Stuffing Myself Silly

2020 was probably my worst ever reading year.

Books and the time to read them were among the first things to fall with the arrival of HRH Prince Obi and of course la corona.

I felt the lack deeply. Without their nourishment, I came up empty of ideas and energy so often I wondered if I’d started to lose my creativity.

So it felt completely luxurious to pick up a new book while we were still on holidays a few weeks ago and fall into it without feeling like there was anything else I was supposed to be doing.

(And then I felt so excited about the possibility of reading more that I promptly ordered Dark SkiesLosing Eden and The Old Ways even though I have literally dozens of books at home waiting to be read and now I have to lug all these extra books back to Portugal this weekend. I regret nothing.)

The book that spurred this flurry of biblio-optimism is Marie Antoinette: The Journey, by the fantastic writer and historian Antonia Fraser.

From the first page I was thrilled. Fraser combines a relentless eye for detail with a glorious wit, and every moment I spent reading felt like I was stuffing myself silly at a kind of literary feast.

But soon my delight gave way to anxiety, as a return to work loomed and my reading time would have to become writing time.

And then I realised I could be doing this every day if I wanted to.

(That’s always been true, but I forgot.)

So this week I decided that I would start each work day with a book. Just for 30 minutes or so.

Reading in the mornings used to be an existential threat to my productivity.

Many were the days early in my freelance life that I completely blew off work because I impulsively opened a book before I got out of bed.

The guilt always crept up on me as the hours went on, the voice in my head getting more shrill by the page.

But in hindsight I think those days were well spent.

Sure, I might need to update the model a bit — reading in bed is far too luxurious to limit to half an hour — but when I actually got back to the work after that kind of a day, I was always full to the brim with ideas and energy.

So I’m hopeful that 2021 is a better reading year. In fact, I’m committed to making it so.

Good writing is always the result of good reading, and even more importantly, good reading makes for good thinking, and good living.

What are you reading at the moment?