Books on the Nightstand

Do you have a pile of books someplace–a waiting list of books that you want to get to in some order? My pile is balancing precariously on the nightstand. Some of them are partially read, some new and waiting.

We read for many reasons–to learn, to relax, to satisfy curiosity. I belong to Goodreads, and you can certainly categorize and chat about book choices there. But I’m curious about that stack and why you are reading what you are reading.

Here’s the top seven of my stack, along with reasons:

Refuge, by Terry Tempest Williams. About half read. Just started it. A book about the loss of a wildlife habitat combined with the loss of the writer’s mother to cancer. The balance of loss in nature and in family is carefully written, never mawkish. I’m a naturalist, and this book is a natural for me.

A Thousand Names for Joy by Byron Katie with Stephen Mitchell. A gift book and one I’m curious about. After discovering “the work” that Katie does, I’m interested in this topic: Living in Harmony with the Way Things Are.

Creating Time: Using Creativity to Reinvent the Clock and Reclaim Your Life by Marney Makridakis. An interesting collection of essays on re-imagining time and how to make it appear to slow down or speed up. Lavishly illustrated by the coaches Marney trains. I love other people’s perspctives on time and how time controls your life.

Stung by “B”s by Theresa JK Drinka and Jeni Synnes. A survival guide to help identify and overcome the damage of the disruptive people in our lives. When you are a coach, reading books about people who push your buttons is an excellent idea. Just ordered it, but am delighted to know it’s on the way.

The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry. The workplace is taking on creativity as a desirable trait, and I can see it being pushed into little cookie-cutter shapes already. I’ve heard of “disruptive ideas” and it makes me roll my eyes. I also read a lot of books on creativity so I can listen knowledgeably to people who speak about it.

What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman. Suspense novel. Lippman worked for the Baltimore Sun and her novel takes place in Baltimore. I’ve lived there, so it’s interesting to hear the details I recognize about the city. This novel is a page turner and I’m hooked. The woman who should be a protagonist is not likable, and may be a narcissistic liar or an innocent victim. The male protagonist is a cynical cop. I’m almost done and have no idea who did what. I like the Tess Monaghan novels, and I like this one.

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston. A fascinating collage book. Preston collected vintage (1920s-1930s) ephemera and then created a story around it. You turn the pages of the book like a scrapbook, get caught up in ticket stubs, photos, photos of old cans and labels as well as the story of Frankie, a young woman with a wandering heart and a Corona manual typewriter. Great concept.

What is in your reading stack? What’s the one you are choosing next?

-Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach who loves to read.


20 thoughts on “Books on the Nightstand

  1. I so loved this post. I had to wait until I had a bit of time to see what was on my nightstand and write about them.

    Nature and the Human Soul – Creating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World by Bill Plotkin. Just started it, and it’s a bit of a slow read, but the title pretty well explains the message of the book.

    The North Woods – A Sierra Club Naturalist Guide. Well, I’m back in the Midwest. Needed to put down all my reading about the desert and pick up something from the Midwest. Doing a bit of research – this isn;t much of a reading book!

    Sidetracked in Wisconsin – A Guide for Thoughtful Travelers by Mary Bergin. Gathering ideas for explores in Wisconsin. An older book, but lots of ideas.

    The Creative Entrepreneur by Lisa Sonora Beam Some business ideas for making running an art business understandable.

    Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard. On the bottom of the pile, haven;t opened it yet.

    • Slight re-arrangement and you would have wonderful book spine poetry. It’s good to check the nightstand every now and then and make sure the books are getting read. Mine don’t always get read.

    • Congratulations! A trick to being a good writer is to be a big reader, and you are both. I’m so pleased for you. You must keep us posted if you move to the short list. But whether that happens or not, this must feel like real validation!

  2. I read this post quickly yesterday, and saved it for today, Saturday, to comment when I have more time.
    I always have a stack of REAL books, and haven’t switched to ebooks. Used to buy a lot of books, but discovered recently that my little local library will order any book that is in any library in the county, so I’ve been getting them for 40c each ( the booking fee!) and the beauty of library books is, if you only read half or a quarter, you can give them back without feeling guilty!!!
    So, to my books:
    On my bedside table, I have:
    Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder. Brilliant, readable history about how these two men murdered 14million people ( civilians) in twelve years. The backdrop to my parents’ odyssey from Poland through Siberia, Uzbekhistan, persia, Palestine, Egypt, Africa and finally England.

    Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman (“one of the finest Russian novels of the twentieth century”)

    Meditation -exercises and inspiration for well being by Bill Anderton (a present from a lovely friend)

    Billionaire Boy by David Walliams – brilliant kids book by iconic uk comedien

    The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson – another brilliant kids author. Reading these with Andrew (7) but also escape to kids fiction when the world gets too much.

    Jamragh’s Menagerie by Carol Birch – a mother’s day present from my 18 year old son. A beautiful, unique novel. “put Moby Dick, Treasure Island and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner into a pot, add a pinch of Dickens and you will get the flavour of Carol Birch’s hugely entertaining novel”

    And finally, Bob Dylan A retrospective ( piano music and lyrics). I’m reading rather than listening to these from this book I bought in 1979. Refinding the poetry of Dylan is a real plus.

    I like Byron Katie’s work. To be honest, you don’t jave to read all the books if you don’t like the style. The message is really simple. Very buddhist, actually. Stop arguing with reality and it all gets easier. If it IS, then stopping telling yourself it should be different. Relax into reality. But personally, I go nack to the couple of books I have every few months ( especially “I need your love – is that true?)

    • Byron Katie’s four quesitons, which she calls “the work” often are hard for me to answer completely. To be honest, I am working on some inquiry questions that will bring me to a perspective that I can understand better. My spiritually enlightened friend Donna McGuigan helped me through a difficult patch with Katie’s questions (she’s studying to be a facilitator) and I got excellent insight. A lot of the work centers around admitting what your contribution to the problem is.

      That aside, I love your reading list. For me, it shows a real curiosity about the world, which I find fascinating. I love YA books, too.The ibbotson and Birch books are going on my list at the library. You are SO right, letting the library find books for you is great. You can always buy them if you like them. Return them if you don’t.

  3. Ah Book! I love books! I used to have a huge collection, but started getting rid of them when they took over the house. I still have a lot, but have given a ton away, donated others, sold them at garage sales, and generally move them out of the house quickly. Unless I plan on re-reading them, which I do often. But now I have a Kindle, so all those books can just reside in the palm of my hand. Fabulous, but I do still like ‘real’ books.

    I am currently reading the “Wheel of Time” series by Robert Jordan. I love series of books, escape writing of a different world or different time, with lots of interesting characters and magic and love and mystery and pain. I do become attached to the characters. I am on Book 8 right now. I had read some of these before, years ago, but never finished the series. Then the author died and the series wasn’t yet finished, so somebody else took his notes and ideas and finished the series off. I am anxious to see how that will work. Will the style and plot lines be noticeably different? Or will I not even notice? Hmmm. Character development always fascinates me, which is why I love reading series, as the characters truly do change and grow and evolve.

    I am also reading “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. I have read this before and am doing a book club/discussion group about the book. We had our first meeting last night which was great. And I will be following along with my blog about it. (

    I also have “Creative is a Verb” and “Life is a Verb” by Patti Digh that I am reading and doing exercises in.

    Then a whole new stack of books that I just got from Amazon, that I haven’t even started reading yet, but I am looking forward to them.

    Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod
    The Art of Steampunk by Art Donovan
    Creating Time by marney Makridakis
    Creative Workshop by David Sherwin
    Mixed Media Girls by Suzi Blu
    Doodles Unleashed by Tracy Bautista
    Steampunk Sourcebook by Prof MC Waldrep
    1000 Steampunk Creations by Dr Grymm
    The Prosperous Heart by Julia Cameron
    Typography Workbook by Timothy Samara
    Caffeine for the Creative Mind by Stefan Mamaw and Wendy Lee Oldfield
    Getting Things Done by David Allen

    Whew, just writing that list seems daunting.

  4. How thrilling to see you reading Marney’s great book.. Not all contributors are trainees of Marney’s though….some of us are simply artists in our own rights, that be as it may, its a super interactive book….glad you’re enjoying it.

  5. The Character of Meriwether Lewis by Clay Jenkinson
    Agnes et Yves by Patricia Herlevi
    Visionary Black Male by Clayton Singleton

    I’m going to check out a couple of the books on your list, Quinn, they look interesting and some of the others posted here as well. I guess my to-read list just got longer!

  6. My stack (ok, really this is a list of the titles in my Kindle I have yet to read). I tend to read several at once rather than finish one at a time, so I’ve started some of these already:
    Infinite Jest (which to my surprise actually is very funny)
    Turing’s Cathedral (the history of computing)
    The Prague Cemetery (it’s by Umberto Eco and thus immune to one-sentence summaries)
    The Swerve: How the World Became Modern (The poem “On the Nature of Things” by Lucretius, 2500 years ago, is the conceptual basis of modern thought)
    The Social Conquest of Earth (human evolution reexamined as collective activity rather than individual reproductive activity)
    Too Big to Know (about how networked knowledge is supplanting “experts”)
    Nine Algorithms that Changed the Future (about the early history of compute science, and about the algorithms themselves)

    Hmm, reviewing this list reveals the things I’ve been mostly thinking about recently:
    – take a large number of items that each can “do things” individually and put them together and what happens is fundamentally different from anything predictable from a small number of the same items. (The “items” can be humans in an organization for example. Or computers networked together. Or, since one of my books is by E.O. Wilson, ants!)
    – can an individual perceive or understand the “flow” happening at the “next level up” collectively? For example, “technological change” appears to be a trend, but is that the best characterization of what’s really going on?
    – are there different levels of collective activity? E.g. there are “organizations” and “nations” and “species”; does collective activity differ for those?

    • This is fascinating. YOu seem to have an interest in collective behavior and how it affects social and cultural evolution. That’s very interesting. I also like the titles as Book Spine Poetry.

      • The one blowing my mind is The Swerve. The question is, did Lucretius somehow get it all right about atoms, the universe, celestial bodies, gravity, orbits, and the rest? Or did his work implant those ideas into our culture and provide a ready-made framework to explain what was being discovered?

  7. I have a pile of ‘books to read’ in the middle of my bedroom floor. However, my pile of ‘books I am currently reading’ is next to my pillow in my bed…they are to hand just before I got to sleep and as I wake up but I do have a habit of rolling on them in the night…it can be quite painful!

  8. Interesting concept for a post Quinn, the reading stack! I like it, and I love reading and do it all the time. My entire book shelf consists of unread books waiting (almost, maybe half at least are unread). I give away a lot of book that I finish, when I know I won’t be reading them again. I have a book by Byron Katie but when I read some in it a few months ago I didn’t much like it, I might try it again. Would love to know your thoughts on yours when you finish it.

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