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Can't sleep at night? Guest blogger Naya Koutroumani will show you a surefire technique the English used to catch some winks in the middle of the London Blitz!


3 Facts

Fact: Dozing off on the sofa doesn't mean a good night's sleep.

Fact: The more I doze off on the sofa, the more wide my eyes are when I hit the pillow.

Fact: I wouldn't touch sleeping pills even if they were prescribed. I find it ridiculous to wear a sleeping mask or earplugs. Kinda like wearing socks during sex. I feel bloated with warm milk. I find myself soaked in colourful adrenaline after I play games on my mobile.

Fact: I can't sleep unless it's so late my neighbour's alarm goes off, which means I have an hour until mine does exactly the same.

The solution: snoozy books

The solution to my problem came when I read an article in the Guardian. It wasn't the article that made me sleep, it was what was in it.

The best boring books by Robert McCrum offers 10 titles that are guaranteed to send you to the Land of Nod in no time.

The author pays tribute to good reads from the London Blitz and talks about how specific books managed to calm people down while bombs were falling on their heads. He goes on to suggest his own top 10 for "slow reading that can be immensely comforting". Which is the British way of saying catching some z's when you need them the most.

Or in the author's own words:

There's no Blitz today, of course, and it's difficult to recapture or conjure up the kind of reading that might anaesthetise the anguish and pain of day-to-day existence in such circumstances.

The list

1.    Robert Burton: The Anatomy of Melancholy
2.   Robert Musil: The Man Without Qualities
3.   Kazuo Ishiguro: The Unconsoled
4.   Malcolm Lowry: Under the Volcano
5.   Virginia Woolf: The Waves
6.   James Joyce: Finnegan's Wake
7.   Thomas Wolfe: Look Homeward, Angel
8.   William Thackeray: Pendennis
9.   Karl Marx: Das Capital
10.  James Woodforde: The Diary of a Country Parson

Now, I must confess, although Virginia Woolf is one of my favourite writers of all times, I do make sure never to go to bed with her. If I did, Mrs Dalloway's Wednesday would have spread out to Thursday, Friday, Saturday and probably Sunday.

Recently, I discovered the joy of going to sleep with Thomas Pynchon. Yes, I know he is considered one of the greatest postmodernist writers, but I really can't help it. After half a page the sweetest sleep numbs all senses and my brain. I'm really very grateful to Pynchon. For all the wrong reasons.

It would be great if you posted in your comments your own top ten boring books and start a conversation.

Would it be useful?

Well, even if it didn't have real literary value, it might help a lot of people improve their quality of sleep. And if by chance this very article has done exactly this, if your eyelids are feeling heavier than when you started reading, let me wish you a long, uninterrupted and peaceful sleep.


Naya Koutroumani was born in Athens and studied Film and Advertising in London. She works as a creative director and in her free time she writes short stories. Some of these stories have been published in Greek literary magazines. One day she will write that novel and will stop talking about herself in the third person.