Books To Cure Insomnia

Dear Literopathy,

I have terrible sleep deprivation … what would you suggest?


D in the UK

Dear D,

There is absolutely nothing worse than a bad case of insomnia. Well, possibly there are a few things worse than insomnia but, in our opinion, that list is short. There’s a reason that sleep deprivation is used as a method of torture.

One of the especially awful things about insomnia is that, unless you’ve been there, you don’t get it. And honestly, not getting it is fine – as long as you realize that you don’t get it and you don’t try to offer (usually obvious) solutions for someone else’s lack of sleep. Insomniacs have to suffer through hours of well-intentioned suggestions, ranging from drinking warm milk to practicing yoga to entirely giving up caffeine (pardon us while we shudder at the thought). We here at Literopathy won’t offer you anything like that – we realize that sometimes you just can’t sleep and, short of taking horse tranquilizers (which we don’t recommend), that’s that. But we also know that sometimes, the unwilling body can be coaxed, maybe even tricked, into sleep. So we did our best to find a book that will work for both scenarios.

Our prescription for you is Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. This thousand-page tome has been called “Harry Potter for grownups” (which is ridiculous, because we all know that Harry Potter is for people of almost any age), and centres around two men determined to bring magic, which has been absent for hundreds of years, back to England. The storyline is an alternative English history set during the Napoleonic Wars, with Mr. Norrell and his pupil Jonathan Strange using their skills as magicians to aid the English campaign. Its characters are complex and the the world it’s set in is rich with historical details. Oh and it’s full of footnotes. Fascinating, often hilarious footnotes.

What we love about this book is that the magic (much like sleep) is elusive, unpredictable and otherworldly. Although humans try to harness it for their own purposes, the fact is that magic is the element of Fairy and can only truly be understood by its inhabitants. Unlike in other works of fantasy, magic in Clarke’s novel isn’t just a convenient replacement for technology, it’s a force – a frightening, dangerous force, to be treated with a great deal of respect.

We recommend this book to you for three reasons. First of all, it’s interesting enough to occupy you during a long, wakeful night. Second of all, it’s dense enough to help lull you to sleep on nights when rest is elusive but not entirely impossible. Third of all, we think that you, as a current inhabitant of the United Kingdom, will get a kick out of its exploration of the idea of Englishness. For example, as Jonathan Strange explains, an Englishman would  be respectful with how he uses magic:

“Can a magician kill a man by magic?” Lord Wellington asked Strange. Strange frowned. He seemed to dislike the question. “I suppose a magician might,” he admitted, “but a gentleman never would.”

A gentleman would, however, spend his long, sleepless nights poring over the pages of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Even if you’re not a gentleman (a term that we’re not exactly sure that we approve of, anyway, or even fully understand), we think that this book will help.

For our readers, is that what you would have suggested? Or do you have another book in mind?



There is nothing else in magic but the wild thought of the bird as it casts itself into the void. There is no creature upon the earth with such potential for magic. Even the least of them may fly straight out of this world and come by chance to the Other Lands. Where does the wind come from that blows upon your face, that fans the pages of your book? Where the harum-scarum magic of small wild creatures meets the magic of Man, where the language of the wind and the rain and the trees can be understood, there we will find the Raven King.

2 Thoughts on “Books To Cure Insomnia

  1. Marvellous. Sounds perfect. I shall be picking up a copy soon as, thank-you.

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