By Kristin van Ogtrop
Updated January 26, 2015
James Merrell

My family thinks I read in bed to relax; to learn something; and to make everyone stop talking to me (i.e. asking me for things). And they are right—but only partially. I mostly read in bed so I can fall asleep. No author would want me to admit that, perhaps, but there it is. Sometimes, however, this backfires: A few weeks ago I found myself with three things to read on my nightstand, and they were all bad choices, at least if you follow the book-as-sleeping-pill approach:

1. The Empty Glass, a new novel by J.I. Baker. Bad for bedtime because it is suspenseful; does not produce intended soporific effect.
2. “Everything that Rises Must Converge,” by Flannery O’Connor. I had a stapled copy of this story because my son was reading it for English class. Not good for nighttime reading as reading Flannery O’Connor just fills me with despair because she is just such a perfect writer, yet she makes it look so easy.
3. We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson. Recommended by my friend Mary for our book group. Just so wonderful and really much too creepy to make you tired.

By the time I finished reading those things, I was more sleep deprived than I have ever been. Luckily, now I have a new book on my nightstand: Inside of a Dog, by Alexandra Horowitz. After 10 minutes of reading it, I’m out like a light. Which means, of course, that it’s a wonderful book.