BEDTIME STORIES: 8 BOOKS TO READ ALOUD IN THE SACK

Remember back… did you ever lounge around in bed with your lover sharing your favorite stories and poetry by candlelight late into the night? Murmuring seductions, exchanging secrets, watching the shadows dance across the walls. Maybe a glass of red wine got knocked off the rickety bedside table and splashed across the sheets (and no one cared). Wasn’t that just the best?

Here’s the opposite: An acquaintance of mine recently gushed about how much she and her husband loved their new tablets because they could each view movies separately in bed with headphones. The image of them hunched in the dark on opposite sides of the mattress, plugged in and tuned out, faces aglow from the eerie reflected blue of a flickering screen, haunted me. It could be a scene out of dystopian sci-fi flick about the future of human relationships… or simply a scene from a nightmare.

We’ve been advised to get technology out of the bedroom because it ruins our sleep, but not surprisingly it can also fray at our intimacy. How about banishing your devices for a night and curl up and read a book to each other, preferably the paper kind—maybe with dog-eared corners and scribblings inside from a time when you revered it with passion.

Here are some volumes to get you started:

1. Delta of Venus (published posthumously in 1977) by Anais Nin and Tropic of Cancer (1934) by Henry Miller

Miller’s frank, macho masterpiece was banned in the United States for more than 25 years and is still pretty raunchy. It’s the thinly-veiled tale of the author’s own hungry (and horny) days as an impoverished writer/skirt chaser in Bohemian Paris recounted in crude, driving language. Alternate his chapters with the more elegantly wrought (but still explicitly lusty) stories by his lover, Anais Nin, who penned this collection in the 1940s for a private collector of erotica. As she describes one pair of lovers, “He was now in that state of fire that she loved. She wanted to be burnt.” Brace yourselves for many broken taboos and a lively—and hot blooded—he said/she said.  NC-17.

2. Les Liasons Dangereuses (1782) by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos

Who needs ‘House of Cards’ when you can devour the decadent maneuverings of two spoiled aristocrats, the Vicomte de Valmont and his former lover, the Marquise de Merteuil. For her amusement, the Marquise challenges Valmont to seduce sweet and virginal, Cécile Volanges, fresh from a stint at a nunnery, who is betrothed to her adversary, the Comte de Gercourt. Plot twists and perversity abound. PG-13.

3. 20 Love Poems and a Song of Despair (1924) or The Captain’s: Verses Love Poems (1963) by Pablo Neruda

A giant of 20th century literature, Neruda wrote many of his deeply stirring, intensely romantic poems for his wife —which makes lines like, “I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees” all the more swoon-worthy. PG-13.

4. 50 Shades of Grey (2011)

Still haven’t bothered to discover what all the fuss is about? At more than 500 pages, it’s long-winded—so half the fun is flipping through looking for the naughty bits. She’s an innocent college senior; he’s a super rich ice king with a helicopter called Charlie Tango and a talent for hardcore domination in both the boardroom and the bedroom. Depending on your predilections, it will turn you on, piss you off, or crack you up. NC-17.

5. Bridget Jones’s Diary (1996) by Helen Fielding

It’s the book that launched 1,000 volumes of Chick Lit—and remains the funniest and most poignant one of all. The conceit is simple —a year of entries from a semi-self-loathing singleton’s diary, obsessing about her weight, her boyfriend hunt, and “developing poise.” Some of her New Year’s resolutions are,

I Will Not:

-Waste money on exotic underwear since pointless as have no boyfriend.

-Fall for any of the following: alcoholics, workaholics, commitment phobics, chauvinists, freeloaders, perverts.

-Have crushes on men, but instead form relationships based on mature assessment of character.”

I Will:

-Go to gym three times a week not merely to buy sandwich.

-Give all clothes which have not worn for two years or more to homeless.

-Not go out every night but stay in and read books and listen to classical music.

While the character may seem retro, Fielding is actually spot on about many of our secret fears and longings. And laughing together is so sexy. PG-13.

6. Letters to a Young Poet (published posthumously in 1929) by Rainier Maria Rilke

This collection of 10 letters written by Rilke to a 19-year-old aspiring poet are about literature, yes, but offer clear-eyed wisdom that still resonates today on how to live a rich and honest life. The slim volume will whisk you and your partner back to a zesty and youthful time when love and ideas and art felt so urgent you had to stay up all night kissing and talking and kissing and talking and kissing. PG.

Sweet dreams, and, don’t forget, you still have to go to work tomorrow.