Bedside Table: Connie Berry

The books we take to bed.

Connie Berry has a lot to read.

I’m a late bloomer when it comes to my reading list; I’ve only just discovered some books that I’ve heard people talk about for years. And like the rest of my life, my list is sort of all over the place. I’ve only recently picked up two books that I should’ve read long ago: “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou, and “Giovanni’s Room,” by James Baldwin. I haven’t finished either of them, but am savoring the authors’ writing styles paragraph by paragraph.

Right now I’ve got three books on my nightstand that my son James left for me to read after he visited a few weeks ago: “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole, Wallace Stegner’s essay collection, “Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs,” and “Mason & Dixon” by Thomas Pynchon. So far I’ve only gotten to “Dunces” and it’s hysterical. The main character, Ignatius J. Reilly, is a 30-year-old sloppy mess who fancies himself a refined and very dignified guy. Meanwhile, he lives with his doting mother and fills notebook after notebook with musings while he shuts himself up in his bedroom, irritated every time he’s interrupted. He also doesn’t like work of any kind — he’s apparently above it. Geoff Currier and Jamie Kageleiry both read it years ago; I discovered it three weeks ago.

I also usually have books about spirituality next to my bed so that I can fill my head with good thoughts just before I go off to sleep. I almost always have a Dorothy Day book, and right now it’s “The Long Loneliness.” I also have “Interior Castle” by St. Teresa of Avila, Roald Dahl’s “More Tales of the Unexpected” and “The Best Short Stories of Dostoevsky.” Short stories work great for me because I tend to fall asleep when I read, and I can usually manage to finish at least one short story or a few essays before I close my eyes for good. Ever wake up to the sound of a book thudding when it hits the floor? I do that a lot.

Sometimes I read new fiction using my Kindle app because I don’t want to pay full price for a new book. The last one I read was “The Widow” by Fiona Barton and it was excellent. I also am a huge fan of the OverDrive app our libraries use. I don’t use the apps much because I’m drawn to older fiction first; used copies are inexpensive and I can share them with my kids. I love rummaging through used book stores, and I like having the actual book in my hands. Besides, who wants to risk dropping an iPad on the floor.

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