Dec 10

 This week we talk about reading plays, try the “page 69 test,” and tell you about 2 books we should have put in our Holiday Gift Guide.


The play is the thing


“DM loves Prufrock” asked if we had any favorite plays, classic or modern. Michael has been in a few plays and has read them for that purpose, and so he primarily sees it as a performance media. With the exception of Shakespeare, he has one play on his shelf: Noises Off by Michael Frayn.

On my reading list is the play “Lucky Guy,” which is included in The Most of Nora Ephron, and The Sunset Limited by Cormac McCarthy.


audiobooksAudiobook of the week (07:02)

Frozen in Time Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff, narrated by the author is Michael’s pick for this week’s Audiobook of the Week.

Special thanks to for sponsoring this episode of Books on the Nightstand. allows you to listen to over 40,000 audiobooks, instantly, wherever you are, and the first one is free. Download or stream any book directly to your Apple or Android device. Sign up for a free 7-day trial and free audiobook download by going to


Judging a book by page 69 (10:50):


I first heard about the “page 69 test” on the blog of P.S. Duffy, author of The Cartographer of No Man’s Land. So I Googled, and found an article from The Guardian that explains: this is a theory put forth by Marshall McLuhan that says, to find out if you might like a particular book, open the book to page 69 and read the page. So Michael and I each tried it out. To varying degrees, Michael found that reading page 69 made him want to read all of the books he tried it on. For me, the page 69 test definitely gave me a sense of the writing style on its own, and a sense of the mood and pacing of the book.

Michael and I debate the merits of the page 69 test. What do you think?

Some of the books we used for the test:



Two books we should have put in the Holiday Gift Guide (25:40)


The Hole   Downton Tabby



It never fails — we hit “publish” on the Holiday Gift Guide and then find out about some new books that we wished we had known about earlier. So today, we each chose one book that we wished we had included.

Michael chose The Hole by Oyvind Torseter, which he found about from this article. It’s a children’s book about a man who finds a hole in his apartment and tries to find out more about it.

I chose Downton Tabby, A Parody by Chris Kelly. I’m not a cat person, but I found this “story of England’s first family of cats and their servants — their lives, loves, births, deaths, marriages, affairs, prides, prejudices, senses, sensibilities, mills, flosses, cakes, ales, high teas and funfairs, car accidents, scandals, bouts of Spanish influenza, and war with Germany” to be great fun. A must for any Downton Abbey fan, and who can resist that cover?

  • matthewdicks

    Loved your talk about the Page 69 test. There’s actually a blog called The Page 69 Test that reaches out to authors and asks them to write a post about page 69 of their books:

    I’ve been asked to write on the topic for my last two novels and have found it surprisingly revealing both times:

    When I’m writing a book now, I always stop and re-read page 69 of the manuscript (though it won’t be the page 69 in the book) just to see if the page contains any overall meaning to the story. It seems to be an ideal spot in terms of revealing enough but not too much of a story.

  • I love the play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. I actually think I liked reading it more than I enjoyed the movie.

  • A. Elizabeth Berg

    I love reading plays. I think the one that I can recommend most for literary value is Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire.

  • dogearedcopy

    DH & I were both theatre people (I have a BA in Theatre Arts and was a techie and; Grover has a MFA in Theatre Arts and was an actor & director for many years.) While most of the plays we have around the house are ones that we’ve worked on, the ones that stand up well as reads and are favorites are the Shakespearean and Irish plays. My personal favorite though is Amadeus (by Peter Shaffer.) I’ve read it, seen it a few times, worked on a production of it, watched the film adaptation of it… It started me on my love of Mozart’s music as well 🙂

  • Beth Welshons

    The Page 69 thing just seems totally arbitrary and ridiculous to me. How about page 70 or 82?

  • Timbuktu

    I thought that it would be a great idea to let people read page 69 (or maybe 96, whatever) at online stores(Amazon, Barnes & Noble etc) and sites like “Goodreads”. But then again it’s gonna be a problem because writers start to cheat. And those pages will turn into another advertising platform.

  • astro_girl

    I read the play “Proof” for an Honors class in college, and as a TA I re-read it each semester. I definitely liked it better than the filmed version we used in class, but I was also a math minor so I had some very strong ideas about how I thought the characters should behave.

  • Ellen Reeher

    It so happens that my book club reads a play aloud every December meeting and I was on my way to the reading when I listened to your last podcast. This year, we read “21A” by Kevin Kling. Originally, a one man show with eight characters and structured as a series of monologues in which events occur simultaneously. It was hilarious. Over the years, we’ve read all sorts of plays – “A Christmas Carol”, “Dancing at Lughnasa”, etc. For some of our group, it’s the only play they read all year. For others, it’s one of many.

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  • JoAnne Stein

    There’s a similar book for kids that is inspired by Downton Abbey called Mouseton Abbey by Nick Page. I’m sure it’d make a great gift too. Here’s the link to Goodreads:

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