Lately I’ve become a bit obsessed with non-fiction. History, psychology, anthropology – you name it. These tend to be massive books too (although on e-readers it’s hard to tell until you’ve spent literally months reading it and the chapter mark still chirpily says 33%).
But if you get the book edition, its heft makes you feel both studious and knowledgeable (placing your glasses slightly down your nose helps, as does twiddling a pencil). It also looks amazing on the shelf. Let’s be honest it’s the aim to impress that finds such editions gracing our shelves.
“This? Oh yes, the latest Yuval Noah Harari. I find his views rather postmodern to be honest.”
“Where are your thrillers and romance novels?”, asks a friend, scanning the room.
And so on. Funny how many fantastic non-fiction books I’ve read and now I can’t remember a thing. Stories stay a bit longer I suppose.
One book that still comes to mind though is Matthew Walker’s ‘Why We Sleep.’ It’s always been a source of intrigue for me, this odd species requirement to remain unconscious for hours every day. And this book is both fascinating and frightening.
Matthew Walker is professor of psychology in the university of California and conducts frequent sleep experiments. In the book he explains that REM sleep, and the dreams it brings, quite simply keeps us alive. Without good sleep, he argues, we get sick, grow old too quickly and cannot function. I heartily recommend his chapter on dreams – why they happen, what they’re for and those incredible neurological activities as neurons fire and get up to all sorts of things while we’re unconscious.
And if a grizzly bear runs alongside your car and tries to open the door before politely asking if he can get in? Well, maybe Freud can help me with that one.