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Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 14, 2017

4.5 out of 5 stars 164 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of February 2017: The late, great Oliver Sacks was so famously private, he didn’t divulge that he was gay until his memoir, On the Move, was published, shortly before his death at the age of 82. Granted, this revelation was one of the least interesting things about him. Sacks was widely beloved, which is saying something for a scarily brilliant, yet somewhat reclusive neurologist. But his childlike wonder and ability to wrap our brains around the complexities of everything from music to migraines to the cancer he succumbed to, was infectious, and the graciousness--and extraordinary gratitude--with which he accepted his terminal diagnosis earned him even further admiration. It stands to reason, then, that Sacks’s life partner must be pretty remarkable as well, and Insomniac City provides ample proof. In this affectionate and magnanimous memoir, author and photographer Bill Hayes pays tribute to their relationship, and provides a paean to one of the other loves of his life: New York City. Hayes’s contagious regard for the Big Apple makes you almost believe that getting lost on the subway is a happy accident (almost!), and his Humans of New York-esque vignettes inspire the same esteem and faith in humanity as Brandon Stanton’s blog of the same name. Add to that a couple of delightfully unlikely cameos from Björk and a black-eyed Lauren Hutton, and you won’t want to sleep until the last page of Insomniac City is turned. Somewhere, Oliver Sacks is smiling. --Erin Kodicek, The Amazon Book Review

Review

"[A] loving tribute to Sacks and to New York . . . Read just 50 pages, and you’ll see easily enough how Hayes is Sacks’s logical complement. Though possessed of different temperaments, both are alive to difference, variety, the possibilities of our rangy humanity; both are avid chroniclers of our species . . . Frank, beautiful, bewitching--[Hayes’s photographs] unmask their subjects’ best and truest selves." - Jennifer Senior, New York Times

"This touching memoir of the late neurologist Oliver Sacks, by a photographer and writer with whom he fell in love near the end of his life, turns a story of death into a celebration." - The New Yorker

"[Insomniac City] seems written in heightened states of feeling that infuse every detail with meaning and transient beauty." - Our Best Adult Books of 2017 - Nonfiction, Shelf Awareness

"Remarkably poignant. Readers will find themselves wishing the two men had more time, but as Hayes makes clear, they wasted none of the time they had." - Publishers Weekly

"A unique and exuberant celebration of life and love." - Kirkus Reviews

"Like Patti Smith's haunting M Train, Hayes' book weaves seemingly disparate threads of memory into a kind of sanctuary -- a secret place where one can shake off the treasured relics of past lives and prepare to be reborn anew." - San Francisco Chronicle

"Hayes captures both the frenetic, exhilarating pace of New York City as well as the whimsy, fun and romance of the years he spent with Sacks." - New York Post

"Insomniac City is resoundingly about life--about being wide awake to possibility, to the beauty of every fleeting moment." - Oprah.com

"Buy a box of tissues and pray for snow: This is the perfect weekend February read, and will have you alternately bawling and giddily clapping your hands for the lovers that may not have had the time they deserved, but certainly made the best with the time that they had." - Newsweek, "The Best New Book Releases"

"Hayes beautifully depicts the life and night light in a city which never sleeps. As you read this beautifully written book, you feel as if you are walking through the streets of New York and living this insomniac city's night life. This is an extremely enjoyable read for those who never stop fancying New York." - Washington Independent Review of Books

"As eloquent in its silences and visuals as it is in its telling of the secrets of the heart. . . . The brilliance of Insomniac City is that almost Tolstoy-an directness and concretion of observation, both down-to-earth and downright visionary." - Bay Area Reporter

"Poetic and profound . . . What emerges from this dual love letter is a lyrical reminder that happiness and heartache are inseparably entwined. . . . Insomniac City is an ineffably splendid read in its entirety, a mighty packet of pure aliveness." - Brainpickings

"That life permeates every page of Insomniac City, a dual love story of a powerful relationship that will shortly end but, also, of a city that is constantly reinventing itself." - Counterpunch

"Breathtaking . . . It's the kind of book that makes you stay up late without regret . . . Hayes' precise and affectionate observations of his newly adopted city, its denizens, subways, bodegas, and landmarks allow the reader to experience it through fresh eyes." - Palette Magazine

"Insomniac City is a beautiful memoir in which Oliver Sacks comes wonderfully to life--a double portrait that also provides a vivid picture of New York City's neighborhoods and people. The ending is exquisitely wrought, heartrending and joyous." - Joyce Carol Oates

"Like New York, the city he celebrates so poignantly in this book, Bill Hayes mixes 'memory with desire' to create a heartbreakingly gorgeous story of love, loss, and renewal." - Azar Nafisi, author of READING LOLITA IN TEHRAN

"Hayes turns out to be that particular kind of big-city denizen, the irrepressible soul who treats the pavement like a cocktail party." - Peter Lewis, Barnes & Noble

"Insomniac City is a love story to New York and the people we cherish, for Bill Hayes, the late Oliver Sacks. With prescience and tenderness, written with a sharp eye and a camera attuned to life on the streets, Hayes has composed a gorgeous memoir on why place matters to the soul of our humanity. I loved every single sentence in this quiet night-book, erotic and evocative, at once." - Terry Tempest Williams, author of THE HOUR OF LAND

"A lyrical love letter to his partner of six years, Dr Oliver Sacks, and to New York City itself. Through a series of tender vignettes, we meet the characters from the streets of Manhattan, and we are brought into the cocoon of Oliver Sacks' apartment" - Irish Times

"No lack of tenderness in Insomniac City, Bill Hayes's memoir of his life in New York with the writer and neurologist Oliver Sacks" - Guardian

"A love letter to Sacks, but also to New York... Overheard remarks, curious reflections by Sacks, poetic observations keep the narrative moving" - Edmund White, Guardian


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Top international reviews

Cariad O'Brien
5.0 out of 5 stars Take the bad with the good!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 4, 2019
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5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant and beautifully written
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 22, 2019
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Sara Northey
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 25, 2018
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Kate Sutton
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written & thought provoking
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 26, 2017
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Damhsa
5.0 out of 5 stars Book of the year for me!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 23, 2017
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 19, 2018
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4.0 out of 5 stars Bought as a gift
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 8, 2019
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Daniel
5.0 out of 5 stars A love letter to New York, life, and death.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 9, 2019
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D. Parker
5.0 out of 5 stars Bill Hayes knows how to look closely at things...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 17, 2017
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 23, 2017
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edward houghton
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 12, 2017
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Joanne Porter
5.0 out of 5 stars I can't recommend this enough!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 3, 2017
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Pranab Chatterjee
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read if you admire Oliver Sacks
Reviewed in India on June 19, 2018
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5.0 out of 5 stars The narrator was very easy on the ear
Reviewed in Australia on February 17, 2017
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Richard Stephens
5.0 out of 5 stars Effective and affecting
Reviewed in Spain on December 12, 2017
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