5 Great Books To Read During Long, Sleepless Nights

There is an avalanche of Christmas music on the radio these days, which means either they are advertising a very gay and less depressing revival of RENT at my local community theater, or Christmas is not very far away. I’m guessing it means that Christmas is not very far a way (although I’d be curious to see a more gay and less depressing version of RENT, wouldn’t you?) I thought that due to the HUGE popularity of my post: “5 Books You MUST Read Before You Die” it would be fun to do another post where we all recommend some of our favorite books to each other. Also, seeing that Christmas is just around the corner, it might help some of you give your “significant others” some ideas about what books to gift you for Christmas, or give you some ideas about what books to gift YOUR significant others for Christmas.

Now, today’s Book Recommendation post was inspired by one very sleepless nights where I had nothing else to do but read all of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” from start to finish. It turned out to be the most pleasant sleepless night I had ever had. Ever since then, I have tried to keep a book just like “Alice” close by my bed just in case the Sandman ever decides to skip my bed again.

So, today I would like us to talk about books that are short, easy to read, have a little magic and whimsy in them, some childlike wonder, and a dash of darkness to match a sleepless night. First, as always, here is my list of 5 GREAT BOOKS TO READ DURING LONG, SLEEPLESS NIGHTS:

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Yes, the original is still the best. I was fascinated to find that Carroll gives Alice and his other characters no back story whatsoever (at least none that make any sense), and doesn’t give its primary setting (Wonderland) any back story either. In this way, the reader enters Wonderland just as clueless as to who Alice is as much as she’s confused about who she is. This lack of history or context throughout the story makes it seem like the reader is in a storm, riding on a boat without an anchor. This also means that every time the reader decides to journey into Wonderland it’s always a new experience and the meaning behind it all always changes. This brilliant and sly move on behalf of its author is probably why the book has remained a classic–and a pop culture phenomena–for such a long time.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Yet again, the original is so much better. Scrooge is so much meaner, his adventure through Christmas past, present and future are so much more magical, and his transformation at the end is a whole lot less cheesy and so much more deeper in its meaning. The story is really about the class divide and how this divide leads to dehumanization more than anything else. In this age of greedy, old, selfish, cold corporate CEO’s pressing hard on their warm, kind, desperate and selfless employees, A Christmas Carol has become as timely and as identifiable as ever. It makes me wish we can all employ three ghosts to haunt every corporate executive on Christmas Eve and make these executives walk in their employees (or ex-employees) shoes. Maybe then we can restore some much-needed humanity and (hey, why not?) a little bit of that old Christmas magic we remember from when we were kids.

Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

When a Curandera woman (sort of like the Mexican version of a witch, but not quite) moves into a Mexican-American’s family’s house in New Mexico, the main character, just a boy, is not sure what to make of her. She is mysterious and powerful. Wise and frightening. She commands respect and fear. What is most certain is that she changes everything in that boy’s life and we watch as that boy’s innocence slowly slips away and he has to face the cruel realities of the adult world. This book is a rumination on the power of the individual to influence the fate of other people, and that, even with good intentions, bad consequences can result from seeking divine retribution.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Overshadowed by its epic (and verbose) sequel, The Hobbit is a delightful little read that is a lot less darker than its sequel but no less awesome and full of adventure. Bilbo is a different kind of hero than Frodo. He is a lot less brooding and conflicted, more playful and willing to enjoy the ride that his adventure brings him through. Of course, the stakes at this point in the history of Middle Earth are a lot lower than they are in LOTR, and Bilbo doesn’t yet know how oppressive being a bearer of The Ring is going to be. No, in this first part of the long long tale, ignorance is bliss and there’s about 12 or so dwarfs who help make the whole adventure a lot more silly and less full of chivalry and war. But the great parts in this book are some of Tolkien’s action sequences (some of the author’s best of the entire saga, in my opinion). I won’t give much away for those who haven’t read it, but Bilbo’s fight with a certain group of eight-legged creatures and his encounter with the big bad villain at the end are some of my favorite moments in all the books I ever read.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I read the synopsis for this novel and I was instantly hooked. An orphaned toddler ends up in a graveyard and is raised by the dead people who live there? LOVE IT. At first, the world that Gaiman paints is terrifying, even for his adult readers, and you find yourself somewhat hating the graveyard instead of loving it. But slowly (you really never noticed how) the author makes you fall in love with each character and when you reach the very last page you find yourself not wanting to leave the graveyard at all, and forgetting that graveyards are supposed to be scary and depressing places where nothing happy and exciting happens. Turns out you can have a whole lot of fun and plenty of amazing adventures while hanging out among a bunch of old, dusty tombstones.

much “seasons of looooooo-uuuuu-oo”ove,


What books do you think would be great for a long sleepless night? Something short, easy to read, with a bit of childlike wonder and maybe a dash of dark magic?

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30 comments on “5 Great Books To Read During Long, Sleepless Nights

  1. Yes! The Graveyard Book, it is. I glanced through this one (and even read the first few pages and a writer’s festival in my city some time back. It sounded fun, but unfortunately I had to rush for my volunteering duties and thought I’d buy it later. Thanks for reminding me! Loved the premise.


  2. Grace Chung says:

    Not ‘The Hobbit’ for me. Good overall tale, but a bit slow my taste. How about a cookbook? =D

  3. jannatwrites says:

    For me, I can never go wrong with a Mary Higgins Clark novel, or for a mystery on the racier side, I could do a Stephanie Plum mystery (Janet Evanovich). I have to sneak them in my normal waking hours because I don’t have sleepless nights, though. I’m so tired, I sleep like a rock 🙂

  4. Becky says:

    The other night I stayed up all night reading “Carnal Weapon” by Peter Hoffmann. I just couldn’t put it down. The author just has such a knack for writing, and I loved the romance/spy story plot.

  5. Great suggestions Ollin. I’ve never read Alice but I have read A Christmas Carol. I shall be looking up Bless Me, Ultima, it sounds wonderful and The Graveyard Book as well. Been meaning to read Gaiman, he is an awesome writer (and speaking of him and your mention of the Sandman – have you ever seen his comic: The Sandman? – it’s awesome if you are into comics/graphic novels)

    I haven’t got a proper book suggestions, it is a collection of short stories that will send chills down your spine: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Tales of Unease. One particular one Lot No. 249 was creepy beyond belief. So if most people think Conan Doyle only wrote Sherlock Holmes, they’re wrong 🙂

    • Ollin says:

      I’ll have to look that Sandman up. I’ve never been into graphic novels but I’ve been meaning to get into them. That might be a great start. I’ll take note of the Doyle short stories, make sure to bring them up when I do a short story version of “5 books to read before you die.” I might do a “5 graphic novels to read before you die” now that you mention it, although I haven’t read any, so I’d have to leave the recommendations up to my readers. Thanks!

  6. Maggie says:

    I agree with you on Alice, but The Hobbit… not so much. I’ve never figured out why, but Tolkien’s writing just never interested me.

    Nice post!

    • Ollin says:

      I understand. It can be very long and overly descriptive, but for me it just adds to the suspense and to the whole journey. Anything you would suggest instead?


  7. What a lovely book list idea, Ollin. There are far too many books… At the moment I am attempting to compile a winter break reading list for myself, but I’m having an awful time deciding. I have added Alice to it, however 🙂

    • Ollin says:

      It’s so great. I almost want to recommend just staying up all night and reading it, because it’s so trippy when you do that, but you should get your rest. 😉

  8. Val says:

    Okay, I’ll give my three: Lisey’s Story by Stephen King, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. As for your seasonal pick, I just come up with anything as good as A Christmas Carol.

    • Ollin says:

      Frankenstein, good one. Never been a fan of Hemingway, but I might enjoy Hemingway Light, if that book is not so long. Thanks for the recs! 🙂

  9. 83October says:

    I loved The Graveyard Book. During sleepless nights (which in my case is often) I usually read whatever book it is I’m reading. But if I would come up with a list, I’ll probably put Avi’s Strange Happenings, Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, and maybe a copy of Grimm’s Fairytales.

    • Ollin says:

      Grimm’s Fairytales is definitely a must read, and not the watered down version, the bloody, dark version.

      You know I saw the movie Caroline and I really didn’t like it. I wonder whether the book is better. Is the book anything like the movie? Are they different? I hope the book is better because I definitely loved “The Graveyard Book.”

      • 83October says:

        Definitely. When I read their version of Cinderella I was amazed. It’s fairly dark for fairytales, but I loved it. I’ve never seen the film adaptation of Coraline, so I can’t say. It’s definitely different from The Graveyard Book.

  10. Addy says:

    Maybe I’m the odd one out, beacuse I would rather have my book published first and ask everyone to read it.. Kinda greedy.. 😉

  11. unabridgedgirl says:

    I’ve read all of these except, Bless Me, Ultima. I’ll have to check that out. I love, A Christmas Carol. Classic? For sure. Always. I mean, it’s Scrooge! Adored, adored, adored the Graveyard Book. I’m not a huge fan of L. Carroll, but I am a great fan of Tolkien – so, naturally, I love The Hobbit. Great post, Ollin!

  12. Kavita says:

    I have been contemplating over The Hobbit… But now that you say it’s a must-read, I shall DEFINITELY read it, Ollin!! Thanks for this tip here! I really need to get back to my reading, before I forget all about it! And for that, I desperately needed a good start! What better than Tolkein! 🙂 Thanks!!!

  13. Devon Begg says:

    Thanks for the recommendations. I’ll be checking out that Graveyard book, it seems like my style.
    Some of my favourite reads are
    Homeland by RA Salvatore
    The Jesus Incident by Frank Herbert & Bill Ransom
    The Lazrus Effect, same authors (sequal)
    The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle (CLASSIC!!)
    The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding

    There aren’t many books that I’ll read more than once, but I’ve read these more than a few times.

  14. […] {See also: “5 Books You MUST Read Before You Die,” “5 Books You MUST Read Before You Die {Non-Fiction},” “5 Great Books To Read During Long, Sleepless Nights.”} […]

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