The Man At The End Of The Bed

By Louise Ure

I don’t have a long history of being read to in bed, but I think that’s all going to change now.

Growing up, there were too many of us tucking in for my mother to have read us to sleep, and my father would have been too drunk to do it, even if he’d wished to. I was twenty-one before I even heard of “Good Night Moon.”

Instead, my sister would tell me stories about the bear in the ceiling – there was proof of his existence, you could see the crack angling from the doorway to halfway across the room – who would become restless and crash down on us if I kept talking and he heard me.

And I have no children of my own, so I’ve missed that part of the “reading to sleep” phenomenon as well, although I was once asked by friends in Sydney to read their little three-year to sleep. She never even closed her eyes, both awed and confused by the American accent intoning “One Woolly Wombat.”

And then there was the experience of those friends of mine in Alaska. Lovebirds, these two. They’d walk around holding hands, gazing into each other’s eyes. They even put love notes inside the vegan sandwiches they packed for each other’s lunch.

And they set aside time to read to each other every night just before bed. Not a bedtime story, to be sure. And not a different book each night. But whatever they were reading, they did it together, and took turns reading aloud before they went to sleep. Poetry, classics, maybe a biography or two.

Perhaps you think the idea is charming and thoughtful. At the time I thought it was just plain silly, because I knew the only publication that would meet with my husband’s approval would be a car repair manual and that would have put me to sleep even before I started.

So that means the only reading-to-fall-asleep I’ve ever known is the reading that I do myself, eyeglasses pushed low on the nose to accommodate the angle of the pillow and the book. Two pages worth usually, unless I’ve had coffee to keep me awake.

But then I heard about Damian Barr.


Starting this week, Damian will be the Reader-in-Residence at the new Andaz hotel in London, and will be available to read you to sleep in your room.

In real life, Damian is a freelance playwright, author and journalist in London, but said he was interested in this Reader-In-Residence program as a way to avoid writing. (Yes, Mr. Barr, I know just what you mean. I call it blogging.)

Instead of doing his own creative work, Damian will be on call at the hotel throughout the day and night, to share the joy of books with others.

“In the mornings, guests will be able to consult Barr for a dose of bibliotherapy in which he’ll diagnose their literary needs and prescribe appropriate texts—whether it’s ‘a sumptuous Georgette Heyer, a classy giggle with Nancy Mitford or some glamorous gangsters with Jake Arnott,’ Barr explains. Hotel guests will also be able to book him for a private literary lunch or dinner in one of the hotel’s five restaurants and bars, as well as requesting Barr’s in-room read-aloud services from a specially devised Book Menu.”


Ah yes, those in room services. Damian Barr will come to your room, pajama-clad, sit at the end of your bed, and read to you until you fall asleep. You have his word that the minute you fall asleep, he will immediately show himself out.

Now we’re talking.

It may take Bruce a little time to get used to the idea of a pajama-wearing Brit at the end of the bed, but I want one. Now. I’ve got a lot of read-me-to-sleep nights to make up for. And you know I’m not going to last more than two pages anyway.

So, my ‘Rati friends, tell me your bedtime stories. What did you love reading or having read to you? Do you, like me, want a Reader-in-Residence of your own? And what would you ask him to read you?


50 thoughts on “The Man At The End Of The Bed

  1. billie

    There’s a BBC audio version of the original Winnie the Pooh that I just love listening to – Pooh and the Heffalump is like having cocoa and a hug at the same time.

  2. J.D. Rhoades

    I WANT THIS JOB!!!!!!!

    I don’t recall my mom ever reading to me, but I’m sure she did. My personal favorite for reading to my kids was “Where the Wild Things Are” which I can still recite from memory.

    And as for my own bedtime reader, I’d like to place an order for Kate Winslet to come and read me “The Story of O.” PJ’s optional.

  3. Rae

    I remember the Dr. Seuss books so fondly, and to this day admire anyone who has a facility with words. And, of course, Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner.

    As to the Reader-in-Residence….hmmmmm. Interesting gimmick, but…… Maybe there’s no romance left in my withered old soul, but the idea of some random stranger invading the privacy of my hotel room to read to me….ewww. I like the narrative voice in my head, thanks very much, and I like to read at my own pace. Plus, I’d have to wear way too many clothes for the Random Reader 😉

  4. Louise Ure

    Winnie the Pooh would be perfect, Billie. I might even stay awake through the whole book for that.

    And Rae, I can understand the squeamishness, but somehow the notion of an anonymous reader, a faceless voice there at the end of the bed, is just so appealing! Especially when he’s reading Dr. Seuss.

  5. Louise Ure

    J.D., you’d be a perfect Reader-in-Residence. I’d hire you to read that book they leave in the bedside table. And I’ll see what we can do about that Kate Winslet fantasy.

    Yeah, Ms. X., I suppose there’s the opportunity for some shenanigans here. I was just taken by the gentleness of the offer. “Close your eyes. I’ll be here until you fall asleep.” That’s kind of nice in a crazy world.

  6. Wilfred Bereswill

    This is so creepy to me that I can’t find anything witty to say that JD hasn’t covered.

    I don’t remember being read to before sleep and I can’t imagine being able to fall asleep with someone reading to me.

  7. Pari Noskin Taichert

    Oh, Louise,This just makes me laugh, the indulgence of it. I’m not creeped out at all. What clicks is the fact that there’s a literary service at all at a hotel. Cool beans.

    I’m very fortunate to have children. We still read to them every night.

    I’d love to hear all of the Anne of Green Gables books read by a good reader. They’re so soothing and verbally luscious, I think I could get lost enough in them to fall asleep.

  8. Louise Ure

    Ah, Wilfred, one man’s creepy is another’s solace. Maybe it’s a guy thing. Although Rae and Ms. X found the idea less than calming as well. I understand that he also offers the service by phone. Would that be any more appealing?

  9. Karen Olson

    OMG, this is the most bizarre thing I’ve ever heard of.

    I don’t remember being read to as a child, but I have loved reading to my daughter. She’s in fifth grade now, but just a couple of months ago, she had to do a book report and chose THE HOBBIT. We read it out loud to each other, each of us taking chapters. I never liked THE HOBBIT when I was a kid, but I loved it this time around, and I know it was because I shared it this way with Julia.

  10. Scott Parker

    I know my mom read to me but I can’t remember the *sound* of her reading. I can remember the books, however: Wizard of Oz and the Pooh stories. Nowadays, however, I thoroughly enjoy reading aloud. I read to my six-year-old every night, usually doing all the voices and accents. I actually perform the stories and I’m to the point where he’ll actually prefer me to read certain stories rather than my wife. Speaking of my wife, when I want her to read some of my new novel, I’ll actually read it aloud to her. I listen to more audiobooks than actually read books so my mind has made the adjustment. I get my music stand, get my manuscript, stand (not sit b/c I can move around), and read aloud to her. She enjoys it and I can tell where certain bits of prose work and don’t work. Oh, and I usually read at night to her. It’s her bedtime stories. And my goal is to make her stay awake. If she falls asleep while I’m reading, I’ll probably retool the prose.

  11. Louise Ure

    Pari, a woman after my own heart! I knew you’d appreciate the peacefulness and generosity of Mr. Barr’s offer. And Anne of Green Gables would be perfect.

    Karen, I can picture you and Julia reading The Hobbit. That’s so fine.

  12. Louise Ure

    Scott, I have this great image of you — maestro-like at the end of the bed — reading and acting out your manuscript to your wife. That’s a marriage made in heaven for sure. And the reading probably does great things for fine-tuning your dialogue as well.

  13. patty smiley

    When I was a child, my mother read to me most every night, but I don’t think I’d enjoy that now because I like pausing over a well-turned phrase and reflecting on word choices. I couldn’t even listen to my own book on tape.

  14. Elaine Flinn

    Ah, leave it to the Brit’s to come up with something like this! I’m laughing so hard – I’m damn near speechless. For me, it’s not a question of *what* I’d want read, but *who* will be doing the reading. Hmm. Were I younger, I’d go for Jude Law. At this stage of my life, gimmmeee Ray Winstone. Where do I sign up?

  15. Amanda Stevens

    I wish I could say that I read the classics to my kids when they were little, but it was Goosebumps all the way for us. Don’t know about having someone read to me, though. I think it might freak me out a little. Unless, you know, it’s Clive Owen or Daniel Craig.

  16. toni mcgee causey

    I can barely fall asleep with my own family under roof. There is absolutely no way I’d ever fall asleep with a stranger in my room. Maybe a recording, that turned off with a timer, but an actual person? Watching me try to fall asleep? Um, no. (Although, Louise, I think that makes you a much better person, to be honest.)

    (Amanda, I think the Clive Owen / Daniel Craig suggestion is excellent, but who wants to fall asleep if that’s the case?)

  17. Louise Ure

    Patty, my reading enjoyment has changed dramatically since I started writing, too. I don’t know that I’d have the patience to have someone read to me, but it’s kind of like a fantasy of days gone by.

    Elaine, why do I think sleeping is not on the agenda when Jude Law comes to read to you? Glad you enjoyed the idea of it.

  18. Louise Ure

    Amanda, I’m with you on the Clive Owen idea. And Goosebumps? If I’d been read to as a child, that kind of thing is probably what I would have chosen.

    Toni, I understand the hesitation, but I must admit that when I first heard of the Reader-in-Residence program, it seemed so therapeutic to me. Just like putting your naked body in the hands of a good masseur.

  19. JT Ellison

    I totally dig this idea. What a blast. My parents or my brothers read to me every night, lots of Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales, Grimm Brothers and Pippi Longstocking. LOVED Pippi Longstocking.

    When I got a little older, we’d act the stories out, my brothers creeping into my room like bad guys, me grabbing them from behind and throwing them over my shoulder onto the bed. With the pigtails. You had to have the pigtails.

    I want kids so I can have the excuse to go back and reread all my old books.

    The last time I was read to was freshman year of college. One of the fraternities had a “Tuck In” fundraiser, and my friends bought me a bedtime story with my crush. It was sadly uneventful, as he wasn’t the most talented reader.

  20. Louise Ure

    A “Tuck in” Fundraiser! What a great idea, JT. (Even without the pigtails.)

    And of course, the Brothers Grimm. Kind of fits in with my Goosebumps taste in literature.

  21. Alexandra Sokoloff

    I guess I’m not buying that innocent British schoolboy look. I dated an Englishman who looked just like this Gentle Reader and shenanigans doesn’t even begin to cover it.

    (To be clear, I’m not put off at all – just not fooled).

    But to the question – my dad read to all of us kids and we loved it, even though his taste in stories ran to the macabre.

    I guess that explains a lot…

  22. Elaine Flinn

    Considering the age difference between Jude and moi – I think he’d opt to read. 🙂 At least with Ray, we could have some laughs and maybe a night cap or two. But it was kind of you to thik otherwise… 🙂

  23. Louise Ure

    J.D., my comment to you should have read “after hearing your hallelujah intro at Thrillerfest, I’d EVEN hire you to read that book they leave in the bedside table.”

    Ms. X., I’m not fooled by the boyish charm of his looks either, but there is something hypnotic about a British accent …

    Elaine, we should make that night cap a part of the Reader-in-Residence program. Maybe a brandy, maybe a cocoa. It should all be part of the service, no?

  24. Sharon Wheeler

    I love being read to! One of the highlights when I had an hour-long commute by car in a previous job was listening to audio books. I’d listen to Martin Shaw read the phonebook, but he nearly put me under the wheels of a lorry on the M5 near Birmingham by intoning all those names ever-so-beautifully in The Silmarillion (and I am absolutely not a Tolkein fan)!

    We did get read to when we were little, but as soon as we could read, the duties swapped, and we had to read to my mum or dad every night!

  25. Zoë Sharp

    I read all the comments about Brit accents with great amusement. My own choice of reader would have to be Garrison Keillor, or the late Alistair Cooke.

    As a child, my grandmother used to read the Beatrix Potter books out loud to me. It was part of the reason that my vocabulary at age three included the word ‘soporific’.

    As for reading aloud, the strangest experience I’ve had with that in recent years was listening to Stuart MacBride reading out a particular section of one of the Charlie Fox books, in front of 400 people on our panel at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival last year. Not that I’ve anything against Stuart – he’s a fine reader and a great writer – but listening to a bearded, male Scot reading the most embarrassing bit of a sex scene, written in first person from an English, (unbearded) female perspective, takes some getting over, I can tell you.

  26. Kaye Barley

    This has left me just speechless.Now just suppose, just suppose.After that second VSOPXO cognac you misremembered where you were, and only “thought” you were at the Andaz Hotel in London, picked up the phone and requested the “Reader in Residence.” The resulting consequences are endless . . .

  27. Louise Ure

    Elaine, I’ll provide the cognac if you provide the reader!

    Shaz, after thinking about this Reader-in-Residence all day, I’m ready to give audio books another try. Now, if I could just find a way that they would click themselves off as I drop off to sleep.

  28. Louise Ure

    Zoë, I’m in the middle of Second Shot right now and I guarantee nobody’s going to drop off to sleep in the middle of one of your action scenes! McBride reading one of the sex scenes, however, that might make me squirm.

    And you’ll just have to put up American adulation of British and Irish accents. There’s nothing better.

    Kaye, you have a warped mind. So I have that cognac. I pick up the phone and ask for the Reader in Residence. What’s the Holiday Inn going to send me? Somebody named Rita?

  29. Tom, T.O.

    I suspect, Dear Louise, that Left-Coast Crime might be considering a Reader-in-Residence in Hawaii next year…, uh, for experimental fund-raising purposes only, of course?

    My parents both read to me, my five sisters, and brother, until we could read ourselves. Sometimes they read to us at bedtime, and sometimes after dinner before the good radio shows came on. Then, of course, there were the various radio readers of the Sunday paper funnies.

    Our favorite was when our Nana came to visit. While she would occasionally read to us, for the most part she would tell us stories–fairy tales, after we went to bed. Often we could con her into two stories, and if we were REALLY lucky, we could talk her into three. It was heaven! The stories were not the typical, well-known fairy tales, but stories our friends never heard–stories I later tracked down in THE RED FAIRY BOOK, THE BLUE…and GREEN…and YELLOW…, et alii. There were some Andersen and Grimm, but mostly from other sources. What fun we had.

    I feel sorry for anybody who’s not me!

    (Oh, I happily volunteer to be a Reader-in-Residence, with or without pajamas, females only, please.

  30. Louise Ure

    Tom, you would make a superb Reader-in-Residence! Red and white pajamas I presume.

    And now I must track down The Red Fairy Book, or any of the other aformentioned colors. Your grandmother sounds like a gem.

  31. Tom, T.O.

    Those “colorful” fairy books are old and numerous. Many years ago Dover published about fifteen (maybe all there were, and I don’t know how many there were originally) of them in a quality paperback edition. There were also VIOLET, BROWN, OLIVE–I forget them all. Then, several years ago I found hardcover editions (reprints, again) of the RED and the BLUE FAIRY books on a remainder table. If ever I get my sci-fi and fantasy collection out of the storeroom and unpacked, I’ll see that you become familiar with them.

    Read on!

  32. Louise Ure

    Santa! You’re the first — the original — Reader in Residence!

    And I’d love to know those other fairy tales. I’ve been looking for one called The Tongue-Cut Sparrow that’s haunted me since I was a child.

  33. Catherine

    I’m reading way too much suspense when

    “Close your eyes. I’ll be here until you fall asleep.”

    …evokes Anthony Hopkins at his most Hannibal-esque to me.I’m so not seeing the mild appearing reader in residence man at all.

    Reading in my family is a huge thing.I think being read to stopped for me when I learnt to read at about 4, largely because I just wanted to be in charge of imagining.

    Although I do rather vividly remember wanting details about what the three little kittens had gotten up to lose their mittens.

    My Dad, usually the most robust of men, almost died when he was 35.I remember when he came home from hospital Mum read him the Lord of the Rings each night.I’m pretty certain she did voices.

    They’re now able to look back on that time with pleasure at time shared, rather than the scariness of almost losing each other.

  34. Louise Ure

    Catherine, you’ve found the horror in the most innocent of situations. And isn’t that what we look for in great crime fiction?

    I love your parents’ story. What a bond between them.

  35. damian barr

    Let’s be a clear about a few things:1) I don’t do voices/accents. yes, it’s a brilliant opp to be offensive and borderline creepy but…I am sticking with my soft Scots brogue2) I do do couples: one woman has booked me to read a Tale of Two Cities to her husband at midnight. I am considering groups. Hey, the beds are big.3) I sit on armchair. Bed perching is an extra.4) I don’t do extras–see belle de jour (i have books, not whips).5) undr no circs will i read the porn ie The Da Vinci Code. (that said: jackie collins is on the Book Menu).

    Just thought I’d clear a few things up. If you want to try it out for yourself…we’re having a Big Read In on Sunday April 27th. or you can knock softly on my door…

  36. Louise Ure

    Damian, how nice to see you here! Now that you’ve found us at Murderati, I hope you’ve got plenty of crime fiction in your bag as well.

    You’ve come up with a great idea here. Expect lots of bookings from the Murderati crew.

  37. damian barr

    My PJs are crisp and stab-proof…Book Menu in FULL:Book menu

    Classic and comforting:Brothers Grimm: classic bedtime stories including rapunzel, little red riding hood & Tom Thumb

    Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn WaughFrom dreaming Oxbridge colleges to draughty country houses and sweaty sinning in Morocco, follow the rise and fall of Charles and Sebastian’s relationship. Sumptuous and sweeping. I’ll bring a teddy if you if you haven’t an Aloysius of your own.

    Pride & Prejudice by Jane AustenMr Darcy! Guaranteed to set your bosoms heaving and your wits dancing, Miss Austen’s classic never fails to charm. I can’t promise Keira Knightley or Colin Firth.

    Cold Comfort Farm by Stella GibbonsThere’s something nasty in the woodshed. You’ll find out what it is as Flora Post moves from the metropolis to meddle in the lives of her eccentric and wayward country cousins.

    Dark and disconcerting…Miriam a Short Story Truman Capote There’s no Holly Glightly in this ghostly tale about a haunting little girl. Written in 1945 it still sends shivers down the sternest of spines.

    Dracula by Bram Stoker or Frankenstein by Mary ShelleyTwo gothic classics guaranteed to have you ducking under the covers within pages.

    American Psycho by Brett Easton EllisMindless consumerism and mindless killing. The book is better than the film but bloodier and more disturbing. You’ll never use a drill again. Or sleep.

    (if that is too extreme then Chuck Palahniuk’s Lullaby: A poem in a children’s book has terrible consequences. Fatal when read out loud, it soon threatens humanity. Surreal and scary.)

    ContemporaryDon’t Tell Me the Truth About Love by Dan RhodesLove takes all its forms—heartbreaking and hopeful, lustful and lazy—in this contemporary short story collection from the ever clever Rhodes. Charming without being whimsical and always surprising.

    Hotel World by Ali SmithSet in a fictitious and suitably anonymous Big Corporate Hotel, Hotel World is a novel about checking in and out of reality. We’ve all walked those identical corridors and tried to talk to those characterless employees. Not at Andaz, of course. Smith somehow finds humanity here.

    This Book Will Save Your Life by AM HomesIndeed it might. Set in LA it follows one man as ever more surreal events engulf his life bringing him to a bigger understanding of himself, his son and his need to run a doughtnut shop. The set piece finale is astonishing.

    The Yacoubian building by Alaa Al AswanyThe who’s who of life in a once grand Egyptian apartment building. From the basement to the roof, from servants to masters. Faded glory, fierce ambition and, finally, tragedy.

    Guilty PleasuresBath Triangle by Georgette HeyerOne of Stephen Fry’s favourites, Ms Heyer takes us on a regency romp of hunts, balls and houses. Dripping with detail it will transport you a time when women were ladies and men were dandies.

    Lucky by Jackie CollinsLucky by name but lucky by nature? Palm trees, swimming pools and dangerous women litter the pages of this unashamed silicone-enhanced trash. Dive in!

    44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall SmithMeet the extraordinary inhabitants of this seemingly ordinary Edinburgh house. Told episodically, it gives a human face to a city that often seems cold. Best with a strong cuppa or a wee dram.

    Books You’d Never Actually Read Yourself But Would Like To (Improving Literature)

    War and Peace by Leo TolstoyWe won’t get through the whole thing even if you stay up all night but we’ll have a stab at this Russian epic.Ulysses by James JoyceI don’t know where to start but it doesn’t really matter. At least we can say we tried to plumb the depths of this postmodern prose.A la recherche du temps perdu by ProustWe won’t be doing this in French. We might not be doing it all. But you deserve the chance to experience the full force of Marcel.

    thank you for making me welcome!

  38. JT Ellison

    You know… one of the conference organizers could do something very smart with this…

    Hire Damian to come for the weekend, read his bedtime stories to the con attendees.

    I know I’d pay. It would be a great way to raise both funds and awareness.

    Thanks for coming to Murderati to clear things up, Damian : )

  39. Louise Ure

    Damian, you’d read American Psycho or James Joyce as bedtime stories? You’re a brave man indeed.

    And I love your idea, JT! Hmmm … wonder if I could convince Damian to join us in Hawaii for next year’s Left Coast Crime?

  40. damian barr

    JT–that’s a very good idea! I’ll pack my books and ensure they are sun lotion-proofed…

    DLouise–yes, yes I would…

  41. sophie Littlefield

    I don’t think I’ll ever stop reading to my kids, though they are 13 and 15, and would be horrified if anyone knew. We all lie around on the floor and just go until someone gets bored.

    The last book I picked for my son was Mary Roach’s _Stiff_ – it certainly held their attention. And my daughter likes to hear my short story drafts, though I have to do lots of verbal editing because they’re usually full of profanity. 🙂

    If someone were to read to me??? Hmmm…I think anything at all, as long as they had a marvelous voice. The last thing that was read to me was probably my dad reading Watership Down with my brother & sister, decades ago.

  42. Hamburger

    As a teen, I read to myself, under sheets over my head and flashlight illuminating the tales of Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames, Sue Barton. Now I invite Michael Connelly to bed with me (with blessings from his wife and family)


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