“Hundreds and thousands, possibly millions, of people every night in England read something in bed. They say nothing about it except, ‘I read for a little last night and then slept like a top,’ or ‘I didn’t feel like going to sleep last night, so I read for a bit,’ or ‘I began reading so-and-so in bed last night, and damn the book, I couldn’t get to sleep until I finished it.’ Usually nothing at all is said; if anything is said it is very little. Yet what a large slice of each of our lives has gone into this harmless occupation.

We get our clothes off. We put our pyjamas on. We wind our watches. We arrange the table and the light and get into bed. We pile up, or double up, the pillows. Then we settle down to it. Sometimes the book is so exciting that all thought of sleep fades away, and we read on oblivious of everything except the unseen menace in that dark house, the boat gliding stealthily along that misty river, the Chinaman’s eyes peering through that greenish-yellow fog, or the sudden crack of the revolver in that den of infamy. Sometimes we read for a while and then feel as though we could go peacefully to sleep. Sometimes we struggle desperately to gum our failing attention to the acute analysis and safe deductions of our author. Our eyes squint and swim. Our head dizzies. We feel drunk, and, dropping the book aside from lax hands, just manage to get the light out before falling back into a dense and miry slumber.

We all know these fights against inevitable sleep, those resolves to reach the inaccessible end of the chapter, those swimmings in the head, those relapses into the gulf of oblivion. And we all know those long readings when the mystery and suspense of the text so excite us that every creak of the stair and every fluttering of the pertinacious moths makes the heart stand still, and then keeps it beating hard for minutes. We have all turned the light out just in time; and we have all turned it out from boredom, or in an access of determined common-sense, and then turn it on again to resume dreary reading where we left the piece of paper or the pencil in the page. But we seldom talk about it. It is part of our really private lives.”

J.C. Squire, ‘Reading in bed’ (1927)

Reading in bed. I am sure this is something that is done (or attempted) by just as many other “Hundreds and thousands, possibly millions, of people every night……” around the planet, and not just England.

I, for one, do (try). Hahah! Sometimes I succeed in keeping my eyes open long enough to make sense of what I’m reading, before the words start ‘swimming’, or before my arms give way under the weight of the book (no matter how slim the volume may be). My greatest concern is that I hope I don’t damage the dear book in the event of having lax hands. Really.

And sometimes I just downright fail. Those are the times when ‘the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’. But still I say, it’s always worth a try! πŸ˜‰
By the way, my current bedtime reading has been Wilkie Collins’s No Name, and alternatively Elizabeth Bowen’s The Collected Stories. Both are chunksters, and therefore fall under the category of ‘high risk’ for ‘damage-prone-books-resulting-from-lax-hands’. :p

Alternatively, one could always consider taking on Rose Macaulay’s suggestion.

Only one hour in the normal day is more pleasurable than the hour spent in bed with a book before going to sleep, and that is the hour spent in bed with a book after being called in the morning.

Rose Macaulay, A Casual Commentary (1925)

But for those of us who still think we prefer to do our reading in bed when all is dark and still…. I think we can well benefit from heeding the words of Erasmus.

A little before you go to sleep, read something that is exquisite.

Desiderius Erasmus, Colloquies: Of the Method of Study (c. 1500-8)



13 thoughts on “Friday Feature : On Reading In Bed

  1. I enjoyed reading this post! Reading before going to sleep is part of my routine, but often I’m too tired for more than a few pages. I never read in bed in the morning… must trudge off to the kitchen for my coffee πŸ˜‰


    1. I never read in bed in the morning too, though it’s not because I need to get my coffee. πŸ™‚ It’s more to do with the fact that I am more of a ‘night owl’ sort of person who loves the still and quiet of the night air, and therefore tend keep quite ungodly hours. This in turn means that I seldom find myself waking up early enough in the mornings and have the luxury of lazing in bed reading, before the duties and responsibilities of the day start calling. :p


  2. I love this post! I love reading in bed…sometimes I climb into bed in the middle of the day and read for an hour (or a couple!). And of course, I read almost every night in bed before drifting off to sleep.

    Are you enjoying No Name? I’m reading Collins’ The Woman in White right now. It’s my first Collins and I love it so much, I’ve already begun thinking about what I should try next of his work.


    1. No Name happens to be my first Collins, too. And I am absolutely loving it! I have always had the impression that ‘The Woman In White’ is his best work and had wanted to read it ever since realising that Sarah Water’s ‘Fingersmith’ got its inspiration from there. By the way, if you love The Woman In White, you should really consider reading Fingersmith too, that is if you haven’t yet done so. It is truly brilliant.
      I chose to start with No Name because I thought of ‘saving the best for last’, and didn’t expect to find myself enjoying it so much. Now, I might be even inclined to think that this could turn out to be my favourite Collins, after all. πŸ˜‰


      1. I haven’t read Fingersmith but it’s on my to-read list. Everyone raves about it and I had no idea that there was a connection between it and The Woman in White. Maybe I’ll try that next. Thank you for the recommendation. πŸ™‚


  3. Wonderful! I read in bed every night even if it is only for five or ten minutes. It is my relaxing and transition time and if I don’t do it I have a hard time falling asleep. A happy Friday night used to be getting into bed early and reading for several hours but I can’t manage to do it anymore because getting up at 5 a.m. for work all week catches up to me fast my Friday night!


    1. I can just imagine how having to get up at 5 a.m. for work all week can catch up to one’s energy reserves. As it is, even though I don’t need to get up as early as that, I find that I am rarely able to read very much before bedtime. Some time ago, I used to try listening to audiobooks when I got into bed, as I thought it required much less energy to ‘read’ that way. It’s like having someone read you a bedtime story, sort of. πŸ˜‰


  4. I love the idea of reading in bed, but downstairs when the rest of the household is asleep upstairs is what works best for me.

    No Name is, I think, my favourie Collins, so I do hope you’re enjoying it.


    1. I do enjoy the occasional reading downstairs when the others have retired upstairs too. And I probably would have done more of this if not for the fact that the other occupants in the household are equally ‘fond’ of keeping to ungodly hours. Therefore, it would take quite a bit of effort to ‘outstay’ them in keeping awake in order to have the pleasure of those solitary downstairs moments. πŸ˜‰

      Am definitely enjoying No Name very much, thank you! Glad to know it’s your favourite Collins. I have a feeling it might just turn out to be mine too. πŸ™‚ So thrilled to know that there’s still so much more of Collins’s works out there that I have yet to read.


  5. My husband and I both love reading in bed and both do it every night. I know I’m worn out when I’m too tired to read, and even then I try to read something–anything–for a few moments. I’ve read a few books that could injure the sleepy reader–like some of Stephen King’s recent books. Falling asleep holding The Dome could seriously endanger your nose!


    1. Hahahaa…. thanks for the warning! Will remember to steer clear of those large tomes at bedtime, for the sake of my nose. πŸ˜‰
      Good thing I’ve never been a fan of Stephen King’s books, except for his ‘Misery’.


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