Views & Reviews Between the Lines

The cost of reading

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c2665 (Published 19 May 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2665
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

    A famous author who was also a doctor, Somerset Maugham, once wrote that he was so devoted to reading that he would rather read a train timetable than nothing at all. I understand this state of mind well. Once, in a hotel room in Los Angeles, I had nothing but the telephone directory and spent two hours happily reading it. I was most impressed by the number of private detectives (none called Philip Marlowe).

    The other day I was on a train with nothing to read but a bookseller’s catalogue, from 1960, of “Old Medicine and Science.” This, too, I read happily for two hours. Ah, if I had only had the number …

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