Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a nightly routine for winding down, at least on weeknights. At 9:00pm, my daughter is put to bed and kissed goodnight. Following that, if I’m not in pajamas, I quickly change into them, take my nightly medication, then curl up in bed with a book and read until I feel my eyes get heavy. This usually takes about an hour or so. If my husband falls asleep before then, so much for the better because that’s when I turn off the light on my nightstand and pop open my booklight or dim my Kindle.
I love to read in the dark. I find when I do that my senses are heightened, and since I’m focusing them all on whatever I’m reading, that makes the experience so much more exhilarating and informative. My Kindle Fire was bought for backlight purposes and organizing my e-books and other online reads in a more convenient fashion, leaving my first generation Kindle waiting for a new owner (perhaps my mother, but I haven’t decided yet). I have invested good money in ordering good booklights that light my pages well, but won’t blind me or my sleeping husband, have good battery life, and are durable during travel. For those who are interested, I highly recommend this one right here, which you can get a great deal on with Amazon. Durable, affordable, and they are available via Prime, so they get to you quickly. But I digress…
I have read a number of books in the dark to this heightened experience. Today I present to you my ten choices for books that are awesome to read in the dark. Get your “Books To Read” list and flashlights ready boys and girls! Here they are in no particular ranking or order.
The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins
Traits: young adult, science fiction, dystopia
After Mad Max: Fury Road took home six Oscars for multiple effects having to do with creating the atmosphere of the film, there’s a lot that can be said for the dystopian genre. Yes, there are a number of movies and books (one I’ve written myself) having to do with this theme, but I believe Collins’ interpretation of the post-apocalyptic American landscape is one that feels all too real. Each time the main character of Katniss finds herself in a period of silence and deep thought, the air around me becomes a deeper shade of black as I feel her sense of foreboding. Emotion and energy can run wild with these ones. Don’t jump if your cat suddenly nuzzles you like I did.
Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Traits: classic, mystery
Master detective Sherlock Holmes is the end all king of mystery and to not read one of his adventures in the dark is a sin. A sin I tell you! When you’re in the dark, you can almost feel the London fog and rain closing in around you and the scent of pipe tobacco is in the air. I personally recommend any one of the stories with the exception of “The Final Problem.” That one always leaves me a little too blue at the end. No spoilers here, but grab a tissue and don’t lose hope.
Angels & Demons by Dan Brown
Traits: fiction, triller, religious and history based
I know there may be some readers who think The Da Vinci Code is the reigning Dan Brown novel, but hear me out here. Do not base Angels & Demons on the horrific movie that came out a few years back. Even Ewan McGregor in a cassock couldn’t save that one. Again, I digress. As you are reading this particular novel in the dark, you begin to latch on to the themes of fire, earth, air, and water far more dramatically than if you were reading this on a park bench in the sun. The ideas of drowning or being buried alive freak you out now? Try thinking those thoughts when you can’t see much passed your booklight’s reach. Your senses get much more heightened when it comes to your own mortality.
The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
Traits: non-fiction, crime, medical science based
This book takes a look at the scariest creation on this earth, the human brain, and dissects it by exploring the question of, “What just makes someone mentally insane?” Written by author Jon Ronson, who also penned the fabulous The Men Who Stare at Goats, this read is not without humor on what can be a dark topic. The dark will actually have you analyzing yourself and wondering if you are as stable as you think you are. Don’t worry. As Ronson points out, if you question your stability, you’re probably good. Those who are unstable never question it. But it’s still fun to let the dark mess with your psychiatric state of mind a bit.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Traits: fiction, current events, forgiveness, adolescence
Among the newest of my favorite reads, The Kite Runner brings to light a side of Afghanistan that many do not realize exist. One that once very much like our own in America. Families dined together, children grew together, and celebrated their spiritual beliefs just the same. The dark themes of this novel have more to do with regrets and forgiveness than the physical darkness of the world around us. Reading this one by flashlight will make you feel that emotion even more. You may want a couple tissues nearby as well. I will warn you that there are some heavy themes throughout the story (including rape and torture), but you will feel light by the end. This is one of those books that lifted me and enlightened me in many ways while suffering the regular dose of hate in today’s world.
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede
Traits: youth/young adult, fantasy, easy read
These books are among my favorites and easily set a theme for my high school years. Plus they are great reads for any age as well. While following the adventures of young princess Cimorene, these stories like to mix themselves up with bits of fractured fairy tales that make being in the dark and knowing you are under the moon and stars more fun! Dragons, witches, magicians, and wizards all play a part in this four book series of epic adventures. These are great books to read with kiddos while out on a summer camping trip. Just sayin’.
The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
Traits: young adult, fiction, fantasy, adolescence
Many of us out there have read the Harry Potter books time and time again. But have you ever read them in the dark? If you haven’t, I recommend you do so. Grab your flashlight, chant “Lumos!” as you tuck in, and see how much darker the series gets as you read scenes in the brooding hallways of the North Tower or the Shrieking Shack with nothing but air around you. You’ll wish for a butterbeer after you put down the later books (or a firewhiskey!) Nox!
The Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells
Traits: sci-fi/fantasy, horror, regency tale
This is the first book I ever remember reading in the dark and since then, it’s the only way I’ll read it. While this novel is not as well known (imagine how excited I was when I met someone who loved it as much as I), it remains one of my favorite horror stories of all time. Sorry Mr. King. But I still get chills when the main character Nic leaves a house of death and whispers, “This is vivisection.” The darkness around you seems to close in as you realize something not human with no physical shape is following the main characters and you wonder if maybe, just maybe, it’s not all fiction after all. Also note that this is the first novel that kept me up reading until 3:00am in high school. Apologies to my mother for that.
Quiet by Susan Cain
Traits: non-fiction, science, psychology
A book like this usually isn’t in my normal repertoire, but in recent years I’ve been coming to terms with being an introvert, with anxiety no less. My library of employment had recently acquired this read and after looking over the details on the cover, I decided that this bit of literature would be in my best interests with learning to deal with myself in certain situations. Why is this book fantastic in the dark? The tranquil of the air around you helps you focus on the information about introverts and how that quiet and calm becomes their alpha and omega in their being. This is a read that even extroverts may find informative and great for a night in when everyone else is off doing their own thing.
The Know-It-All by AJ Jacobs
Traits: memoir, non-fiction, self-improvement
Those who are familiar with the work of AJ Jacobs have come to know him as a human guinea pig. He likes to use himself as the subject of experiments and see how they improve his life (or the opposite). In his first book, he attempts to read the Encyclopedia Britannica (now out of print in hardcopy, boo) in a year. He does this in order to make himself the smartest man on earth! While he talks about this, he chronicles how he and his wife attempt to conceive their first child and how it (as well as the encyclopedia reading) takes a toll on their marriage. Why read this in the dark? Personally, I think it makes you feel closer to Jacobs as a human being. We all hope to better ourselves in our own ways, and if you’re like me, you think about this a lot when you’re falling asleep for the night. So he becomes very relatable. He is a humorist, editor at large for Esquire magazine, and above all, human. His situations are sometimes not that different from any other one of us, try as he might.
I know this list may seem all over the place and some aren’t what you would consider “nighttime” reading, but we all have our different tastes when it comes to books. Some of us hate scary stories, but we could always get behind a book that can thrill us. Some of us like lighter reads before bed, while others do not take to fiction well. This is why I included the little section on traits to give you an idea on what you are getting into with each read. Choose wisely and enjoy. Regardless, I recommend each and every one of these books in the dark!
Happy reading my friends!