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