What do books dream of? Hands and blinking eyes, strangers' faces, book drops and endless shelves? They have ample time, after all, sitting around closed and waiting. We know books can enter our dreams as objects or through iterations of the stories they contain, but can we enter theirs? A book dreams of a person dreaming of a book telling the dreams of a person, and on and on and on…
Authors have various methods for including dreams in their stories, and if done well, make the experience of reading them infinitely more fascinating than your friend's retelling of their latest nighttime reverie. Sometimes a dream simply inspires a great novel (as happened with Frankenstein by Mary Shelley), and sometimes books boldly feature the dreams of their protagonists, like 1984 by George Orwell. Still others possess narratives that could only be described as dream-like, as in The Third Hotel by Laura Van den Berg, in which a woman follows her late husband around a foreign city. In fact, books with oneiric qualities are so abundant that we’ve gathered some for you in Center for the Reader (and on this list), and included some choice dream-snippets below.
Who doesn’t like a book that wears its dreams on its sleeve?
"A haunted room. I am attacked by a cat that turns into a ghost that bites. Then I see a small orange cat by my head on the pillow. I tell someone I will not sleep there again. Go up in an elevator to another apartment." -- My Education: A Book of Dreams by William Burroughs
"Years ago - how long was it? Seven years it must be - he had dreamed that he was walking through a pitch-dark room. And someone sitting to one side of him had said as he passed: 'We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness.'" -- 1984 by George Orwell
"In her dream, she wanted to memorize the story line by line, but because it was late, the night almost gone, she saved her page with a croton leaf and closed the book. When she awoke, her pillow smelled of cinnamon, and underneath was a dragonfly with antennae long as guitar strings." -- The Marvellous Equations of the Dread by Marcia Douglas
"I slept fitfully; evidently there was still agitation roaming around my body, and it brought down continual dreams about stoked up ovens belching heat, never-ending boiler rooms with hot, red walls. The flames locked in the ovens were roaring to be released, wanting that instant to spring onto the world with a monstrous explosion and burn everything to ashes. I think these dreams may be a symptom of the night fever that's connected to my Ailments” -- Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk
"I was only going to say that heaven did not seem to be my home; and I broke my heart with weeping to come back to earth; and the angels were so angry that they flung me out into the middle of the heath on the top of Wuthering Heights; where I woke sobbing for joy. That will do to explain my secret, as well as the other." -- Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte