Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bed books

The first autumn leaves blew into my garden yesterday and reminded me that the season of the 'bed book' is not far away. The term comes from India Knight's 2003 non-fiction book The Shops. She explains that bed books are comfort books, not necessarily the best books ever written but books that are "particularly blissful to read in bed". "The big beribboned box of violet creams of the book world," as she puts it.

Here are some bed books pulled from my shelf, three of which are also on India Knight's list but, as she says, her "list is kind of obvious, but I pass it on because you may not have read them all, or not re-read them in a while." I tried several others she loves but one woman's violet cream is another's chocolate-coated brazil nut.

My bed books:
  • I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith.
    I wish everyone in this book was as real as the castle remains in my memory.
  • Mr Rosenblum's List, Natasha Solomons.
    Literally squealed with joy when the underdog got a break.
  • Snobs, Julian Fellowes.
    It takes one to write about them well. Guilty pleasure.
  • My Cousin Rachel, Daphne du Maurier.
    Melodramatic suspense on the Cornish coast from the author of Rebecca. Kept waving the non-existent sea mist away from my face.
  • Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen.
    Colin Firth will always be my Mr Darcy.
  • The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters.
    Beautifully written ghost story set in a crumbling English stately home that's seen better days - and nights.
India Knight's bed books:
  • Forever Amber, Kathleen Windsor.
  • Regency Buck, Georgette Heyer. Likes The Grand Sophy, Masqueraders, Arabella too.
  • I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith.
  • The Making of a Marchioness, Frances Hodgson Burnett.
  • Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, Winifred Watson.
  • The Cazalet Chronicles series, Elizabeth Jane Howard.
  • My Cousin Rachel, Daphne du Maurier.
  • Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen.
  • Early Jilly Cooper: Imogen, Harriet, Octavia, Emily and Bella.
  • Invitation to the Waltz, Rosamond Lehmann.
  • These Happy Golden Years, Laura Ingalls Wilder.
  • Any Barbara Pym.
  • Peyton Place, Grace Metallious.
  • The Real Charlotte, Sommerville and Ross.
India Knight says The Real Charlotte and My Cousin Rachel are the odd ones out on her list because they've got more bite than sweetness. I think bed books are anything you can get lost in. What about you? Any recommendations? I'd love to start squirrelling away a few nuts for winter. Even brazils.


  1. Another 'Bed Book' is 'Veronika and Astrid' by Linda Olsson. Very moving.

  2. Thanks for the V&A suggestion. Had a quick google and sounds like something I'd really like, which is great as I'd never heard of it.