Where do you do your reading? Propped up on a pile of pillows in the dark, the lamp focused just off the page so you don’t get blinded by the light bounce? In an armchair, feet up on the table, with a glass or a bowl of munchies close to hand? Or on the pot, locked in from the world and undisturbed (until a Small Person starts banging on the door and asking, “Papa, WHAT are you doing”)?
Different locations, different reading. Different times of day. One of the nicest feelings in the world is to wake up in the dark before dawn because I’m excited about a book. To light the lamp (and keep it shaded so I don’t wake up Certain Other People) and lie back against the pillows, turning the pages till first light filters through the curtains and the Resident Moron is kind enough to bring me my coffee. Such a thrill.
Somehow it’s more satisfying to start the day with a long read than to end it in bed with a book. Bedtime is our own time, after all. We’re supposed to read ourselves to sleep. Of course, I love that too. It’s a wrench when I realise that sleep cannot be denied any longer and I have to put the bookmark in, put the book away and switch off the light. The morning read, however, is pure indulgence. A hint of sin … avoiding the morning run, the gym, the planning of work for the day, all for the love affair with the printed word. Blissful. Last night and this morning it was Terry Pratchett, The Night Watch. These days, Sam Vimes is definitely who I want to be. (I flatter myself that we have little bits in common. No, I do not wear a helmet or smoke panatellas. Or elbow people in the nose. At least, not any more.)
The next stop is the Undisturbed (well, almost) Read. I do not subscribe to The Economist or the EPW, all I read is India Today and Outlook. (Those nauseating supplements on the world’s most expensive watches and what the designers eat for brunch? The Very Small Person reads those. When she really learns to read, I shall throw them off the balcony.) And oh, another retro publication. TIME magazine. Standard reading On the Pot.
The Throne has its own unique pleasures. In terms of reading, that is. But reading on the pot is like canapés. Bite-sized pieces. A novel or a treatise does not belong in The Room where Everybody Goes. Magazines are ideal. Articles fit into mouthfuls of time. Or languid books, books of rambles and anecdotes and musing and little bits of sniping. Currently, Auberon Waugh’s Way of the World and Peter Mayle’s Encore Provence.
An important question – are newspapers best savoured on the pot? Personally, I’d say no. The morning papers are best savoured lying in bed, the curtains opened so the morning light pours in, the supplements spread out around the coffee tray. The Throne is for “some few to be tasted”.
And where does one read books that require a little more application? My place is in my study, sprawled in my treadle chair (my feet up on my rocking footstool, such delight), perhaps with my pipe beside me for the tactile pleasure when I clean it and go back over something that needs thinking through. Rarely do I read novels there (one exception being Kostova’s The Historian, read through one long Saturday when I was alone at home). Right now? The Argumentative Indian. Heavy stuff. Our good doctor is, after all, an academic. The donnish style is rarely transmuted into the story-telling lucidity of John Ronald Ruel or Feynman.
One last refuge of pleasure. Some afternoons in office, when I’m fed up of meetings and negotiations and union demands, I switch on the “Busy” light, reach back over my left shoulder for something from the bookshelf and bid the world goodbye for a while. A book that I wouldn’t make time for otherwise (The Mammaries of the Welfare State, such a poor encore after English, August) or again, something I can dip into and mull over. (Bill Bryson’s The Mother Tongue, a delight when taken in small doses).
There is, of course, one more kind of reading that has increasingly eaten into my time. To the extent that I consciously limit it to twice a week.
 In my college days, my room was up on the terrace. The bathroom had the Pot with the Smallest Hole in the World. When I was enthroned, my great-aunt (rest her soul) would come up to water her roses and INVARIABLY ask through the door “What are you doing in there?” Excuse me? What the hell do you think I’m doing in here? Building a robot? Negotiating peace in the