The bedside table blog

Cover of The Other HandWhat’s on your bedside table right now?

I ask because bedside tables and their offerings are the new profiling tool, their little worlds in microcosm giving us copious info about who we are, who we want to be and who we should be dating.

In Enough Said, the last film ever made by James Gandolfini and starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus,  Albert’s marriage breaks up partly because he has no bedside tables. When his ex discovers this she says:

Metaphorically speaking, he’s not
building a life for himself.
I mean, who would date
a person like that?

Cover of The Tao of PoohIn The End of Your Life Bookclub, when Will Schwalbe looks round the bedroom of his dying mother, whose bedside table and the floor (every surface actually) is covered with books, he asks himself how much bleaker the room would look had his mother’s night table supported a lone Kindle.

And in the September/October edition of the ever trendy Frankie magazine, five young artists have been commissioned to draw their bedside tables. Way to go, Frankie!

What about my bedside tables at home? My little bedside world currently has  three books stacked on it:

  • The Other Hand by Chris Cleave – this book is also sold under the title Little Bee and has been very popular in my Book Club. I love this book, it makes me want to speak in Jamaican patois. If you click on the link you will get the idea of the storyline.
  • Cover of The Sound of a Snail Eating There’s also The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating. This is an unusual, quietly meditative book in which you will learn a lot (more than may be desirable, to be frank) about a little forest snail.
  • And The Tao of Pooh, which is my go-to book on those mornings when I can barely face the cone infested drive to a far-flung outpost of Library Land to get to a library that may or may not have stocked up on the full cream milk I require for my first cup of coffee.

In the parallel universe on the other side of the bed, my husband’s bedside table sports:

Italian Grammar for Dummies – bedtime discourse on the use of the subjunctive in Italian has entirely replaced any need for sedatives in our little world.

There’s also A History of Opera and a lone fiction work, The Panther, which he started reading seventeen months ago and hopes to complete when we travel again at the end of this year. I have to dust that book – often, and each time I wonder how on earth he is managing to remember the storyline.

How about you? Got any bedside books worth sharing?

A book a day…

Cover: The End of Your lIfe Book ClubThere may come a day when you will look back on all the reading you have enjoyed and think:

I could write a book on that…

Will Schwalbe’s The End of Your Life Book Club is one such book. With a membership of just two people, his dying mother and himself, Will Schwalbe writes so beautifully of the book bond between mother and son. And what a mother. Mary Anne Schwalbe was the first director of the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children. Her final endeavour, right up until her death, was helping to build libraries in Afghanistan.

Cover: Tolstoy and the Purple ChairBut wait, there’s more: the evocatively named Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch is the story of her extraordinary quest – steel yourselves for this – to read a book a day for the year following her beloved sister’s death. Even at the thought of 365 reads a year, I start hyperventilating. When I saw that she has produced a beautiful book where each thoughtfully identified chapter comes with its own carefully selected quotation, and that she did this with a home, a husband and four sons to look after, I could have wept.

In both these books, the recommended reads are part of a larger story, so they are redeemed from that awful listiness that can so easily happen in books about books. And that is something to bear in mind if you embark on a project like this. That and the ennobling sentiment of one of the quotes in Sankovitch’s book:

When you have possessed a book in mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold.
(Henry Miller, The Books in My Life.)