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The 10 best books to read before bedtime

It’s time to leave the devices at the bedroom door and make your bedtime a time of relaxation and slumber. We’ve compiled a list of books that will compel you to ditch the devices and, hopefully, get a better night’s sleep.

Sealy’s 2018 Sleep Census revealed that 16% of Australians say that spending time on their phone is impacting their ability to sleep. We all know that bringing our devices (yes, tablets, we’re looking at you too) into the bedroom isn’t the best. On the other hand, books are the stuff dreams are made of. Not only is reading a book a great way to unwind, reading can also help reduce stress, improve cognitive function and reduce cortisol levels.

So, in a bid to help you get a better night’s sleep, we’ve put together a list of books to entice you to bed and hopefully make your transition into the land of nod a little smoother.

1. The Clockmaker’s Daughter – Kate Morton

Morton’s novel moves between the present and 19th-century London, presenting a bevy of characters. First, we have Edward Radcliffe – a 19th-century artist who falls in love with someone of a much lower social status. When Radcliffe’s fiancée is found dead, Edward’s world starts to spiral. Our present-day protagonist, Elodie, an archivist, is the machine for piecing all the details of this rich story together. Like most mystery novels, it’s not a linear read, but the beautiful descriptions and surprise plot twists will make for some solid dreamscaping.

2. Humans of New York – Brandon Stanton

The phenomenon that is Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York blog and social media account has been immortalised in book form. Beautiful images of New Yorkers from all walks of life are accompanied by anecdotes that demonstrate just how inspiring, resilient and surprising humans can be, as well as the captivating stories within all of us. Brandon ingeniously reveals a portrait of New York as a city that is more touching and memorable than its iconic buildings and glamourous movie representations.

3. The Body: A Guide for Occupants – Bill Bryson

Non-fiction favourite Bill Bryson is back and this time he’s turning more inwards than ever. Bryson’s much-loved humour coats his quest to unravel the mystery that is us humans – specifically, how we function and, even more mysterious, how we heal ourselves. It’s a tour of the human body on every scale imaginable – from our cosmic grandness to the microscopic bacteria that call our bods home. There are Bryson gems throughout, so expect more than a textbook run-through of the human condition.

4. High Fidelity – Nick Hornby

Hornby’s 1990s classic centres around Rob – a record store owner who’s struggling with “adulting”. Rob’s world is informed by lists of his top albums, with everything being viewed through this lens. After his long-term girlfriend Laura breaks up with him, he not only ponders his all-time, top five break-ups, but reconnects with his exes in a bid to answer some looming life questions. A hilarious and insightful look at the human condition and how we try to make sense of the world around us.

5. Nine Perfect Strangers – Liane Moriarty

Written by the author of Big Little Lies, Nine Perfect Strangers connects, well, nine perfect strangers who decide to embark on a mental detox at a niche wellbeing and health resort. These nine strangers are fully realised humans, relatable and flawed, who are juxtaposed against the Amazonian resort’s director. Before you realise it, you’re in the midst of a mystery novel, while bigger social questions are building against the backdrop of the resort.

6. The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

Don Tillman, a professor of genetics, likes things to make sense. He likes order. He likes logic. And he has a “wife problem”, in the sense that he doesn’t have an actual wife. To rectify this, Don creates a questionnaire to find his perfect partner. Rosie is the antithesis to Don’s ideal partner, but as they work together to find Rosie’s natural father, they form a bond that goes beyond any questionnaire. Throw in some entertaining scenarios that keep you giggling, with some heavy themes treated with a light-touch and you have a heart-warming nigh-nights companion.

7. Boy Swallows Universe – Trent Dalton

Dalton’s debut novel is set in 1983 suburban Queensland with a cast of characters that are so well crafted they seem pure flesh and bone. These include a drug-dealing step-father, an often drug-addled mother, a mute savant brother, historical prison escapee Arthur “Slim” Halliday, and, our adolescent protagonist, Eli. Eli has the usual teenage hurdles to anticipate, like chatting to girls and, oh yeah – breaking his mother out of jail on Christmas day. It sounds rather heavy, but Dalton’s deft touch brings out the humanity and humour against the harshness and brutality of Eli’s world.

8. The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje

This book-turned-film centres around the lives of four broken characters living in an Italian villa during the final days of World War II. There’s Hana, a nurse; a thief turned Allied agent called Caravaggio; Kip, a reserved sapper; and the “English Patient”, an unknown burns victim who is bed-ridden upstairs. Each character has their own tale to tell, but the “English Patient’s” story of love, betrayal and infinite knowledge sparkles between. Ondaatje’s evocative writing is a beautiful pre-sleep treat.

9. The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt

This epic follows the life of Theo Decker – a 13-year-old whose mother dies in a bomb blast in a New York art gallery, and amidst the carnage, has ended up with a small but significant painting. After his mother’s death, Theo’s schoolfriend’s wealthy family takes him in and draws him into a world where he is more observer than participant. The book is clearly not an easy one to summarise, as it is so rich in content and themes, but rest assured, Theo’s world of polarities and escalating danger is an epic journey that will hold you tight.

10. The Sleepy Pebble and Other Stories – Alice Gregory & Christy Kirkpatrick

You got us – this is a kid’s book. But the fact that it was co-written by a sleep specialist is a win for any age. The stories in this collection use mindfulness techniques along with other tips and ideas to help bring you and/or your kids into a nice state of relaxation. It doesn’t hurt that Eleanor Hardiman’s illustrations are the stuff sweet dreams are made of.

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