Books Before Bedtime?

Frederick Daniel Hardy - A Kiss Goodnight

A friend from tennis has adult children. A librarian once told her to never, ever, under any circumstances read books before bedtime. Books are not for putting children to sleep.

Yet all those home away home picture books which take place over the course of a day and end with the child in bed seem to suggest otherwise.

There are perhaps two kinds of books — one is designed to put children to sleep with its rhythm and repetition, which doesn’t necessarily make it a bad piece of literature. After spending last night dealing with nightmares, there’s a strong case to be made for gentle cuddles of books.

I do have an issue though if books are only ever read in this way. Certainly, many books are exciting and thought-provoking and stimulating, and not necessarily good bedtime fare. That said, if the only opportunity for reading occurs before bedtime, I see no huge problem with this, especially since backlit screens are apparently bad for biorhythms.

David Beagley, in his introductory lecture to Young Adult Fiction (a series available via iTunes U from LaTrobe University) has this to say about YA being used in this way:

Read YA fiction as a proper intellectual, aesthetic experience. Don’t read it to put someone to sleep at night, or to tick off ‘this is one of the classics that I ought to have read at some stage’. Read these books because they are books worth reading, and regard the public appearance of age categorisation as external.

American illustrator The Bed-Time Book (1907)
American illustrator The Bed-Time Book (1907)

Header painting: Frederick Daniel Hardy – A Kiss Goodnight

Home » Books Before Bedtime?

On paper, things look fine. Sam Dennon recently inherited significant wealth from his uncle. As a respected architect, Sam spends his days thinking about the family needs and rich lives of his clients. But privately? Even his enduring love of amateur astronomy is on the wane. Sam has built a sustainable-architecture display home for himself but hasn’t yet moved into it, preferring to sleep in his cocoon of a campervan. Although they never announced it publicly, Sam’s wife and business partner ended their marriage years ago due to lack of intimacy, leaving Sam with the sense he is irreparably broken.

Now his beloved uncle has died. An intensifying fear manifests as health anxiety, with night terrors from a half-remembered early childhood event. To assuage the loneliness, Sam embarks on a Personal Happiness Project:

1. Get a pet dog

2. Find a friend. Just one. Not too intense.




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