Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Good Slow Books for Insomniacs

I can't sleep. I really can't.

Here's what I do when I can't sleep - I drink a glass of milk. I turn down the lights. I put little lists of things I need to do on Post It notes.  I turn off the television and the computer. Okay, I'm not following that rule right now, but I'm about to. I have a lovely day planned tomorrow and I don't want to miss it. Then if it's late, I go to my guest room where I won't bother my sweet husband who can't sleep either sometimes. I turn on the desk lamp over the bed and read a boring book.

I have some favorite boring books.

You know, I can't go on calling these books boring. I can't. It's not at all nice. They're not boring books, really, but they are slow reads, if you know what I mean. This type of book is good for falling asleep when you need to sleep, but they're also good for reading one or two paragraphs at a time. Those paragraphs are really good, yet quiet paragraphs. That's important in a good sleeping book. What's the point of reading a truly boring book anyway?

So, these books are slow reads, but I really savor those bits when I read them.

Anything by Henry Petroski is good for slow reading. He's a good writer, an engineer and he likes to write in English. Most engineers - and I know and love engineers - don't write in English. My favorite of Petroski's books is 'To Engineer is Human' but I also liked 'Engineers of Dreams' quite a bit. Oh, I just googled his books. He has a bunch more that look interesting. There is so much time in the middle of the night for that.

I'm reading 'Bird by Bird' by Anne Lamott in the night too. It doesn't quite qualify as boring, but I read it a paragraph or two at a time and I'm still entertained.

If you're an insomniac and into children's books, try reading 'Charlotte's Web' at night. A bunch of the chapters end in sweet good nights and sleep. It's almost like being sung a lullaby. To tell you the truth, I'd read anything by E.B. White, even 'The Elements of Style' though I'd rather read parts of his letters. The man must have been related to Fred Rogers, his style of writing is so calming and pure.

Another author I like for nighttime reading is David Quammen. He's a biologist that convinced me that life on earth depends on worms. Check out 'The Flight of the Iguana.' It's not jump out of your shoes kind of writing, but Quammen loves biology and he's quietly funny. I like guys who are quietly funny, but I'm old, frumpy, already married, and already happy, so I'm totally content to read books by quietly funny men at 1:00 in the morning.

Wallace Stegner's 'Marking the Sparrow's Fall' was a very good slow book, though I found I needed to read a few pages at a time with him. He took a while to get to the point and if I only read one or two paragraphs I'd lose track of the build-up.

I tried to read Nathaniel Fick's 'One Bullet Away' in the middle of the night. Oh, I should have known better. That book kept me awake for hours. No. War books, as good as they might be, just won't let you slip off into easy dreaming. Fick's book revved me up, got my adrenaline pumping, look out PTSD. I'm coming. Even if I did sleep, my dreams were a battlefield. Oh man, I really thought this was an excellent book, but don't read it before you try to sleep.

Michael Chabon's 'Manhood for Amateurs' was a good slow read. Oh, there were lovely descriptions of people in his book, but unfortunately for Mr. Chabon, I was very tired when I read his book and I don't remember what it's about except that I loved it and I loved him for it.

The nice thing about this, however, is that I can happily read it again! Don't you love that there are good things to say about insomnia? And isn't it lovely to think of reading a book you loved as if it were new to you?

I'm going to my guest room to read now. I have another book by Michael Chabon. I don't remember the title. Poor Mr. Chabon. I did just remember, though, that I got it from the library and it's overdue. I'll have to add that to my little Post It note for tonight, to renew it in the morning.

Thank you for listening, jb

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