Leisure can take a back seat at eventful times of life. At stressful times, leisure can seem to be a far-off memory. But I am a lover of fiction and have found that making time to read fiction is a very important way to keep stress at bay and, of course, to enjoy life and better myself. The best time for me to fit in a new book or a well-worn classic is before bed.
But I have encountered a problem: What I read before bed can very much affect my dreams. Now this does not need to be a problem, but it very well might be. For example, reading Graham Greene’s The Quiet American before sleeping gave me dreams of being trapped in a guard tower with a friend who might not really be a friend and who wanted me to smoke opium. The House at Riverton made me dream of fireworks and gunshots and betrayal. And Thomas Hardy’s gripping Far From the Madding Crowd gave me dreams filled with eerie laughter and helpless, cold peasant girls in the snow.
Now, while it is daytime, some things that haunt my dreams are worth deep thought. But perhaps at bedtime after a busy day, a different sort of book is needed. Which made me wonder: What would be perfect bedtime reading? The House at Riverton is the sort of book you should reserve for a Sunday afternoon by the fire, when no commitments await you. The Quiet American should be read when you have a strong stomach—when you want to travel the world and go back in time without actually doing so (staying a lot safer as a result). Far From the Madding Crowd might be a book well-suited for a lunch break on what has been a boring day thus far.
But at bedtime, after a stressful day, perhaps the perfect book is one that is entertaining, yet deals with timeless themes, stimulating, yet not so stimulating that you cannot put it down when it is really time to get to sleep. And who provides all of this better than dear P.G. Wodehouse? He amuses, enlivens, and draws out thoughts of the important things in life while constantly surprising. But it is also possible to put down a Wodehouse book before bed, because you know that all these characteristics of his writing will quite readily jump out of the pages again as soon as the book is picked back up. Who could turn down Psmith? Or Jeeves? Or the talking dog Emily? What wonderful companions as the darkness outside sets in and perhaps makes you feel a bit lonely and cold?
Now of course Wodehouse shines forth at many other hours of the day. But in the evening, when it is both healthy and advantageous to unwind and think of happy things, I cannot think of a better book to select than Leave it to Psmith or Money for Nothing or Bachelors Anonymous.
The day often holds enough work and worry. The night should hold happier things. The next evening you are tired and feeling in need of renewal, think of Wodehouse and pick up one of his classics. It will not disappoint.
Madeline Gillen can be reached at email@example.com. She and her family love unreservedly the Jeeves and Wooster TV series by Acorn. It is a must watch on winter evenings.