The long-standing books on my nightstand

I used to be a book monogamist. When I picked up a novel, I read it to completion; and when I was done with that single story, I moved on to the next one. Before blogging, my “to be read” stack was about three or four books. As my stash depleted, I’d pop over to Borders (RIP, old friend) and grab another novel from the three-for-two table.

Not anymore.

Books line most surfaces of my room, listing to one side in awkward stacks. I recently combed my bookcase and donated about 70 novels to the public library for their Saturday used book sales (so if you’re in Maryland, it could be your lucky day). My bookcase is neater, for sure, and no longer double- and triple-stacked. But I will never, ever run out of books.

Beside the bookcase is a green and pink table. In addition to my journals, cosmetics and old photographs are the novels on my proverbial nighstand. Four books are always ready to provide my pre-sleeping entertainment. Or, more specifically, my non-entertainment. These are my soothing books.

I’m a skittish reader. Suspenseful stories, emotional stories — these do not make for a pleasant sleeping environment. And as I have to read before bed every night (without fail), I have to carefully choose which books to peruse before it’s lights out. Anything high-stakes or high-drama will likely keep me up until the middle of the night, determined to finish, so I have to choose books that amble along at a gentle pace.

And I have a few of them. Julia Child’s My Life In France is my ultimate bedtime read. Lush, evocative and brimming with enough fabulous food to make your stomach ache, her memoir of living and cooking with her husband in and around Paris is fabulous. Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe she accurately recalled so many specific details of her time there (my own hang-up regarding memoirs), but I guess my time in France would be forever etched in my mind, too. I’m about 150 pages in and never want it to end, so I savor each morsel a page or two at a time. It’s been on my nighstand for about a year.

Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern by Joshua Zeitz is a novel I’ve been reading off and on for years, too. In the mood to read more non-fiction, I bought it on a whim and was sucked into the world of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, who had a rather interesting love story. They’re not at the center of the book, though they are principle characters — and I’ve enjoyed reading more about an author I’ve loved so much.

At the Book Blogger Convention last May, I met Jim Higley at an author roundtable. There to discuss Bobblehead Dad: 25 Life Lessons I Forgot I Knew, his own memoir, I was fascinated by Higley’s story as a columnist-turned-author and peppered him with questions about the process (sorry, Jim!). Beyond my interest in his publication story, Higley is a fascinating man who embraced life — and parenthood — even more fully after a cancer diagnosis and major change in his family. He was such a warm person and hugged me after I talked with him about my own life, which meant so much to me. His vignettes are very poignant, and I’ve also savored them slowly.

And what nightstand of Meg’s would be complete without a book on Niagara Falls? Long fascinated with the area, my boyfriend actually had a copy of Ginger Strand’s Inventing Niagara: Beauty, Power and Lies that I pilfered years back. It’s not always the most compelling reading, being weighed down at points by an exhaustive history of the falls, but I’m still plugging away and hope to finish (and return it, Spence!) someday.

So there you have it — four books, all non-fiction. I’m actually more likely to savor and enjoy memoirs over a prolonged period than I am a novel; with fiction, either it grabs me or it doesn’t. I’m more forgiving with non-fiction. If it doesn’t capture my interest immediately, I don’t chuck it; the book is simply set aside for when I’m in more of a “mood” to enjoy such a thing. And I eventually do.


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Do you have certain books you read before bed? Are you more forgiving with slightly boring non-fiction than fiction?


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15 thoughts on “The long-standing books on my nightstand

  1. I tend to take my current read to bed and it’s usually a mystery or a thriller, sometimes a really good contemporary fiction book. I agree though that a fast paced thriller is not conducive to swift sleep.

  2. My reading has definitely followed a pattern similar to yours–blogging has definitely opened up new worlds and filled the empty spaces in my house!

    I read My Life in France in a similar way–almost like comfort food, a bit here and there to round out the day.

    I’m currently reading Peter Ackroyd’s Venice in this way–it is so lyrical and poetic that I don’t want to just sit and read it in big chunks, much like I don’t want more than a slice of chocolate cake at one time.

    The Flapper and Niagra books both sound like something I would definitely like.

    Enjoy your books.

  3. Flapper sounds like a perfect companion to Rules of Civility which I’m reading now. I find that era of the 20th century fascinating. As for books I read before bed, I usually try to stick with books that have short chapters or more breaks within a chapter. I know I can read as much or as little as I want depending on how tired I am without having to stop right in the middle of the action.

  4. I wish I had books on my nightstand. Unfortunately, all my books end up sharing the bed with me. Last sheetwashing day I think I uncovered 5 books. Clearly, I’m sure this isn’t healthy. I don’t really read to relax or get sleepy so whatever I’m currently reading is usually my night-time read of choice.
    Flapper sounds like a book I need to check out – my current writing project uses this era in it and I feel like I should get to know the people of this time period a little better. Glad you mentioned it!

  5. I take my current book to bed, sometimes I regret it, but usually not. They’ve only invaded my dreams a couple of times.

  6. Reading in bed puts me to sleep, so I tend to read in the bath! I only ever have one book at a time, despite the fact that our home is awash with them! My wife and youngest daughter both worked in a bookshop, and as a result, we have row upon row of them on our bookshelves!

  7. So you’re a book polygamist too 🙂 My nightstand is overrun with abandoned books as well. Pity the non-review book that strikes my fancy, to be cast aside partially read for those with pressing deadlines and obligation to advance them.

  8. I loved learning what is on the nightstand for pre-bed reading. I loved My Life In France. I wanted to eat all the food, walk those streets, endure the recipe-writing friendship, and live that life. I don’t have special books to read before bed but I like this strategy…sometimes I get too excitable about a book and is not conducive to good sleep..

  9. The books on my nightstand are the ones I plan to read next. I usually read for an hour or so on my couch before getting ready for bed. Sometimes I’ll read in bed, but not for long. I usually read my current book.

    BTW – I love your new header!

  10. I usually just bring whatever I’m currently reading to bed with me, but sometimes that backfires (like when it’s so good, I can’t put it down in time to go to bed at a reasonable hour). I’ve been trying essays before bed, and those seem to work pretty well since they’re usually short. Flapper sounds really good, as does My Life in France.

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