When do you read? And what do you read whenever it is when you’re reading?
I ask this because I find that, almost unconsciously, I’ve slipped into an odd habit in recent months. Before your imaginations leap to unwarrantable conclusions, I hasten to qualify this statement: I’m finding — increasingly — that not only am I reading two or three titles simultaneously, I’m additionally selecting what time of day to read them.
Here’s the thing: I tend to read in bed. Because I can. Because I have the leisure time to read then. Because I enjoy not being distracted by visitors, television, electronic gizmos or the bad news in the papers or on the radio. (For the sake of prurience I refrain from mentioning the other obvious distractions.) And I read before going to sleep and again when waking up.
The pattern I seem to have developed and that appears to suit me is this: I read fiction at night, non-fiction in the morning. Recently nighttime reads include novels by Patricia Highsmith, Owen Sheers, Joan Aiken, Charlotte Brontë and H Rider Haggard. Non-fiction numbers a collection of counterfactual narratives by noted historians, a study of Victorian surveyors involved in the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India in the early 19th century, and a series of essays on the art of fiction.
I’m not entirely sure why there’s this division when, not so long ago, I was happy to read either category at either time. Maybe non-fiction, with its bite-size chunks of info-dumping or discussion, often chopped up by chapter or by subheading, suits the gap between waking and the start of the morning’s routine (opening the curtains, feeding the cat, drying up last night’s washing, scaring the pigeons off the bird feeder — you know, essentials like that). Perhaps fiction, where the pace of the narrative often courses over chapter divides, encourages me to read till dropping eyelids confirm I’ve not taken in the previous paragraph.
Everyone has different imperatives in their life, and I’m sure your reading habits may radically differ from mine or only overlap to a limited extent. Are you a creature of habit following a distinctive regime? Or do you read as and when, at any time whenever you feel the urge or have the opportunity?