History, lore, and valuable advice blend in a sleep manual that promotes a productive life.



A guide focuses on alleviating insomnia through diet, exercise, and self-management. 

Prolific author and psychologist Cheney’s (Autobiography of Lee Harvey Oswald, 2008, etc.) inspired book opens with a personal history of her medical training in Dallas. She relates how her work treating patients with psychoactive medications radically differed from her research into sleep disorders and the discovery of natural remedies to treat them. From the manual’s depth, it’s clear that the author went much further than just exploring the consequences of sleep deprivation. Cheney’s expansive narrative is loaded with intriguing nuggets about sleep throughout human history, children and naptime, dreaming and REM cycles, and how family snoozing arrangements vary widely across global cultures. The text doesn’t skimp on the artfulness of slumber either. Poetry, literary references, and accessible, uncomplicated sweet and savory recipes, some from as far back as the Elizabethan era, share space with practical advice on how to improve sleep through diet and changes in personal patterns. The author’s guide expands further to decipher the fascinating cycles of light and darkness as related to Earth’s distance from the moon, the complexities of circadian rhythms, and the many catastrophes that have been blamed on a lack of quality sleep, like 1986’s Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker disaster in 1989, and, more recently, the 2016 crash of a New York City commuter train that caused one death and more than 100 injuries. Cheney notes that sports teams are now commissioning “sleep physicians” to help keep players’ health and field performances at ideal levels. The negative effects of insomnia and sleep deprivation are also being studied, she notes, through the work of critical response and rescue personnel like firefighters, police forces, and emergency medical professionals. The narrative eventually circles back to dispense more wisdom on enhancing the quality and duration of sleep, which will prove most beneficial to those who find themselves unexplainably exhausted throughout the day. While her recommendations don’t break any new ground, they indeed serve as worthy reminders of the importance of getting optimum rest. She advocates consuming herbal tea close to bedtime to stimulate slumber and eating several easy, sleep-inducing snacks that produce melatonin or tryptophan. These suggestions may turn out to be effective alternatives to more traditional drug therapies.  

History, lore, and valuable advice blend in a sleep manual that promotes a productive life.   

Pub Date: June 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5320-2505-1

Page Count: 436

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...


A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.


A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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