The Greatest Sleep Aids Disguised as Books

August 24, 2012 Classics, Pretentious 20

Confession Friday: I fell asleep reading Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. A lot. The thing is, this is a REALLY good book. It’s just that Tolstoy gets caught up in long diatribes about Russian politics. Okay, it’s not JUST that. The prose is very challenging (even in an English translation, because Lord knows I am pathetically monolingual). I read somewhere that when your brain gets tired of processing complex thoughts, you get sleepy. Apparently I am incapable of processing complex thoughts about Russian politics.

Even the woman on the cover looks like she needs a nap…

Luckily for Tolstoy, he had a phenomenal premise to his book. Anna is stuck in an unhappy marriage, has an affair, gets pregnant as a result of this affair, hides out with her lover and traipses around Europe for a while, but pines away for the son she left in Russia. Her story has a tragic end, and it’s a great critique of the lack of options women had during that period (1870’s approximately). Eventually I did make it through the whole thing, but I sure as heck struggled to keep my eyes open sometimes.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest instead of popping that Ambien, keep a Tolstoy novel on the nightstand. You’ll be cured of insomnia, and you might learn something before you crash. Just a suggestion.

Oh, you’ve already read Anna Karenina and still can’t sleep? Why don’t you try The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera? I think this is one of those books people claim to love because it makes them sound smart, but nobody actually likes it. I have an excellent memory for plots and I just had to google this to even remember what it was about. It was about a man who was in love with one woman but also kept a mistress, and it’s incredibly philosophically poignant… According to the internet. All I remember is that they named their dog after Anna Karenina (coincidence?) and suffered hardships at the hands of the government. Or something. You’ll have to forgive me, because I was trying so hard not to fall asleep. It’s not even a long book! It’s just like “oooh philosophical stuff, let’s make you feel stupid, Katie.” And I was like, “Yeah? Well, I’m going to finish you, you awful book, just to spite you!” And then I fell asleep.

Never judge a book by its cover! Sometimes awful books have floating hats on them!

You’re STILL AWAKE? You have got to be kidding me. Alright. Time to bust out the great white whale. Yes, I’m talking about Moby Dick by Herman Melville. I was required to read this in high school. I know it’s a classic. I’m sure part of my disdain for this novel comes from the fact that I was forced to read it. However, I think this was my first experience with falling asleep while reading. You know what part was cool? The part where they talked about Queequeg being an awesomely tattooed cannibal harpoonist. You know what part wasn’t cool? Everything else! I love to read, but I’m glad I no longer have to write papers dissecting the symbolism of every passage, especially when said passages made me soporific. Maybe it’s the description of the rhythmic rocking of the waves that lulls one to slumber. Maybe it’s the challenging nature of the prose. Maybe I’m a cretin who bashes classic literature because I’m too dumb to get it. Who knows?

The only book I ever used Cliffs Notes on… Because I kept falling asleep.

If you can stay awake through all of these, you’re either a super genius or you REALLY need that Ambien. Go ahead. Take it. I promise to keep an eye on you so you don’t sleep drive yourself to Vegas and blow all your money on roulette while wearing one shoe and a feathered tiara. I’m concerned about your well being, see?

20 Responses to “The Greatest Sleep Aids Disguised as Books”

  1. Mandy Berman

    I feel the exact same way about “Unbearable Lightness” – does anyone ACTUALLY like that book? As in, enjoyed reading it? Cause I certainly didn’t.

    As for Anna Karenina — beautiful prose, but it took me 9 months to read. Those politics passages are denseee.

  2. janereads

    I tried to read ‘Anna Karenia’ because I thought it was my duty to give it a go. Alas, I failed. Saw a great mini-series based on it though … The same thing happened when I attempted ‘War and Peace.’

    • wordsforworms

      I’m not brave enough for ‘War and Peace’- I commend you for even trying! I made it through “Anna” based on sheer determination- I refused to let myself read anything else until I finished it. It still took a while- on account of the Tolstoy-induced narcolepsy.

  3. Chuck Kampschoer

    You forgot to mention the GREATEST SLEEP INDUCING TEXT EVER any of the innumerable Cisco Router Manuals followed very closely by the sinister Microsoft titles. If you can maintain alertness after more than 4 pages, you are either a secret agent trained to ignore pain or a truly Great Geek!

    • wordsforworms

      Ladies and Gentlemen: My Dad! You’re a giant nerd, Dad. Thanks for reading. And no, I will not be reviewing Cisco Router manuals. They are not “Lit-ra-ture.”

  4. Lauren@FilingJointly

    I’m right there with you on all three of these. I sort of loved Anna Karenina but could only wade through about twenty pages at a time. I was fifty pages away from finishing the thing when Ryan and I pulled into the parking lot of the hotel we were staying at for our five year dating anniversary. And I was so close to being done that I had to finish the book right then, come hell or high water. So I sat in the car for the next hour reading whilst Ryan imbibed numerous beverages from the minibar in our lovely hotel room.

    • wordsforworms

      LOL that’s phenomenal. I get accused of husband neglect regularly, but that might be because Jim doesn’t have a hotel mini bar (we do have a fancy mini fridge in the basement- I should lock it and put super high prices on everything in there. Perhaps that would keep him entertained? Proceeds from mini bar sales would go directly to my amazon account! This is brilliant.) So happy you stopped by! 🙂

  5. didibooksenglish

    Read Unbearable Lightness of Being in French. Everybody here in France was talking about how great it was. I read it and thought it was pretentious. Anna Karenina haven’t read yet but it’s on my TBR list. I guess I’ll have to put it on my night stand. 🙂

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