An hour and a half on the late train at the end of a long day is a recipe for walking insomnia — can’t get comfortable, can’t sleep, can’t concentrate on the day’s mail, you know the drill. But the other night I got lucky, because my shoulder bag contained a fresh copy of Nothing: Something to Believe In, by Nica Lalli.

For Chicago history buffs it includes a child’s-eye view of William Singer’s mayoral campaign against Richard I. For religion buffs a dismayingly honest account of her various encounters with organized religion as the child of Italian and Jewish parents with no religious affiliations. For me, it did what a good book does. When I looked up, it was an hour later and my surroundings were unfamiliar. For a moment, I thought I’d read right past my stop.