Winter. Long cold nights. Occasional gloomy days. Time to read.
Natural light is great, but winter is winter. Artificial light comes in many forms these days. Warm (yellowish); cool (white, bluish); indirect (bounced off the ceiling); direct (aimed at the page – glare is the problem); quantity (the three-way bulb). To continue thinking about light, try Jane Brox’s Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light: a history of and rumination on electricity and its predecessors.

Difficulties? As we age, reading requires more light. Try upping the lumens. A surprising variety of books is available in large type: your library can help. Of course, if anyone of any age is having trouble reading, the first step is an eye exam.

Couch, bed, floor; upholstery and padding (many of us bring a seat cushion when facing long hours in a library’s hard wooden chairs). The arms of armchairs are important: check that their height supports elbows, and thus the book in hand. The old seek support; the young elevate the feet, curl up, sprawl, whatever.

Where to read? Not the room with the tv: someone will turn it on. Perhaps a quiet private space, though these terms are not absolute. Libraries can be good, college libraries especially, ranging from old and mellow to bright and modern. There’s nothing quite like a freighter crossing the Pacific: passengers read avidly, and share their books, and their opinions of them.

Books come in many sizes and several shapes. Atlases and art books that need a stand, preferably angled. Oxford and other publishers issue small-format volumes, easily carried in a pocket and held in one hand. The ubiquitous mass market and trade paperbacks aren’t beautiful, or long-lasting, but there’s a lot of reading for your money. At the other extreme, books can be expensive and beautiful. E-books suit some.

My wife buys bath books: second-hand or remaindered paperbacks. When steam softens bindings and wrinkles pages, or after a dunk in the tub, they’re thrown out without compunction.

Then there’s the big question: content. Fact or fiction, light or heavy, English or other… This columnist has his preferences and prejudices. But this column is about the act of reading. Read what you like. Just do it.

Obviously, David R Jones reads.

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