Reading Recommendations: Books about Clocks and Sleep

Reading Recommendations: Books about Clocks and SleepThis list, written on December 17, 2005, is still quite up-to-date. There are also some more specialized books which are expensive, and many of those I’d like to have one day, but I cannot afford them (though I have placed a couple of them on my wish list, just in case I see a cheap copy come up for sale):

I know the holidays are coming in just a couple of days, but perhaps you still have time to order a book or two for your friends and family.
There are tons of books about sleep out there, mostly of suspect quality. Books about clocks tend to be either very old (thus out-dated) or far too technical for your uncle and grandma. So, here are some of the books that I have read and I can vouch for their quality (Note – none of the authors/publishers has asked me or paid me to do this).
If you click on any of those links and then buy something (anything – not neccessarily the book I linked to), I will get a few pennies from Amazon. Not much, but a few pennies plus a few pennies plus….adds up and helps me pay my internet access every month.
If you are interested in a book about clocks that an educated layperson can read and understand, I suggest either Rhythms Of Life by Russell G. Foster and Leon Kreitzman, or The Living Clock by John D Palmer. Both are up-to-date and well-written books. Authors are highly regarded researchers in the field.
An older book that is really fun to read is The Clockwork Sparrow by Sue Binkley. Somewhat out of date, but explains everything very clearly.
If the target of your book-buying is a biologist or a student of biology, thus you can “go technical”, you have quite a few options. The clocks that time us by Moore-Ede, Fuller and Sultzman is the best book ever written on the subject. It is still, 25 years later, used in some courses as a textbook because no recent attempt to write a textbook is as satisfactory.
Even if some of those newer books may not be suitable for the classroom, it does not mean they are not excellent books. By far the best of the lot is Chronobiology: Biological Timekeeping by Jay C. Dunlap, Jennifer J. Loros and Patricia J. Decoursey. It is big, well-illustrated, and quite expensive! But it is excellent in explaining many areas of chronobiology and is as up-to-date as such a book can be. If you can afford it, this is my strongest suggestion for someone who has biological background.
Circadian Physiology by Roberto Refinetti is very good, too. However, it is limited to humans, mammals, SCN and genes. No mention of fascinating areas of photoperiodism, spatial orientation, clocks in birds, insects and plants, circannual, lunar and tidal rhtyhms, etc. For that, as much as the topics that are covered are covered well, I don’t think $100 is appropriate.
If your interest is primarily historical, you will greatly enjoy The Living Clocks by Ritchie R. Ward. It covers the early history of the field (up to about early 1970s), with lots of great characters, anecdotes, historical photographs, and classic experiments.
For more medically minded, there is a plethora of books trying to sell you chronobiology as a magic bullet for your health. The only one I vouch for is The Body Clock Guide to Better Health by Michael Smolensky.
Finally, if your interest is more in sleep than clocks, I have to recommend Sleep Thieves by Stanley Coren which covers the recent findings (as well as history) in sleep research wonderfully well for lay audience.
The Promise of Sleep by William C. Dement is already a classic. Thick, big book, written by one of the pioneers in the field, it will provide you with everything you ever wanted to know about sleep (but were too afraid to ask) and you will have FUN while reading it.
Also, The Mind At Night: The New Science Of How And Why We Dream by Andrea Rock is an up-to-date survey of the research on dreaming.

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