Insomniac City

New York, Oliver, and Me

Named ‘One of the Best Books of the Year’ by Amazon.

Bill Hayes came to New York City with a one-way ticket, all of his belongings, and only the vaguest idea of how he would get by. But, at forty-eight years old, having spent decades in San Francisco, he wanted a change. Grieving over the recent death of his partner, Hayes discovered quickly that the city, however ruthless its reputation, can also be a profoundly consoling place.

Within the city’s incessant rhythms, Hayes found companionship in unlikely sources—in the tree branches framed by his apartment window, in the sight of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings against the night sky, and in New Yorkers themselves, those strangers who, striving side by side, sometimes turn to face one another. A lifelong insomniac, Hayes took to wandering the city at night with a camera, gazing up at skyscrapers, meandering through deserted parks, and having chance encounters with other sleepless city dwellers. And he fell in love again, against all expectations, with his friend and neighbor, Oliver Sacks.

The stories in Insomniac City are drawn together by Hayes’ generosity of spirit, and by his photographs of urbanites that find beauty even in the ordinary. Bookended by two painful losses in Hayes’ life, this memoir is both a meditation on grief and a celebration of ongoing life. It’s also a love song to the city—not just to New York, but to all cities, and to all who have felt the particular magic and solace they offer.

Reviews for Insomniac City

“A beautifully written once-in-a-lifetime book, about love, about life, soul, and the wonderful loving genius Oliver Sacks, and New York, and laughter and all of creation.”

-- Anne Lamott

“This touching memoir of the late neurologist Oliver Sacks, by a photographer and writer with whom he fell in love near the end of his life, turns a story of death into a celebration.”

-- The New Yorker

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