25 OCTOBER 1963, Page 11

Asleep in the Deep What should one read when ill?

Personally, I favour an eternity of bliss spent in perusing the works of Eric Ambler. Ian Fleming, Raymond Chandler et alii, but unfortunately the output of these writers does not keep pace with my de- mands, and raids on the public library simply produce works I have read before. The only re- sort then is the long historical book, if possible about some rather remote subject. Here there is a world to enter and no danger of the ex- haustion of alternatives. Runciman's History of the Crusades is obviously a good choice for this purpose, and so are long official biographies of nineteenth-century statesmen with plenty of let- ters and quotations from speeches to give the flavour of the time. What is hopeless is to try to get any immediately useful reading done. Then , the eye wanders, and sleep comes dropping low.