “The Keep My Arms Warm When I Read In Bed Thing” available online for a mere 300 euros.

There is one big issue, though, which admits of no easy solution: is it to be paper or a pad? iPad, that is, by which I mean to include all the little tablets like it. Finger swiping is quieter, sparing your sleep bound partner the roaring swish of pages turning; but glass tops just don’t feel . . . right and can’t be held by the corner in anticipation, or reluctance, as you prepare to move ahead. Tablets are very bright, and they may interfere with your melatonin production, and thus your sleep; on the other hand, they are themselves (adjustably) bright and don’t require a reading lamp.

One thing you can’t do with an i- or any other pad, though, is share. My wife and I were once stranded overnight somewhere unexpected, so we didn’t have our books with us. I managed to come up with an old paperback, something I’d read before, but that didn’t matter: desperate times call for desperate measures. Quickly the solution presented itself, and the brutality of it will show you how much we enjoy reading in bed: I, the faster reader, would plough through a page or two and then pull them out and pass them to my slower reading wife. And thus it went, each of us happily lost in text until we nodded o—

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