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Wild Nights: How Taming Sleep Created Our Restless World Hardcover – March 7, 2017
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"[Wild Nights] is a new cultural and anthropological examination of sleep through the ages...In excellent chapters on slavery and mental illness, he demonstrates how asylums "tamed" people's sleep by medicating and institutionalizing them, while slave owners kept slaves fatigued and thus more easily surveilled...Sleep remains a universal experience, but it's lived seven billion different ways. One finishes Wild Nights with the feeling that our modern-day anxieties about sleep are the symptom of another, more complicated disease."--Jacob Silverman, New Republic
"Sleep is a culturally fluid phenomenon, reveals Benjamin Reiss in this marvelous scientific and literary study. He deftly interweaves multiple threads, from the industrial manipulation of time to the near-hibernation of snowbound Russian peasants in 1900, Henry David Thoreau's clock-free sojourn at Walden Pond, and the 50-cup-a-day coffee habit of French novelist Honoré de Balzac. Sleep fascinates, Reiss reminds, because it is so many things: common denominator, 'hidden dimension,' field of dreams."--Nature
"Get a solid eight hours in, no electronic screens in bed, wake up at the same time every morning, yeah, yeah. We modern fold have it all figured out, don't we? Maybe not, says Reiss, as he explores how getting a good night's sleep evolved and why it varies from one culture and era to the next."--Gemma Tarlach, Discover
"A good night's sleep, as most of us would define it, is getting seven or (preferably) eight hours of blissfully uninterrupted slumber. But this isn't always how humans have slept. Benjamin Reiss is an English professor at Emory University in Atlanta, and in his book on the mysteries of human sleep, he looks for guidance to the latest scientific studies, yes, but he also ventures beyond the realm of the scientific, including insights from history and literature."--Science of Us
"[Wild Nights is] a great, collective blend of scientific, historical, and literary works that is as well-written and enjoyable as it is provocative and informative, the central premise of this book is that we 21st century humans have inherited rules that put extreme pressure on our sleeping habits with often overlooked consequences...The readership of Sleep Health will likely find strong interest in the book's compelling content...Undoubtedly, this book is an important contribution for everyone who sleeps, scientists and other citizens alike...this is an informative read with abundant historical context that proves useful for anyone of any background. It is a tool that will, hopefully, stimulate us all to take part in the multifaceted, inclusive approaches to spark our next big sleep revolution centered around our 'common humanity' and health rather than wealth."--Sleep Health Journal
"Engaging our imagination with equal parts history, literature, science, and social criticism, Benjamin Reiss traces our past notions of sleep, from sources as diverse as Thoreau's journals, Balzac's coffee consumption, and Skinner's baby box, to illumine our present views-potentially to transform them. Just as sleep is thought by neuroscientists to 'clean' the brain's detritus of past thoughts, this book releases the too-rigid hold of past views of sleep to give us fresh reason to re-conceptualize this essential aspect of our life."--Maryanne Wolf, author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain
"Wild Nights is a literary and historical triumph, showing how sleep patterns have been deeply connected to social structures throughout human history. It is a profound and thoroughly readable book."--Carlos H. Schenck, M.D., author of Sleep: The Mysteries, The Problems, The Solutions
"With unbridled imagination, Benjamin Reiss awakens us to sleep's pervasive influence over the course of three centuries of American culture-from the utopian visions of early reformers and the chronic exhaustion of antebellum slaves to the centrality of human slumber as a literary motif. Lacking for neither flair nor wit, Reiss shows how deeply embedded sleep, in all of rich complexity, has been in the American past. Wild Nights is nothing short of a tour de force."--A. Roger Ekirch, author of At Day's Close: Night in Times Past
"A fascinating look at a phenomenon we have taken for granted. Benjamin Reiss pulls the bedcovers off of sleep, revealing a deep and significant history of Western culture and politics. It turns out that nothing escapes the tendrils of somnolence-race, gender, capitalism, technology are all culprits or agents in creating our restless nights. Written with subtlety and provocation, this is a must-read for anyone whose head ever hit a pillow."--Lennard J. Davis, author of Enabling Acts and Obsession: A History
"Through impressive research and beautiful writing, Benjamin Reiss brings readers on a scientific, literary, and historical voyage, exploring our complicated relationship with sleep in an active world."--Lauren Hale, editor-in-chief of Sleep Health
"Ranging widely across time and cultures, Wild Nights offers a rich perspective on Americans' present-day expectations about a good night's sleep. With Thoreau's Walden as his ballast, Benjamin Reiss examines the ways that religious thought, economic change, medical prescriptions, and big business have pushed sleep for those in the middle class into a single mold, while the rest of the world serves and goes without. This smart and engaging book is an ideal companion for that middle-of-the-night break, as well as for serious thought in the bright light of day."--Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, author of A Taste for Provence and Wild Unrest
"A lively, astute, wide-ranging reconnaissance of the attempted re-engineering of modern humanity's sleep habits. Benjamin Reiss pointedly and persuasively questions whether today's 'sleep science' delivers better results than what seemed second nature to our pre-industrial forebears."--Lawrence Buell, Harvard University
About the Author
Benjamin Reiss is a professor of English at Emory University. The author of The Showman and the Slave and Theaters of Madness, and the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, he lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
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Top Customer Reviews
Interesting to a point, well written. Some interesting perspectives, long winded at times. Comes across as somewhat academic which is not surprising as the author is an academician, but with a bit of a sense of humor.
There are 56 pages of notes and citations in case you want to check anything out.
I can't fault the research and thoroughness, but am looking at this book as a consumer of popular non fiction.
The point that keeps arising is that sleeping on a schedule, in a quiet dark place, with some degree of privacy is somewhat of a modern, western concept as is, I suppose, eating three meals a day and bathing regularly. (and getting the kids to bed)
Henry David Thoreau keeps popping up throughout the book. Apparently he was an insomniac, and wandering around Walden Pond may or may not have helped, we can't be sure, but listening to the crickets was nice.
This book doesn't really give much advice on how to sleep better, but I'm pretty sure it won't include sharing my bed with several of my fellow tribesmen who just want to make sure I'm not lonely.