Bedtime Stories: Sept. 2018
- September 11, 2018
What do book lovers have queued up on their nightstands and ready to read before lights-out? We asked one of them, and here’s what she said.
When someone asks me what books are on my nightstand, I’m not sure if they want a literal listing of the tottering stack there that might kill me in my sleep, or if they mean what’s stacked on my metaphorical nightstand, in the little “to be read” piles in various corners of my life, all over my house. They’re all books I want to read next, except that it’s possible none of them will be the next book.
It’s a process, deciding the next book you will read. Sometimes you think a book is going to rise to the top of the stack, and — buzzer — it isn’t the right book of the moment. A book deserves to be read at the right moment, if it can be.
Some of my favorite reads have been books that surprised me by quenching a thirst I didn’t even know I had. You can’t predict that kind of thing. You can’t make a STACK of books and expect the perfect one to be just sitting there. Can you?
The basic problem here is that I collect far more books than I can read. I want to read them, though, and so I keep them nearby. Just nearby to several places.
On my literal nightstand as I type this: Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock; Stay Awake by Dan Chaon; Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love; and Bone on Bone by Julia Keller. I have started them all, you understand. They are not rising to the top. It’s not their fault. It’s mine. My attention span isn’t what it should be, because I’m drafting the end game in my next novel at the moment. Other people’s fiction can be a distraction at this particular point in the process.
What I’ve been reading before bed instead of fiction — we’re on the literal nightstand still — is The Invention of Murder by Judith Flanders. It’s the perfect crime writer’s bedtime story in that I love it but I can’t read much of it before it falls, quite heavily I might add, onto my face.
Now for the metaphorical nightstand. One of them, anyway. Sitting there on the end table next to the couch, begging me to read them long before I even make it to the bedroom for the night. These are the suspects: Megan Abbott’s Give Me Your Hand; Bad Dreams and Other Stories by Tessa Hadley; Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie, a classic I’ve never read that feels like it’s rising to the top at this very moment.
When I switch locations, there’s another to-be-read stack waiting. This one is on the back porch, where I do most of my writing during the spring and summer. In that stack: Attica Locke’s Bluebird, Bluebird; Draft No. 4 by John McPhee; The Last Draft: A Novelist’s Guide to Revision by Sandra Scofield; and The Best American Mystery Stories, edited by Laura Lippman, from 2014 and considered to the be the best of its like.
But these little stacks around my life are the books waiting for me to get my act together and read. (Don’t even get me started on the to-be-read stacks on the actual bookshelf. Bookshelves, plural.) As apologetic as this piece has been so far, I’ve managed to finish reading a few books this year that I can highly recommend.
November Road by Lou Berney, out in October, is a crime novel set at the moment when John F. Kennedy was shot. A mid-level street lieutenant to a New Orleans crime boss knows too much about how it really went down, and goes on the run. It’s also a love story, and a family story, and the characters will become a part of your life.
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata is a weird one, a slim little Japanese novel about a woman who is good at one thing — running a convenience store — and when she can’t do it anymore, well, that’s inconvenient.
Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia is a thriller about a language therapist in a psychiatric facility who risks everything to help a famous and uncommunicative patient save his father from the wilds of the Boundary Waters in Minnesota.
What You Want to See by Kristen Lepionka is the second in the Roxane Weary private-eye series, sending Roxane out to follow a woman suspected of cheating. When the woman is killed on the street, Roxane’s client is a top suspect. She might be backing the wrong horse.
Go to My Grave by Catriona McPherson is a twisty country-house mystery with a pile of bickering cousins returning to the scene of a decades-old crime. This one kept me thinking about it for weeks afterward. It’s out in October.
Lori Rader-Day is the three-time Mary Higgins Clark Award-nominated author of Under a Dark Sky, The Day I Died, Little Pretty Things, and The Black Hour. The Day I Died just won an Anthony Award for Best Paperback Original at Bouchercon 2018.