Matthew Walker: Why We Sleep.
A very popular book at the moment. Walker is a living apostle of sleep and his enthusiasm for the subject is contagious. Extremely readable and deserving of all the praise it gets. Not devoted entirely to the subject of dreaming, he nevertheless covers the basics quite elegantly.
Andrea Rock: The Mind at Night
(Basic Books, 2004)
Provides a compelling history of sleep research from the Golden Age of Aserinsky and Kleitman’s early REM studies through Hobson’s passionate anti-Freudianism and onto Solm’s tentative defence of some of Freud’s ideas. It then gets into more contemporary stuff and is based on conversations with many of the big names. Written by a non-expert for non-experts, in my view this journalistic account is one of the best introductory books out there.
Robert L. Van de Castle: Our Dreaming Mind
This is pretty much the go-to introduction to everything about dreaming. Van de Castle was a major and celebrated researcher, and he tried and succeeded in producing an enormous, not-too-scientific overview of the topic. It is pretty exhaustive, including (somewhat biased!) accounts of pre-Freudian, Freudian, Jungian, and neuroscientific approaches, as well as loads of history and discussion of the contribution of dreaming on culture. It even includes some interesting material on dreaming as a window into the future and other occult ideas!
Mark Solms and Oliver Turnbull: The Brain and the Inner World; An introduction to the neuroscience of subjective experience
(Other Press, 2002)
Not devoted entirely to dreaming, but this a great introduction to an ancient philosophical puzzle from the perspective of open-minded, clear thinking pair of neuroscientists. Solms is a major contributor to contemporary research, and Chapter 6 is devoted to dreams. He is also a practicing psychotherapist, and his contribution to and perspective on dream research is invaluable even if, like me, you’re pretty wary of Freud.
I actually can’t entirely recommend this book, but it feels necessary, somehow. Hobson was a major pioneer in dream research whose work involved developing the very influential “Activation Synthesis” model of dreaming, which effectively served to demolish the entire Freudian edifice by arguing that dreaming is merely an epiphenomenal result of chemical activity in the lower brainstem (the pons). This “introduction” presents the world of dreaming very much from within the perspective of Hobson’s model, but this model is now itself in a certain amount of dispute. Still, worth reading, but only as a supplement to other books.
Read some good books about sleeping and dreaming? Let me know and I’ll pass them along!