Bedside Manner: This Book Will Change Your Life
A peek at what Chronicle staffers’ bedside tables
By Kimberley Jones,
12:37PM, Mon. Oct. 4, 2010
There’s only so much space, week to week, we can devote to books in the Chron’s print issue. But here’s the thing: We’re always reading.
This week we kick off a weekly series in which we pull back the curtain, or rather, kick open the boudoir, to take a peek at what Chronicle staffers’ bedside tables look like. No, we’re not trolling for dirty stuff, just the revealing stack of books that we take to bed with us.
My bedside table is a mess. This isn’t even the half of it -- if the picture were to scroll down, you’d see a pile of half-read New Yorkers and Entertainment Weeklys, whatever impulse “better your life now!” magazine I suckered myself into at the checkout aisle, and also Lidia Bastianich’s Lidia Cooks From the Heart of Italy, in which I have carefully dog-eared pages to consult for those future and certainly fabulous dinner parties I’m planning (never gonna happen).
The stack on the table is also something of an aspirational thing: On the bottom is the high school French language textbook I picked up at Half Price Books about six months ago, thinking now was a good time to re-flex my long-lost AP French skills. (Not pictured: the flash cards I made, also six months ago, in a short fit of productivity. Not pictured because I don’t know where they are anymore. Quel dommage...)
Also on the bedside table is the Travis County Master Gardeners Garden Guide for Austin and Vicinity (Fourth Edition) – required reading for any newbie gardener like me, who likes to go to sleep with visions of happy companion planting in her head. Go on. Ask me about my radishes. I dare ya.
Anna Karenina, I swear, isn’t there to make me look smart. My job as Books editor means I need to keep my eye on what’s next, which means very rarely do I get to dip into the classics. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed some wicked insomnia. No, Tolstoy isn’t there to put me to sleep. Rather, I’ve found that reading some of the finest literature ever wrought has an incredibly calming effect on me. (And I have to tell myself that Tolstoy wrung the book out of himself; otherwise, the idea that writing this good could come effortlessly is just too painful to entertain.) So.... yeah, by calming, I guess I mean, yes, it gets me somewhere in the vicinity of sleep. But when it doesn’t – when I’m up until 4am reading about poor, second-place Levin (who could really come in handy with my fall garden) – I don’t mind at all. It feels like such a luxury to be re-reading something wonderful. I highly recommend going back to a book that banged you around when you were younger. I know I thought Levin was a stiff the first time around; now I can’t get enough of him.
Claire Dederer’s memoir Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses doesn’t come out until January, but as a sapling yogi (again with the aspirational living!) and a thirtysomething only just now easing out of those endless twenties, I’m loving her tart insights on both subjects.
And top of the pile is the newest addition: Austin writer Amelia Gray’s Museum of the Weird. I’m bummed the publisher only just sent me the book, not in time to get to it before Amelia’s reading with Mary Miller at BookWoman tonight at 7pm. I can only say this: I read the first two pages, and I dig it. I look forward to reading the next 169 pages. Something else to aspire to.