There’s no better feeling than climbing into bed after a demanding day, and closing your eyes for a restful night of sleep. In a perfect world, your mind will be at ease and you’ll softly drift off to sleep in 10-15 minutes—but sadly this isn’t usually the case. Five minutes of scrolling through Facebook turns into an hour of watching Friends blooper videos and even though they’re real entertaining, it’s a lot harder to fall asleep after you’ve had a device in your face stimulating your brain for so long. Reading or listening to bedtime stories before you go to sleep is a great way to reduce stress and relax your mind so you can effortlessly slip into a deep sleep like you used to when you were a kid.
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When you’re telling a story, whether you’re reading it from a book or making it up off the top of your head, keep these tips in mind to make sure your audience stays engaged and on the edge of their seats.
Keep it simple — You don’t want to get too crazy with an overload of characters and a complicated plot, unless you want to see your listener’s eyes glaze over. Set the stage, introduce a few solid characters, and keep the plot running on track.
Change your tone of voice — Nobody likes a monotone storyteller. Change the tone and speed of your voice to match the moments in your story. If something scary is about to happen, maybe slow down and lower the tone of your voice. If the scene is hectic, talk in a fast pace to mirror how your characters feel. You’ll set the mood and have your audience feeling similar to how your characters feel. And always remember to be enthusiastic!
Pause for dramatic effect — This is a fool proof way to create suspense, and have your listener eagerly waiting to hear what comes next.
Keep eye contact — No matter who you’re reading a bedtime story to, you’re the catalyst for the story they’re hearing. When you keep eye contact with your audience, it ensures all their focus stays on you and your story. Your listener will be so engaged they’ll be transported from their world, to the fictional universe you’re describing so well.
Now that you have the tools necessary to tell a good story, let’s get into our top rated list. We’ve gone ahead and included links to Amazon and other sites (highlighted in green) for your convenience.
The Princess and the Pea by Kolanovic Dubravaka – Make your princess feel like the real deal before bed with this short fairy tale about a delicate princess who is put to the ultimate test by the parents of her prince. After she stumbles upon a handsome prince’s palace in the pouring rain and explains she is a royal in need of a place to stay, the Queen is hesitant to believe her. So what does the Queen do? Naturally, she places a pea between 20 mattresses for the princess to sleep on. If the young woman notices the pea, she is telling the truth. Your girlfriend will love this story because it’s quick and relatable. An innocent princess who has to prove herself to her boyfriend’s mother through unreasonable tests? Not too far fetched of an idea.
Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger – A Time Traveler’s Wife is a story about a man who was blessed with the ability to travel through—you guessed it… time, and he uses his gift to revisit the most important moments in his wife’s life before he was a part of it. Reading your lady love this story will allow her to open up and reflect on the most important experiences of her own life, and the best case scenario is that she’ll feel like you’re really interested in who she is as a person (we’re trying to get you extra brownie points here with this one).
A Baby Boomer’s Bedtime Story: To The Moon and Back by Phila Vocia – If you were born between 1946 – 1964, then A Baby Boomer’s Bedtime Story by Phila Vocia was written especially with you in mind. You may laugh, you may cry, but you’ll definitely feel the nostalgia as Vocia remenices on the defining moments behind the Baby Boomer generation. So what could be a better bedtime story than a detailed recollection of some of your most joyful memories? We can’t think of many others to top it.
Wisdom at Work: The Making of a Modern Elder by Chip Conley – This story is about a 52-year-old who sold the company he ran for 24 years, and was quickly presented with the opportunity to help Airbnb expand into the international enterprise as we know it today. He fell short when it came to maneuvering the digital world as well as his young colleagues, but his veteran businessman skills and wisdom that only comes with age proves to prevail. This is a story about valuing your talents and repurposing them for today’s world, and we think you’ll really enjoy it.
A Selfie as Big as the Ritz by Lara Williams – Why are millennials always complaining all the time? Why are they so emotional? What the heck is a selfie? If you’ve asked yourself these questions and sometimes ponder the millennial psyche before you fall asleep at night, A Selfie as Big as the Ritz will give you some good insight on the new age struggles every millenial faces on the day to day. If anything, it will help you rest easy at night knowing you got the pleasure of living in a world for so long where the word “selfie” didn’t exist.
The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band by Tommy Lee – Learn what it really means to party like a rockstar with Motley Crue’s tell-all tale about their experience as one of the world’s most famous rock bands. You’ll read stories you’ve never heard, and ones you can’t find in any interviews on YouTube. You’ll also see some unreleased photos that have never been published until now. If you grew up in the 80’s, The Dirt will be the perfect bedtime story to transport you back to the days of leg warmers, big hair, and mullets.
Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture by Douglas by Douglas Coupland – In this story by Douglas Coupland, which made the term “Generation X” popular, a group of three youths quit the jobs they hate to get a deeper perspective on the meaning of life. Told from the perspective of 20 year olds, this novel sheds light on what the young people of the time had to say about society, when their voices were often silenced. Read Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture before bed to explore themes of reflection, irony, and the search for a greater meaning; topics gen Xers know all too well.
Calm the F*** Down by Sarah Knight – Calm the F*** Down is something every millennial who’s suffered from crippling anxiety (so probably around 99% of them) needs to hear. It seems like every day a new headline emerges from the internet blaming millennials for something arbitrary while those in charge won’t confront the real problems young people are faced with, like overwhelming student debt, a crumbling ecosystem, and a housing market they won’t be able to afford until they’re 45. Thanks to Sarah Knight’s Calm The F*** Down, millennials can learn to control their anxiety and stop to smell the flowers every once in a while (while they’re still here at least).
3 Billion Under 30: How Millennials Continue Redefining Success, Breaking Barriers, and Changing The World by Jared Kleinert – While your friends are binging on the newest Netflix shows before bed, you can get the ball rolling on your future multi-million dollar career by reading the 75 motivating stories inside 3 Billion Under 30. They’re written by some of the most successful millennials in the world, and who’s to say you can’t join them. Maybe the book will influence you to dream about your next business venture, who knows? All we know is that it’s top rated, and a great bedtime story for young professionals or anyone who wants to get an inside look at the mind of billionaires.
Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul: 101 Stories of Life, Love, and Learning by Jack Canfield – The classics from the Chicken Soup collection are the perfect books to read when you’re looking for answers, validation, or a touching story. In this book, teenagers can read stories they relate to without having to confide in any friends or family members. It’s always good to talk to loved ones in times of struggle, but it never hurts to get some alone time and turn to literature for a solution, as well. After reading lessons on friendship, love, and respecting yourself, go to bed feeling confident and excited about your future.
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton – If you haven’t read this book because you weren’t assigned it in your middle school English class, or you were assigned it, but you just Sparknoted everything, it’s time to hop on Amazon or hit your nearest Barnes & Noble to pick up a copy. It’s a classic story about a 14-year-old greaser and the hardships he and his friends face in a world they don’t feel like they belong in. Not only is it an intense read, but you’ll never feel left out when someone says “Stay golden, Ponyboy” ever again.
You Are A Bad** Everyday by Jen Sincero – You’re young, vibrant, and driven with your whole life ahead of you, but you’re uncertain about your future. You might be college bound just finishing up with high school, or you may be about to enter the 9th grade. One thing’s for sure, your life is about to drastically change and everyday your anxiety intensifies. When you’re young, it’s hard not to fall off the wagon because you’re overwhelmed, and engage in some self-destructive behaviors. This book by Jen Sincero is filled with exercises, affirmations, and other tools to keep your spirits high and on the right path to reach your goals. Change is scary, but You Are A Bad*** Everyday can prepare you for whatever life decides to throw at you.
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory – Have you ever day dreamed about getting stuck in an elevator with the man or woman of your dreams? Have you ever wanted to bring someone to an event you knew your ex was going to be at? In this novel, a groomsman named Drew brings Alexa, a woman he just met, to his ex’s wedding. As you could probably guess, the two end up falling in love after spending a short but fantastic time together, but the party is over and they both have to return to reality. Is this a recipe for disaster or the beginning of a whirlwind romance? If you’re a lover of romantic stories, you might want to think about giving this one a try.
See Me by Nicholas Sparks – At this point, Nicholas Sparks might be the king of romance novels so we might be committing blasphemy if we leave him off this list. See Me is a story is about a bad boy trying to better himself who meets a hardworking and successful Latina woman with a degree from Duke. For their love story to survive they have to overcome their prejudices and a few bumps in the road that arise from Maria’s past. If you loved The Last Song and Dear John, we think this one is another heartwarming Nicholas Sparks addition to your romantic bedtime story list.
Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World by Ann Shen – Their peers claimed they were bad girls, now we call them extraordinary women. Author Ann Shen tells the story of 100 strong women who overcame adversity when those around them continuously underestimated their strengths and talents, just because they each strayed from society’s expectations of what a woman should be. From warriors, women in science, pirates, activists, and spies, rebel girls everywhere can fall asleep with visions of the fearless women before them who fought for their right to be a savage.
Rad Girls Can: Stories of Bold, Brave, and Brilliant Young Women by Kate Schatz – Miriam Klein Stahl’s Rad Girls Can proves there is no age requirement to make a sizable impact on the world. This book tells the story of different young women who achieved awe-inspiring accomplishments before they were 20 years old, from Yusra Mardini, a Syrian refugee who became an olympic swimmer after she saved twenty people when their dinghy began to sink after their escape from Syria, to Barbara Rose Johns, who helped initiate the civil rights movement with her high school protest. Girls of all ages can aspire to achieve greatness through their own talents and prove to the world it’s okay to be a little rebellious sometimes.
Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls – This book is filled cover to cover with one page stories about 60 spectacular women and their accomplishments, and it’s written in the style of a classic fairy tale. So replace your usual princess bedtime stories about a helpless girl waiting for a man to save her, with stories about independent women who definitely didn’t need any help from a man.
Bedtime Stories for Grown Ups by Cearuil Swords – After you tuck the little ones in and read them a bedtime story, you can climb into bed with your own mythical tale that’s a little more relatable than a damsel in distress waiting for her prince charming. Like the legend of a brave queen trying to buy a car at a dealership without falling victim to the powers of a sales pitch. These short stories make up a collection of perfect adult fairy tales that you can read before bed, and add a little magic to your bedtime routine.
100 Great Short Stories by James Daley – With James Daley’s 100 Great Short Stories, you can have a solid collection of short stories by some of America’s greatest authors including Edgar Allen Poe, Mark Twain, and Virginia Woolf. If you’re in the mood for something short, sweet, and classic before you catch some Z’s, then this book will give you a range of excellent options to choose from. It’s in chronological order starting with the earliest piece of writing, so you can travel through literary history in the order they were published.
One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak – If you hold the hit show The Office near and dear to your heart, you’ll probably get a kick out of B.J. Novak’s (Ryan from The Office) collection of fictional short stories that were supposedly workshopped at comedy clubs, and bookstores all over America. We love The Office reruns just as much as the next person, but sitting down and reading a book written by Michael Scott’s favorite intern will be a more relaxing activity before bed.
The Best American Short Stories 2018 by Roxane Gay – If you’re looking for a short story to get the gears turning in your brain so you can have a little something to think about before bed, The Best American Short Stories is a collection of important literary works with a powerful message in each narrative. Every night before you sleep, you can read a selection of material that was hand picked. The collection includes 120 stories, and is made up of different authors with diverse experiences. Some are funny, some are somber, but they’re all thought provoking and will give you a new perspective every time you read one.
Politically Correct Bedtime Stories: Modern Tales For Our Life Times by James Finn Garner – Read all your favorite fairy tales over again, but with a progressive twist in James Finn Garner’s Politically Correct Bedtime Stories. From a feminist and health concious Little Red Riding Hood to a more militant version of The Three Little Pigs who save their land from invasive wolf hotel developers, you’ll be sure that the material you’re reading is going to be entertaining with its creative reworking of classic tales.
The Official Politically Correct Dictionary and Handbook by Henry Beard – If you see a man with no hair and find yourself wanting to call him bald, use the term “hair disadvantaged” instead. Instead of the word paper, the term “processed tree carcass” would be more appropriate. When you’re worried a word you’re about to use is going to hurt somebody’s feelings, don’t worry! You can always turn to Henry Beard’s cheeky Official Politically Correct Dictionary and Handbook to find a more acceptable way to speak. Every night you can read up on a few alternative PC phrases, and be ready the next time you need correct somebody when they say flowers instead of “botanical companions.”
The Very Embarrassing Book of Dad Jokes by Ian Allen – If you’re a dad in need of some new material or a frat dude who prides himself on his quality dad jokes, look no further. Every night before bed you can read up on these hilarious father-esque jokes to have loaded and ready to fire for the next day. Everyone will get a kick out of them, almost as much as you do.
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris – Comedian, humorist, and best selling author David Sedaris is back with a national bestseller called Me Talk Pretty One Day. If a book by a professional joke teller isn’t enough proof for you to believe this book is a knee-slapper, the book is about his struggle to learn French. If you’ve ever tried to learn a different language you know how unnatural it sounds when you practice it for the first time, so it’s funny to laugh at other people’s sad attempts at mastering a tough language like French. If you don’t believe us, check out the 1,500 reviews on Amazon and see what those folks have to say.
Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark: 3-Book Collection by Alvin Schwartz – The skeleton-like face on the cover of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark may incite feelings of fear, nostalgia, or an eerie combination of both. You might remember this series when you were a kid, but we still think it’s maintained its scare factor all these years later. It may not be quite as scary as you remember, but it’s definitely a creepy way to put yourself to sleep. Even the illustrations alone are enough to make the hairs on your arms stand up.
Short Horror Stories: Supernatural Tales That Are Scarier Than The Dead by Mildred Walker – There’s something about old ghost stories that make them that much more chilling, and that’s exactly what Mildred T. Walker delivers in Short Horror Stories: Supernatural Tales That Are Scarier Than The Dead. It includes work from icons like Edgar Allan Poe, Ray Bradbury, and W.W. Jacob who has dabbled once or twice in the horror genre, and know how to write a bloodcurdling story.
A Sloth’s Guide to Mindfulness by Ton Mak – Meditating before bed has been proven to alleviate stress and improve your overall sleep, so reading books based on meditation when you’re getting ready to hit-the-hay would be a great way to end your night. In A Sloth’s Guide to Mindfulness by Ton Mak, you can follow the direction of the happiest sloth you’ve ever seen as he walks you through his method of easing the mind. Not only is it adorable, but it is a great way to end your night on a soothing and positive note.
Bedtime Stories for Stressed Out Adults – It can make it that much harder to fall asleep at night when you’re stressed out because your body switches from an active state to the calmer parasympathetic nervous system. If your mind is racing when you’re trying to go to sleep, it interrupts the transition and your mind remains hyperactive instead of shutting down. In this anthology, you can find peaceful and relaxing passages to guide your mind into the ideal state of relaxation.
Three Stories You Can Read to Your Dog by Sara Swan Miller – If you want to spend some soothing quality time with your pup when you’re about to put him to sleep, Sara Swan Miller’s Three Stories You Can Read to Your Dog is the perfect way to incorporate them into story time. Watch their eyes light up as you tell the story from their perspective, in scenarios they’ll know all too well, like barking at strangers coming up to your home. Make your dog feel ultra special by reading him these bedtime stories and he’ll continue to return the favor every single day.
Good Friends: An Avery Barks Dog Mystery by Mary Hiker – Bring out the investigative side of your furry friend with Mary Hiker’s story about Avery Bark and a few of his puppy pals who work together to solve a mysterious murder (You’ll get bonus points with your pooch if you actually bark every time you read Avery’s last name.) It’s book five out of a 10 book series, and a great selection to kick start you and your dog’s binge reading. Maybe he’ll learn how to be a detective, and he can figure out who went through the garbage after steak taco night since he swears it wasn’t him.
Come Closer by Sara Gran – Amanda is a young working woman who starts to notice strange occurrences happening to her and her loved ones, like her unsettling dreams and how she unknowingly burned her husband with a cigarette. She comes to believe she is possessed by an evil demon and has to fight to gain back control of her life. If you’re looking for a bedtime story that plays with the idea of other worldly spirits, evil entities, and possession, this might be a good one to sneak under the covers with.
Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories by Ronald Dahl – Imagine a man who’s obsessed with the art of scary story telling going to a library to read over 500 supernatural stories. Now let’s say he picked 14 of the most bone-chilling tales out of the hundreds that he read to combine into one spooky collection of stories. If you haven’t guessed, the guy we’re talking about is Roald Dahl and that’s exactly what his Book of Ghost Stories is. So if you’re looking for a carefully selected group of works to confront you with the uncanny, we think this is a good choice for you.
Naughty Bedtime Stories by Joan Elizabeth Lloyd – If you’re looking for something a little sexier to read when you’re in between the sheets (literally, we think it might be a little difficult to get busy while you’re reading), then Joan Elizabeth Lloyd’s Naughty Bedtime Stories is a good book that’s sure to bring on the heat. Explore different fantasies and sensual situations, like the one about a psychic who meets a dirty minded woman. We’d say more, but we think you know what ended up happening.
Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James – For anyone who hasn’t read this book yet, you should know that there’s a reason why it became such a huge hit — it’s pretty hot. Even if you’ve seen the movie, the scenes in the book are much steamier than what the Hollywood producers allowed on the big screen. If you’re looking for a novel to get your heart rate up before you go to bed, reading the gritty details of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele in the red room will probably do it for you.
Guarding His Obsession by Alexa Riley – If you want to read an Amazon best seller and can’t stand one more person mentioning 50 Shades of Grey again, this should be a title that tickles your fancy. In Guarding His Obsession, a socially awkward girl named Zoey hires a security team to find a crazy stalker who she feels threatened by. Who’s the man hired to do the job? A quiet but hunky security guard who develops a soft spot for Zoey. So what happens when you put a super hot protective male with a cute but quirky damsel in distress? We’ll let you leave it to your imagination, or you can find out for yourself in the novel.