Currently, I have 19 books on my nightstand, which makes it less of a nightstand and more of a bookshelf. If I were answering Coverboy questions, I would have the world's least-sexy nightstand. This is not only because of the sheer weight of the books, but because my nightstand has no drawers — I have to get out of bed if I need to grab anything fun (and non-literary).
While the number of books I tend to keep by my bed has increased over the years, I've always kept at least a couple within reach of my pillow. It's a part of my oldest habit: the compulsive buying and reading of books. Some people watch TV to bring on sleep, or pray to end their day. I read.
A full bookcase just grows upward
(Photo by courtesy of Sean Bugg)
Of the 19 currently resting next to my bed, a handful are books I plan to begin reading soon. One, Terry Pratchett's The Wit & Wisdom of Discworld, is a quotation collection for when I'm too tired to delve back into a novel but still in need of some text. Some, like my battered paperback copies of Stranger in a Strange Land and Flannery O'Connor's short stories, are books I pulled off the shelf or out of storage on the sudden whim to read them again.
And honestly, everyone should re-read a couple of O'Connor stories every year (says the gay, agnostic Protestant about the Southern, Catholic author).
The rest are the books I'm actually, currently reading. Because I'm generally reading anywhere from five to 10 books at any one time, I have a flexible definition of "currently reading." Some books can sit there for a year and in my mind they're still on the current list; others are just waiting for the rare day I decide to return some of them to my overloaded shelves, closets and storage bins where I keep nearly every book I've ever bought, all the way back to my pre-teen purchases at the Paducah, Ky., Readmore.
The downside to my book addiction is sheer storage capacity, or lack thereof. I have separation anxiety when it comes my books -- if I read something I think you'll enjoy, I'll probably buy you a copy before I loan you mine (even if you promise you're not the sort of person who folds the corners down rather than use a bookmark). It sounds weird and irrational, but I have gone back to dig out books I haven't seen in 20 years because I remember they're relevant to something I'm writing -- which generally leads to a few unplanned and unproductive hours looking at all the other books I haven't seen lately and adding a couple more titles to the nightstand.
Then there's my Kindle, which technically adds an entire bookcase to my nightstand. I'd thought that as I bought and read more e-books, the tide of old-fashioned hardcovers and paperbacks in my house would ebb. And it has, a bit. But it's actually reinforced my first love for bound and printed books, the kind that rest heavily on your chest when you decide to take an afternoon nap on the couch. So I still buy those four or five at a time when I get to the bookstore.
E-books have not put a dent in my overall purchases, though, because a Kindle is crack for compulsive readers. When I see something interesting online or elsewhere, I don't have to wait three days for the UPS man or drive myself to mall -- the text is in my hands in 60 seconds. It's almost sinful.
I'm comfortable with the technologies of both the past and future. And while I'm now addicted to having an entire library at my fingertips wherever I go, as long as paper gets printed and bound between two covers, my book-laden nightstand will remain the most old-fashioned thing about me.
Sean Bugg is the editor emeritus of Metro Weekly. He can be reached at . Follow him on Twitter at @seanbugg.