Bedtime reading: why didn’t I think of this before?

So, a day or so ago, I found out that this new mattress company, Casper, is running a creative promotion in honor of National Readathon Day, which it turns out is on January 24th. Who knew? Never heard of it, but hey, up with National Readathon Day, although I doubt very much I will be reading any great novel on Saturday because my current revision (MOUNTAIN) is sort of not done yet. But it’s kinda clever that a mattress company would encourage blog posts about bedtime reading. One can see that they’d like to know about avid readers settling into their bed with a good book. I’m sure they’d be pleased if anybody else jumped in with posts on the topic, and as it happens, it’s a suggestion that caught my eye because I actually only just started reading in bed a couple of months ago.

I didn’t start reading in bed because I got a new mattress last summer, though I did in fact get a new mattress, and I’m glad to say it did reduce my hip pain by a lot, so I no longer wake up in pain at three AM every single morning, which is great. I don’t know why it took me so long to think that a different kind of mattress might help, but hey, it’s a lot better to think of it late than never. I should get a little ottoman or something to make it easier for the dogs to jump up on the bed, though, ’cause it’s higher than the old one. (It’s a memory foam mattress, btw. For me it is too warm in the summer, a common problem with memory foam, but it’s worth it to reduce the hip pain. I see Mattress Engineers are trying harder and harder to design out the problem with heat, lots of different designs out there now, including this new kind of foam at Casper, evidently.)

Anyway, as I say, I didn’t start reading in bed because of the new mattress. Naturally the dogs made me do it. Specifically Kenya.

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Kenya has her little quirks. For example, she starts staring at me and wagging her tail suggestively at about four, or even three thirty, because supper time is five and she doesn’t want me to forget. When wagging her tail doesn’t work fast enough, she starts barking.

She barks at me to get me to move the other dogs out of her spot on the couch, too. Did I mention she has a shrill, annoying bark?

AND she recently started doing the same kind of thing about an hour before bedtime, because she knows she gets a biscuit at bedtime. Rather than yell at her to shut up (to which she is completely oblivious) or quit giving out biscuits at bedtime (harsh!) I have just gotten in the habit of going downstairs early, handing out biscuits, and reading for a while.

But! This definitely doesn’t mean I wake up groggily at two am with pages stuck to my face. No. After all, as a dedicated morning person, I will be waking up at about five or five thirty. Intense page-turning thrillers are not what I want at bedtime. For me, *bedtime* reading is nonfiction — even when I’m tearing through my enormous fiction backlog, I’ll put the fiction down and pick up nonfiction as I go downstairs. At the moment, my bedtime reading is ROOTS AND BRANCHES, a collection of essays by Tom Shippey, about Tolkien and philology. I don’t always get through too much of that before switching off the light! But on the other hand, they are fascinating essays. At the moment, Shippey is explaining how “fiction” and “dough” have the same root word. Hmmm.

Unlike with fiction, I often have multiple nonfiction titles going at once. At the moment, I’m also reading Fuchsia Dunlop’s memoir about going to China and learning to cook Chinese food at this cooking school in Sichuan. Let’s see. Okay, the actual title is: Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China. I have a couple of Dunlop’s cookbooks and like them and I thought I would like this memoir, which I do, more or less. It is interesting and engaging, but a bit horrifying in spots, because at least at the time, Chinese cooks were not the least bit concerned about animal suffering and they would do things like, well, never mind. And they really do eat dogs. Dunlop does not whitewash out those bits, which I . . . am glad of? . . . but you can see why it is not necessarily the best bedtime reading. I may bring it back upstairs and finish it during other times of day.

I am partway through Brain Surgeon: A Doctors Inspiring Encounters with Mortality and Miracles — written by Keith Black, a truly gifted neurosurgeon. I would go straight to the neurological institute he founded at Cedars-Sinai if I had brain cancer. He sounds like an amazing guy and an incredible surgeon. This is an easy, inspiring book to read and I think I will give it to a local school when I’ve finished it.

Let’s see, what else? Okay, I see I have a book called Across Many Mountains: A Tibetan Family’s Epic Journey from Oppression to Freedom, by Yangzom Brauen. I expect that will be truly grim in spots, but can you imagine the courage it took to leave Tibet for the unknown? This is about three generations of women in one family, it says on the back, and they wound up building a new life for themselves in Switzerland, where the author was born. I think the story of what happened to Tibet should not be forgotten, and this memoir is supposed to be beautiful. Though it may not work as bedtime reading for me, because it is probably also harrowing.

More suitable may be Oliver Sacks’ The Mind’s Eye. Oliver Sacks writes with such fundamental humanity. He always sees his patients as people first and then as interesting problems.

Okay, the best for last: my brother gave me a book of essays about CJ Cherryh for Christmas! I didn’t even know it existed! It came out in 2004. The Cherryh Odyssey edited by Edward Carmien. It has tons of essays that sound great: “The Human as Other in the SF Novels of CJ Cherryh”, “Self-Creation in Cyteen”, “A Great Deal in Sand: Hammerfall”; I will even read the essay on her Rusalka trilogy despite hating that trilogy and having no plans to pick it up again after giving it away once.

Clearly this new thing of reading in bed is going to cause me to finish a lot more nonfiction titles this year than I did last year. That’s great! And it really is a good way to unwind (if I pick the correct kind of nonfiction, anyway). Honestly, I should have started reading in bed a long time ago. *Pats Kenya, who is annoying but right about going downstairs early.*

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2 thoughts on “Bedtime reading: why didn’t I think of this before?”

  1. I am surprised to learn you haven’t been reading in bed for such a long time.

    Re: Across Many Mountains , not my thing, but I can’t be the only one who’s charmed by the idea of Tibetan refugees eventually winding up in Switzerland. “Well, I suppose you could call the Alps mountains if you wanted to stretch a point…”

  2. It sounds like the kind of thing that would happen in fiction: While in a refugee camp in India, this beautiful young woman meets a young Swiss man long fascinated by Tibet . . . or so I gather from the front flap.

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