We Off the Shelfers are always reading, but there never seem to be enough hours in the day to get through all of the books we want to read. So it stands to reason that some of the books on our nightstands may have been there a little longer than others. And some of our “nightstands” are actually just mountains of books we want to read. In any case, here are the books that we can reach without having to get out of bed.
I’m a bit ashamed to admit that MY FAMILY AND OTHER ANIMALS has been near my bedside since I received it as a gift last Christmas. It was given to me after a dinner conversation during which I was told the PBS series version of this book lives up to the original. A true account of the adventures of an English family’s move to the Greek isle of Corfu, MY FAMILY AND OTHER ANIMALS is rich with eccentric characters, island critters, and lots of laughs. Although I’ve yet to finish the book or watch the series, I’m excited to do so! —Allison
THE INTERESTINGS is one of my favorite books of all time, and I reread it frequently. But with Meg Wolitzer’s new book, THE FEMALE PERSUASION, on the horizon, I wanted to explore more of her earlier work, and am starting with THE WIFE. It’s centered around Joan Castleman, who decides to leave her novelist husband after years of downplaying her own talent to help him achieve fame. The novel goes from Smith College to Greenwich Village, following the course of their marriage until a shocking revelation changes everything. —Julianna
Imbued with the characteristic wit and intelligence that Meg Wolitzer brought to The Interestings, The Wife raises big questions about voice, marriage, power, and gender in literature. Slim but smart, this provocative story can be read in a day, but it will remain on your mind for much longer. A film adaptation starring Glenn Close and Frances McDormand is in the works and we would watch those two titans of acting in just about anything.
My nightstand is a bookcase. Every night, while I attempt to make room around the books for my glasses, I peruse my to-read shelves. This book is at the top of the stack. I love novels that transport me to other cultures and places. From an acclaimed Indian-American writer, THE SPACE BETWEEN US is a story of modern India about two women—a middle-class wife and a servant—who form an emotional bond despite the constraints of the country’s caste system. I couldn’t help but add it to my stack, and I can’t wait to read it. —Erin
A short story or two always helps me unwind before bed. This ultimate collection of Raymond Carver’s work includes seven previously unpublished works (like my personal-favorite Carver story, “Intimacy”) and offers plenty of great options. —Nikki
My grandmother played bridge for years, but the card game was just an excuse for a weekly gathering with her best friends. Betsy Lerner’s mother, Roz, would have approved. For 50 years, the Bridge Ladies—Roz, Rhoda, Bette, Bea, and Jackie—had a standing game. Despite having a rocky relationship with her mother, Betsy returns to her childhood home to care for Roz after surgery and finds herself invited to the game. It’s over the card table and through her friendships with the ladies that she comes to understand her mother more deeply than ever before. —Wendy
This book showed up at my place seemingly unannounced, and the two people I suspected of leaving it for me have both denied it. Every time I’m searching for my next read, the cover catches my eye, and I keep moving it to different places in my apartment in hope of one day actually opening it up. Now that Kazuo Ishiguro has won the Nobel Prize in literature I feel compelled to sit down and become engrossed in this somewhat mysterious book about a woman reexamining her idyllic childhood, as well as her education at a private school in the English countryside that hides a dark secret. —Amy
The students of Hailsham are special. That’s what they’ve been told. Isolated from the outside world, they’re raised from birth as “donors,” their bodily organs harvested for wealthy patrons. But this is no schlocky sci-fi; it’s a gently observed drama. Existential, painful, and unforgettable, NEVER LET ME GO explores how even the most disenfranchised and doomed characters find meaning, hope, and love, even as they resign themselves to a life cut horribly short.
Crazy like: You’d be too.
Best crazy moment: The whole damn book.
I was a huge fan of THE MARTIAN, so Andy Weir’s new novel, about a smuggler named Jazz who plans a heist on the titular lunar colony, has been on my to-read list since it was announced. It’s got everything you need: a badass female protagonist, contraband, conspiracies, and SPACE! —Julianna
“There are other worlds than these.” The next part of the DARK TOWER journey is eagerly awaiting me. I will soon be joining Roland on his quest for the Dark Tower. Will Jake and the Man in Black meet me there? Until then, “Long days and pleasant nights.” —Aimee
Nightstand book and capable doorstop, this meticulously researched biography of Andrew Carnegie is the ultimate rags-to-riches story of the Scottish immigrant, bobbin-boy-turned-industry-titan, and world’s wealthiest man. A dazzling portrait that reveals a shrewd businessman devoted to dominating his competition through vertical integration while simultaneously bettering the nation with his constant philanthropic efforts. David Nasaw delivers a wonderful study of the man and the Gilded Age in which he operated. —Chris G.
I’ve been reading this exploration of the man behind the famous Lewis and Clark expedition very slowly. It’s one of the best, most compelling, and well-researched books about the fascinating and tragically short life of Meriwether Lewis, and I sincerely don’t want it to end. It certainly helps that you can sense the author’s deep love for this subject. —Kerry
In his debut novel, Gorge Saunders imagines a time that none have experienced but many hold deep curiosities about. President Abraham Lincoln is one year in to the Civil War. Thousands are dying in the numerous battles that are tearing the country apart. As Lincoln hosts a party downstairs, his young son Willie is taking his final breaths upstairs. In the story that follows, we find Willie not in heaven or damned to hell, but floating in between, unsure of how to proceed. A cast of spirits mentor the young boy and try to help him make sense of this new state of things, while his father visits the tomb where Willie is housed, trying to come to terms with his own loss in order to move forward and lead a nation through turbulent times. —Stu
George Saunders is an acclaimed short story writer of collections THE TENTH OF DECEMBER, PASTORALIA, and more. His first novel, LINCOLN IN THE BARDO, is a mesmerizing blend of historical fact and fiction. It is the story of the death of Abraham Lincoln’s son, Willie, told almost entirely through the voices of the spirits in the graveyard where Willie is laid to rest and where Lincoln returns to hold his son’s body. —Erin