There are lots of things that go together: rainy days and reading-marathons, notebooks and ballpoint pens, bookshops and the emptying of my bank account…but what about books and bedside tables?

I’ve always got a leaning-tower of books on my bedside table, Liz! I hear you cry – but that’s exactly the point – should they be there?

My bedside cabinet is a table-top bunker for midnight emergencies: a torch (in case the power runs out), tissues (in case I get struck with the flu at 2am), a money box (in case I want to count the pennies like Scrooge McDuck, in the small hours), an alarm clock, a glass of water and about six books and two notebooks….

I’ll say that again:

A glass of water and about six books and two notebooks

You know how that story ends: one false move to turn off your alarm, and you’ve unleashed a tsunami of water over your new copy of The David Foster Wallace Reader (I speak from bitter experience). The only solution is to introduce your hairdryer to your newly-drowned book and hope for the best.

So why do we play roulette with our beloved books in this way?

I wouldn’t call book-lovers irresponsible for building book-walls close to them in the night.  Maybe it’s the tiny spec of Jay Gatsby in every writer, that eternal thread of hope at the core of our being that tells us: nothing bad will happen to our books, again.  Maybe it’s the fact that on some level, we find books medicinal, and it’s easier if they are close at hand, to be digested in the small hours to lull us back to sleep.

Sometimes, it can be a problem of pure logistics.  The bookshelf is too full – the bedside table is all that’s left.  Then of course, there are those groups of people who use books as a bedside table…but that’s a whole other post.

For me, it’s more of a visual to-read list. I move the titles around in the pile, like a literary top-40, as they get read, re-read and relegated to the I’m not in the mood for this bottom layer.

What’s at the top of my current book pile? A notebook, for story ideas.  It’ll be all the more difficult to dry out if I tip water on it, and the loss will be far greater than a book I can just re-purchase from Amazon.

So maybe now we’re getting closer to an answer.  Maybe, for us readers and writers with all our book-marathons and literary heroes – maybe we are just adrenaline junkies.  Maybe it’s not a tower of books at all, maybe it’s a cliff-face and the danger of book-demise is our adrenaline rush.


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