Edifying books for last 15 minutes before sleep?
October 9, 2017 6:22 AM   Subscribe

In the interests of becoming a more well-rounded person, I'd like to absorb some nightly wisdom but without getting so sucked in that I can't sleep. Can you point me in some interesting directions?

In the last couple of weeks, I've found that a few pages of 'How to Be an Adult in Relationships' before sleep has soothed, given me plenty of gentle ideas to chew over whilst drifting off and led to a generally more positive me in the daylight hours.

Bedtime book criteria: Each page is a dense read so you can take on board a goodly amount of ponderable information in a couple of paragraphs. It's easy to pick up and easy to put down. It doesn't matter if you read the same page twice or miss out pages.

Can you recommend other books that I might enjoy reading in tiny chunks at that time of night?

Other relationship books would be fine, poems would be good, though I'd also be interested in books on creativity, nature, philosophy, popular science, psychology, body positivity, ethical working, time/money, green living, anything with a mindfulness tinge, emphasis on living a good and meaningful life, food, making... erm...

For example, I was thinking of trying Mary Oliver next, so any recommendations for where to start with her writing would be fine indeed.

Have liked:
The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan (though this is perhaps a bit too gripping for these purposes)
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron
The Art of Eating by MKF Fisher

Not my cup of tea:
"Men are from x, women are from y"
Law of Attraction type stuff
Specifically religious texts
Hard-nosed business or productivity gurus
Books that come with worksheets or multiple choice quizzes at the end of each chapter

I've read through this thread on 'books to make you a better person'. I'm sure there's much that would cross over here, though I'd need to establish which had the necessary put-downable quality to let me go to sleep at a reasonable hour!

Thanks in advance.
posted by doornoise to Education (12 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You might check out Very Short Introductions; they're short, pretty dense, but with no expectation that you know anything about the subject.
posted by gregr at 6:32 AM on October 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You might consider Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations. They’re a bunch of short statements he wrote about Stoicism, so they go quickly, but it’s also boring enough that you go to sleep.

Also in the public domain, so they’re free.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 7:39 AM on October 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: For small chunks of worthwhile stuff, have you thought about poetry? I've got a Norton's Anthology of Poetry next to my bed for pretty much those reasons.
posted by LizardBreath at 7:54 AM on October 9, 2017

Best answer: I used "The Discoverers" and "The Creators" this way for a while; usually just enough info to get you intrigued, and well-written without being sensationalized enough to keep you awake.
posted by The otter lady at 7:56 AM on October 9, 2017

Best answer: I recommend True Harvest: Readings From Henry David Thoreau For Every Day Of The Year.

There is a similar book for Emerson that I don't personally own but could be good as well: A Dream Too Wild: Emerson Meditations for Every Day of the Year.
posted by delight at 9:14 AM on October 9, 2017

I was going to say Marcus Aurelius's Meditations, too. I did not know whether to commit it to memory or throw it across the room.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 10:37 AM on October 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of the Senses.
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:53 AM on October 9, 2017

Best answer: I keep The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food by Dan Barber next to my bed for precisely this sort of reading. Lots of interesting information about food and farming. Reading about what soil actually is and how it works is fascinating!
posted by skycrashesdown at 11:13 AM on October 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think Catching the Light: The Entwined History of Light and Mind might scratch this itch. I found it fascinating, but in a "huh, I never knew that!" kinda way that gave me lots to chew on, rather than a page-turner that I couldn't put down.
posted by shalom at 6:55 PM on October 9, 2017

Best answer: It sounds like you're crying out for la Rochefoucauld's "Maxims".

And if you (think you might) like Marcus Aurelius, try Epictetus as well/instead. The same basic ideas, often expressed more concisely. Aurelius included too much filler, IMO.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:36 AM on October 10, 2017

It is often religious, but I as an atheist still enjoyed it: Meditations From the Mat.
posted by callmejay at 7:56 PM on October 11, 2017

What about The Guinness Book of World Records? If you feel this won't be detrimental to your social life.
posted by karmachameleon at 10:46 PM on October 13, 2017

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