cover image Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams

Matthew Walker. Simon & Schuster, $27 (340p) ISBN 978-1-5011-4431-8

Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at UC Berkeley, begins his first book by reminding readers that until quite recently, the routine that most of us go through nightly was a mystery. Adopting a conversational style that belies his research background, Walker conveys his insights into the process of sleep with enthralling clarity. He recounts how once, after giving a lecture, he was approached by a pianist, who made the seemingly incidental remark that, after a good night’s sleep he can “just play” even demanding pieces, leading Walker to recognize how closely related learning is to rest. He also sheds new light on well-covered areas, revealing that Freud had developed a more biologically founded approach to dreams before formulating his famous theory. The biggest takeaway is not that lack of sleep can literally kill, but that most of us, without being in mortal danger, are still not getting nearly enough. Anyone who reads this book will (though perhaps only after a good night’s sleep) learn a great deal about one of life’s most basic, but also most profound, needs. Agent: Tina Bennett, William Morris Endeavor. (Oct.)