We’re back for our latest gawk at an author’s nightstand! I’m glad to hear that Eleni Gage is also a promiscuous reader, because I jump from book to book too! She even sent me 3 photos of her nightstand, but I’m going to share the one that looks more like mine–but neater. I can totally relate to those stacks of books! Take it away Eleni!
I always say I’m a promiscuous reader. I pick up books everywhere, from shopping at our local indie, The Corner Bookstore, to trolling the giveaway pile in our laundry room, to shamelessly lifting them off of friends after they’ve barely closed the back cover. One of my favorite things about traveling is taking up with books that earlier fellow travelers abandoned in the hotel room or on the lobby bookshelf. The pairing of a cast-off book and a new locale makes for idiosyncratic combinations that weirdly work together. I remember reading E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India while hurtling through Mexico in a touring van, and the experience somehow enhanced both the reading and the trip.
In terms of what I read, I love a good, long, family saga, ideally one that jumps across time periods. I borrowed My Brilliant Friend, the first of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan trilogy, from a brilliant friend of my own and found it totally all-consuming. When I was done I was exhausted from having grown up with these girls and so impressed by the writing, which is character focused rather than plot driven; nothing happens, and yet, everything does. Then I read the second one, The Story of a New Name, and I think it was the only thing that kept me alive during a heinous bout with the stomach flu the week before I was due to give birth. I had to return that to its owner, but I’m holding My Brilliant Friend ransom until she ponies up the third book in the series, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay. (Thanks to From Left to Write for this opportunity to add a little public shaming to the pressure. Editor’s Note: Anytime, my friend!)
In the interim, I’m tearing through The Blessings by Elise Juska. It’s the story of an Irish Catholic family told in the multiple points of view of various members, and it’s reminding me so much of growing up in my own vast extended Greek-American family. For me, that dual sense of discovery and familiarity is one of the biggest payoffs of reading. I love it when, in reading about a very specific, particular world, you hit upon universal emotions that all of us feel.
I can’t double-dip between novels, it makes my head spin. So the rest of my nightstand is devoted to magazines (I’m a journalist and magazine editor, so these count both as business and pleasure) and one nonfiction book: What to Expect the First Year. Our second child, a boy named Nicolas, was born on April 2nd, and I’ve already consulted the book dozens of times. The internet is a great resource, but if you look up something simple like “how long should a newborn sleep” you get eight million opinions, horror stories, and holier-than-thou triumphs. I appreciate having an authoritative reference that tells you what you need to know without leading you down infinite rabbit holes. Plus, this book is practically a family heirloom; I used it with my daughter, Amalía, over three years ago.
I have to admit that sending a photo of my incredibly messy nightstand feels a bit like forwarding pictures of myself stepping out of the shower, naked and awkward. The state of my overflowing bedside table drives my neat husband crazy. Once a week, he says, “Let’s shop for a new nightstand for you, one that will be easier to keep organized.” But at this point, the state of my messy nightstand reflects the state of my chaotic mind.
Eleni’s new novel is The Ladies of Managua follows three generations of Nicaraguan women each with a secret to conceal. Brought together to bid farewell to their loving patriarch, these strong-minded ladies are ultimately forced to confront their pasts and their fraught relationships with one another and their homeland.
About Eleni Gage: is a journalist who writes regularly for publications including Travel+Leisure, The New York Times, T: The New York Times Travel Magazine, Dwell, Elle, Elle Décor, Real Simple, Parade, and The American Scholar. Currently Executive Editor at Martha Stewart Weddings and formerly beauty editor at People, Eleni graduated with an AB in Folklore and Mythology from Harvard University and an MFA from Columbia University. She lives in New York City with her husband and their young daughter.