By Michael Slezak
Updated April 25, 2009 at 11:30 PM EDT

It’s American Idol season, which means that most of my conversations with family and friends get short-circuited with outbursts of “Why was Allison in the bottom three!?” or “How come the judges won’t call Kris Allen a front-runner?!” or “J’enough with this fourth-judge business!” To help stave off these ugly incidents — not to mention my bastardization of French contractions — I’ve been on a particularly voracious reading kick, ripping through eight or nine books over the last six weeks. Currently sitting on my nightstand — while I try to find room on my heinously overcrowded bookshelves — are completed copies of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (unbelievably good, and unbelievably harrowing), Armistead Maupin’s More Tales of the City (a breezy chaser to McCarthy’s tale from the post-apocalypse), Lee Child’s The Hard Way (action-packed jaunt that kept keeping me up past my bedtime) and Michael Palmer’s The Second Opinion (trashy-ish, crowd-pleasing medical thriller), as well as my current project, Hilary Mantel’s Beyond Black (I’m 90 pages in…and it’s pretty hard to put down!). Which brings me to my question: What’s sitting on your nightstand right this second? All must be revealed, people! And no substituting Shakespeare if there’s a Harlequin romance novel next to your alarm clock: Nightstand Inspection is a judgment-free exercise!