Today I’m borrowing a topic from Catherine at Reading to the Core which she, in turn, has borrowed from a popular column in the New York Times called “By the Book”: What’s on your nightstand?
First, there are the books that I am actually reading. I read books for grown-ups before bed, but they have to be just the right kind of book. Quiet, evenly paced, nothing too upsetting or challenging. I’m in the middle of Sigrid Nunez’s The Friend, which is such a wonderful book for me because so much of it is about writing and being a writer. I am a bit surprised that it’s so popular. Perhaps everyone is a writer at heart? It’s also about dogs and grief and solitude. I came across The Friend when I was researching award-winning books by women writers for the reading challenge I’m doing with my mom this year.
I don’t always have multiple bedtime books going, but right now I’m also reading a nonfiction book called The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating. It’s a memoir by a woman who is bedridden with a chronic illness. Her friend brings her a snail from the forest (what an odd gift! “I saw this snail and thought of you.”) and she finds such interest and engagement in observing it as it goes about its daily business. And then she begins reading about snails, so her writing blends her observations with her research. I had no idea snails could be so fascinating. This is a book that reminds me to notice and observe the world around me. Rich subjects for my attention and for my writing are everywhere. This is a book my mother read and then gave to me, telling me it would be perfect for before-bed reading.
Many types of books that I love to read are too agitating to read before bed. They wake my mind up with too many ideas (professional development books) or too much outrage (nonfiction about issues). Those have to be morning books.
My professional development book right now is Game Changer! Book Access for All Kids by Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp, loaned to me by my friend and fellow blogger Shaye. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read this book. I try to be mindful that I shouldn’t only read PD books that speak to the choir, and anything by Donalyn and Colby would most certainly be speaking to the choir. But it’s really excellent and full of good research and it’s a quick read and one I could imagine suggesting my preservice teachers not only read themselves (of course!) but also buy for their principals to read.
My nonfiction book about issues is American Prison by Shane Bauer. It’s riveting, but a hard read. One of those man’s inhumanity to man kind of books that makes me so angry and so sad and so frustrated because one individual person doesn’t always feel like she can make much difference when it comes to sweeping social reform that’s needed. I don’t remember how I found out about this book.
I am trying to get into the habit of reading a poem every morning to start the day, and I have Layli Long Soldier’s Whereas by my side for that purpose. Her poems are challenging to me, demanding reads, and I find I understand more and enjoy more if I get into a rhythm and read several at once. I discovered this book when I was researching titles for Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge, and I knew I wanted to read it because she is Oglala Lakota and writes about the place where I live.
Then, there are the aspirational reads, books I haven’t started yet but plan to get to soonest. I’ll be spending Thursday in one of my preservice teacher’s classrooms, co-teaching 9th and 10th graders, and I want to read at least a bit of One Cut and Kiss of Broken Glass so I can book talk them, because I think they might be just right books for two students who are struggling to find the right book to read. I want to read Sayantani DasGupta’s The Serpent’s Secret so that I can booktalk it in my Children’s Literature course—and also because I sat with her at the Children’s Book Award Luncheon, and she was lovely and interesting and I vowed to go right home and read her book and here it is March and I haven’t even opened it yet. I have several books I’ve heard about on podcasts in my stack and I may or may not get to them before I max out on library renewals and have to return them.
Of course as soon as I clean this stack off the nightstand, I will only have made room for more books to take their place, and more books always do.
What’s on your nightstand?