Tips for reading in the bath (or how to avoid fines and electrocution)

And now, for a light-hearted break. I love to read in the bathtub. In fact, it’s probably my favorite spot to read. Maybe it’s the warmth, or perhaps the lack of interferences and distractions. I suspect most people, if they happen to find time to sink in the suds for more than five minutes, instead hope to secure moments to relax, turn down the watts – add candles if they’re really into it – and simply tune out. I hadn’t before imagined bathing habits to be something I’d publicly blog about, nor would I have guessed before looking that others have shared online tips about reading in the bath. But what did bring it to my attention was when I heard a bestselling author share during a book talk earlier this week that the bath was her favorite place to read. And, in fact, she had a tip to share. More about that shortly, but first…

I love baths. Should Clackamas County institute water conservation measures, something not hard to imagine these days, my neighbors might find me collecting rainwater in barrels to use for my tub. (I’ll promise to skip the bubbles and reuse my gray water for other purposes.) I have a memory of a time decades ago, after our pipes burst one eastern Oregon winter, of hauling water from a not-yet-frozen non-chlorinated outdoor swimming pool, boiling it on the stove and dumping it into the tub, all so I could have a bath. Really? That seems an odd thing for a twelve-year-old. I vaguely remember weird things floating in it and I don’t think I ever did it again, but I’m sure I had a book with me in the tub.

I admit it: I’m spoiled in my bath-taking behavior. I like to make the excuse that it helps my back, traumatized by a previous car accident. But in my heart I know it is inherited behavior. Our dad was known to take two baths daily, one before going to work, and one after returning home. If he happened to be home mid-day he might just take a third. As mentioned in My Music Man, Dad was precise in his grooming habits. Us kids grew up calling dibs for “seconds and even thirds“ to reuse Dad’s bathwater. Perhaps it was our version of water conservation (or it might have been we knew we would run out of hot water as the evening progressed) as Dad’s bath temperature was near scalding, demonstrated by his lobster-colored, partially toweled body as he stepped out of the steamy bathroom, and the next bather stepped in. Mom liked cooler water, and one of us kids might be extra lucky to sandwich in between the two of them. In more pristine families this all might be considered a bit gross, but let’s be real here. Just how dirty could this guy be who took two baths a day and worked in an office?

But back to reading in the bath. I’ve learned after causing a few book casualties over the years to catch myself before I begin to nod off, carefully setting the book aside. Once, and please don’t share this with our local librarians, I was reading a thick, hard-bound library book in the bath. I set it on the side of the tub as I got out, only to have my lagging foot dump it into the water. I thought the five-second rule might apply to water as well as it does to food on the floor, dried it off, and borrowed a blow dryer to further dry the residual. It was a week after returning the surviving volume to the library when I got the dreaded note from the library informing me I owed $25 for book damage. Jeesh. And I hadn’t even liked the book. (And in case someone out there is tagging my library account, for the record, this was the only library book I’ve ever needed to replace.)

I’ve always preferred “real” books to e-books, although I do read an e-book once in awhile. I’m wise enough, thankfully, never to consider taking my ipad into the tub with me. (Great headline, though: Experienced Safety professional shocked by bathtime reading.) A few times when I simply couldn’t put the book I was reading down, I have put my ipad in a safe spot (i.e., away from where I could clumsily knock it into the tub) and selected the VoiceOver setting to have it read to me. That type of listening, unlike audiobooks with carefully selected narrators or voices, is disappointing.

So, let’s get back to this bestselling author: let’s call her R.D. For after all, I don’t know if this is a personal story she doesn’t share with just anyone! She referred to a shelf she has in her bathroom specifically lined with only those books she reads in the tub! After I heard her speak I checked out one of her books from the library. It just happens to be hard cover. I feel as if I might be tempting fate if I take it with me to the tub – although if I happened to nod off and it plopped into my lavender bubbles it could be an expensive first book for a new bathroom collection.

Better yet, instead, I decided to follow R.D.’s example – maybe it’ll be a new bathroom trend! Here’s the thing, while I have reread books, I have not reread any the number of times that R.D. and other authors claim. And so, I am inspired. I peered through the top shelf of books in my bedroom, the ones that I know I’ll continue to reread and keep around as long as I have space. And presto! My first bathroom book shelf. I can hardly wait to get in the tub. Maybe I’ll even get to two baths a day, just like Dad. (P.S. I think my librarian friends just might like this.)

Dede’s new Bathroom Book Shelf

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