Inspiring Older Readers

posted on 23 Mar 2019

Doing it in the bath?

The other day I was talking to a work colleague about how I’d spent a whole Sunday doing nothing but reading a new book I’d bought the day before. It’s something I used to do more frequently when I was younger but, for a variety of reasons, as I get older I feel more and more that I’m fighting to find space for doing nothing but reading. Now a whole day when I just shut the door on the world and allow myself to fall into a book feels like an incredible luxury and a wicked self-indulgence.

The person I was speaking to was amazed that I had the time, space and dedication to read a 400 page book in a single day. Her response – ‘Isn’t that wonderful. I never seem to have the time these days to read’ – is one that I’ve become accustomed to hearing whenever I ask anyone what they’ve been reading lately. Most people seem to be really reluctant to admit that they’d rather be doing other things than reading – there’s a sort of shame or guilt that seems to grip them when they have to contemplate how little they read.

The other response that usually pops up is that they like reading in bed but can never keep their eyes open for more than a few pages. I’ve certainly got some sympathy with that – I also like to read late at night before going to sleep and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve dropped my book on my face or onto the floor. I suspect that the older you get the more important it becomes to remain upright when you’re reading – finding the right reading chair for you is the key.

I’m completely agnostic about what can be considered the best place to read. I personally quite like reading on trains and planes but I know others find the distractions of other passengers too much to bear. I’m also happy to take books to dental or medical appointments – is there anything more depressing than having nothing to read but out-of-date Country Life magazines? When I was younger I even used to try reading as I was walking which was, in truth, more of an affectation than an effective reading strategy: I certainly know better now.

So, for me, reading just about anywhere is better than not reading at all. With one exception. Reading in the bath. How has anyone come to the conclusion that a bath and a book belong together?

Now I have to admit that I’m not a bath person – lying around in my own dirty water doesn’t strike me as a particularly luxurious offer at the best of times. I’m a shower person and no-one would even consider that a shower cubicle is an ideal reading venue but somehow a huge container full of dirty water and soap suds is. Pick up any manual on the art of book care and maintenance and there will be a whole chapter dedicated to explaining why books and water are natural enemies – no book that comes into contact with moisture is ever the same again and reclaiming them from prolonged exposure to a damp atmosphere is an almost lost cause.

So by all means select your own optimum place for reading – a winged armchair or maybe a cosy nook – and then choose your preferred position – recumbent or upright – and just enjoy the experience. But – please – not the bath because that’s the place books are tortured and destroyed…..


Terry Potter

March 2019