Via a random illustrated meme, I became aware of the term librocubicularist, meaning somebody who reads in bed. And I love the –ist ending that implies that reading in bed is not just something you do from time to time but something that you do regularly and with forethought. Libro = bookish, cubiculum = bedroom, simple enough, right?

A little too simple, perhaps. My latin dictionary is at the cleaners right now but I’m pretty sure that a liber is a book not a reader and a cubiculum is a bedroom not a bed. A librocubicularist could just be somebody who keeps a lot of books in a bedroom, a common enough thing in small apartments and in the book-hoarding loving community in general.

I found sponda as one of a handful latin words for bed, and the word for reader is lector. Orthodox as it may be, spondalector just doesn’t do it for me. So can we get an origin for librocubicularist?

No listings in any of the regular dictionaries but both wiktionary and urbandictionary have it, admittedly not a high bar. One of them cites Trivial Pursuit as a source. Hmm. Deeper googling comes up with a printed use in  Vol VII of the American Oxonian 1920 edited by Frank Aydelotte,


who uses librocubicularist perhaps archly in review of Christopher Morley’s book, In the Sweet and Dry and Dry. Maybe Morley coined the term in that book or another? Aydelotte also mentions alcoholsheviks and ginarchists firmly locating us in history with both prohibition and the early days of the Soviet Union.

The estimable Helen comes to most of the same conclusions and also publishes the picture that started me on this chain (but where did the illustration come from?) although she cites a Morley novel of 1921 when I’ve got the word in print in 1920 – maybe Morley got it from Aydelotte or it was in more than one Morley book?

In any case, it’s too juicy a word not to use, though I’m not totally sold on the practice. For me, reading in bed as a prelude to sleeping in bed too often leads to waking up later in the night with a mangled paperback under your pillow or with your cheek pressed against the smooth, drool-resistant gorilla glass surface of your ereading device.

I’ve been taught that a relaxing pre-sleep routine can lead to higher quality sleep in appropriate quantities. Reading something light or dull might fill that bill, but I’m not sure if reading something challenging or exciting makes for the most restful repose, and it hardly seems fair to a great book to fall alseep in the midst of it.

My preference would be to find a spot as well-suited to reading as a bed should be for sleeping. Besides the physical ergonomics, the lighting you want for sleeping is totally different from that you’d want for reading. And if you’re reading with a backlit device in your cubiculum, beware the bluish daylight-like brain-fooling sleep-disrupting light from such devices.

For advanced study of staying in bed, I recommend reading Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov, or at least Gary Shteyngart’s essay thereupon in the New York Times.  For advanced study of reading (sometimes in bed), check out La Lectrice, a film based on a novel about a reader for hire.

Good night, and happy reading.  Also happy #OneWordWednesday