Bedtime Stories: May 2018

  • May 21, 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.

Bedtime Stories: May 2018

Carrie Johnson:

Aside from family and friends, reading is the great joy of my life.

I'm an only child who spent a lot of time with books, magazines, and newspapers as a kid. And that habit has followed me to Washington. I subscribe to the print versions of the New York Times and the Washington Post, as well as the New Yorker, New York magazine, Vanity Fair, and the Atlantic. Keeping up these days can be a challenge.

The pace of news (and the sheer number of articles I read in traditional papers or via social media throughout the day) means that evening reading is an escape. After college, I worked briefly for a publisher of experimental fiction called the Dalkey Archive Press. Even now, I often turn to novels for a sense of perspective and humanity, and a way to connect to an inner life far beyond politics.

I'm currently savoring the novel Less by Andrew Sean Greer, and cringing every time the lead character courts disaster in one form or another. But it's rare that a book prompts me to laugh out loud.

Strong women characters are always a draw. Can't get enough of Elizabeth Strout, especially her newer novel, Anything Is Possible. Also couldn't put down Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan, who writes such compelling heroines.

Many of the women in my book club, which has mostly given up on group reading and now passes around paperbacks like Altoids mints, find pleasure in mysteries. Stacked on the table near my couch are two I hope to read this summer. Joe Ide is an evocative writer whose LA-based hero is brilliant and different. His Righteous is a sequel to the book IQ, which knocked my socks off.

Underneath that book in the pile is The Late Show by Michael Connelly, the former newspaper reporter who always manages to teach me something about how to do my day job, even in his crime novels.

Then there's the new collection of essays by Lorrie Moore, See What Can Be Done. Picked up this book recently on a trip to Madison, Wisconsin, where I went to graduate school and where Moore taught for many years. The bookseller at the shop A Room of One's Own there asked me if I studied with Moore. Sadly, no.

Through the late 1990s and early 2000s, I left the office and came home and devoured nonfiction: the biography of Harry Truman by David McCullough, a number of titles about racial disparities in the justice system, and the like.

For the last year or so, though, my brain has been on overload. I'm hoping that The Mars Room, the new novel that Rachel Kushner has set in a women's prison, will break the spell.

A close friend of mine in Canada has been sending me gentle reminders about work-life balance, but I don't seem to be getting the hint. That's why titles such as Helen Russell's The Year of Living Danishly and Thich Nhat Hanh's How To Walk have come to be sitting on my bookshelf unread, so far.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for National Public Radio.

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