Snooze: The Lost Art of Sleep

Australian writer Michael McGirr (Things You Get for Free) has suffered from sleep disorders all his life. Working as a Jesuit priest, he was diagnosed with sleep apnea. After he left the priesthood and married, he and his wife--already parents of a one-year-old--had twins, and McGirr experienced the perils of true sleep deprivation. Chronic tiredness and fatigue inspired him to examine the history and culture of sleep, while also probing his own personal struggles.

McGirr is not a clinician. He does not offer advice to improve sleep. Instead, he presents personal anecdotes documenting his insomnia experiences, while offering profiles of ordinary people plagued with sleep issues, from students pulling all-nighters to soldiers returning home from battle. Added to the mix are segues into nightmares and narcolepsy, the role of medication and coffee, sleeplessness as a byproduct of some diseases, as well as fascinating stories about "famous wakers and sleepers." Thomas Edison credited his success to working 18 hours a day for 45 years--with frequent catnaps. After Florence Nightingale's heroic efforts during the Crimean War, she took to her bed and stayed there for the next 50 years. Writers like Dickens and Balzac wove their sleeping woes into their work. And sleep issues have infused great literature, including The Odyssey, Macbeth and even fairy tales.

Readers have McGirr's tossing and turning to thank for a dynamic, multifaceted book that serves as an entertaining, philosophical lullaby for the deprived. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

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