The 4 Types of Books to Avoid Before Bed

cantsleepbookYou arrive at the office late, with dark circles under your eyes and a mop bucket for a coffee thermos in your hand. Eleven minutes into the workday, you’re contemplating sneaking a George Costanza–style nap under your desk. Your coworkers want to know what kind of crazy late-night shenanigans led to your disheveled state.

“All I’m going to say is that my evening ended in bed ..with a Russian,” you tell them.

There’s no need to tell them that the Russian was Victor Orlov. And there’s definitely no need to tell them that he’s a character in the Daniel Silva spy novel that you stayed up reading till 4 a.m. After all, your reputation could use a dash of intrigue since you mistakenly attached a photo of your cats wearing birthday hats to a mass office email. If a few more sleepless nights could help your social cred, try one of these nighttime reads, certain to make you lose some Z’s. And if you’re not looking to deny yourself your restful slumber, consider this a list of what to avoid right before bed:

Books that Frighten You
Maybe it’s a chilling volume like Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. Maybe it’s a haunting tale by H.P. Lovecraft. Maybe it’s a personal finance book that talks about how much you should already have socked away for retirement. This is scary stuff. The quiet nocturnal hush that you normally find serene may suddenly strike you as eerie. Soon you will be unable to abide the dark, fated to spend the night with the lights on, staring at your complete collection of Marie Osmond porcelain dolls and puzzling over where all the money went that you should have been saving.

Books You Can’t Put Down
Science shows that on one night in 2010, 93% of all literate adults in the world were staying up long past their bedtimes reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, unable to put it down until learning Lisbeth’s fate and—even more intriguing—how many sandwiches and cups of coffee one angry, waifish woman can consume before rupturing her stomach lining. A good thriller can keep you riveted, even as the plaintive buzz of your alarm clock draws ever nearer. You might just be pulling an all-nighter if you dive into a book by the likes of John le Carré, Lee Child, or John Grisham.

Books that Make You Hungry
Perhaps you’re growing tired of your quotidian dinner of Cinnamon Toast Crunch with a dollop of peanut butter and are ready to expand your culinary horizons. “Why don’t I peruse this lovely new cookbook before drifting off to sleep?” you think. What a bounty of savory goodness those pages contain! Why, you might even bother to sit down while eating if you were devouring one of these delectable dishes. Now it is well past midnight and you are ravenous. Forget sleep—you have no choice but to head to the kitchen…where you will pour yourself a bowl of Captain Crunch that you’ll eat while standing at the counter, because, let’s be honest, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Books that Inspire Your Inner Writer
At first blush, Mindy Kaling and Bill Bryson may not seem to have much in common other than their short, sassy ’dos and their love of designer shoes (this has been verified by…well…no one. But I like to imagine Mr. Bryson taking his walk in the woods in a pair of Brunello Cucinelli snakeskin wingtips). But, in fact, these two seemingly disparate authors may both inspire you to want to write.

I was up late one night reading Kaling’s hilarious Everyone Is Hanging Out Without Me and was suddenly seized with a desire to write my own witty compilation of personal essays. And so it was that at 3 a.m. I was wide awake, typing frantically at my laptop, stopping only to watch an infomercial for a battery-operated cat toy (recompense for the birthday hats). Sadly, the light of morning brought with it the realization that the writing session perhaps had not yielded the masterpiece I’d hoped for, and that “I Am Woman, Hear Me Cry” was probably not the best working title for my opus. But that didn’t stop me from giving it another go a few months later, as I was reading Bryson’s Notes From a Small Island. (As it turns out, while I may be able to out-grump Bryson, I certainly cannot out-write him.)

It’s wonderful to discover authors you not only appreciate and enjoy but who get your own fount of literary inspiration flowing. Just be aware that such flow may prevent you from being able to say, “I am Woman, Hear Me Sleep.”

What books have you stayed up all night reading?

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  • Laura Ross

    Well, I guess I can’t read before bed anymore…

    • Amaiah

      Agreed.

  • foxyfifty

    Mary Higgins Clark “Where Are The Children” kept me up to the wee hours.

  • Nina

    House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski still keeps me up at night

  • Angie Gleisner

    Anything by Diana Gabaldon will grab ahold and not let go! Lost lots of sleep reading her series!

  • Walter Thespeeddemon Gates Jr.

    I read all those and yet still get 8 hours sleep. I even read books by David Baldacci and Morgan Rice.