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Readalong: ‘The Restless Sleep’ by Stacy Horn

I hate starting out blog posts with apologies, but this tweet from Andi (Estella’s Revenge) pretty much sums up life over the last couple of weeks:

I had high hopes for a thoughtful, nuanced post to spark discussion about The Restless Sleep by Stacy Horn, one of the two books we’re discussing during Nonfiction November. Instead, work is crazy and my brain is fried, so I’m just going to talk about why I was excited to read this book then open it up for chatter in the comments.

the restless sleepIf you recall, my fellow Nonfiction November hosts and I offered up four options for the readlong — one chosen by each of us. The Restless Sleep is the book I suggested, so I was definitely excited other people were up for reading it.

The Restless Sleep got on my radar thanks to one of my favorite nonfiction bloggers (who, sadly for me, hasn’t blogged much lately), Sarah from Citizen Reader. Last summer she wrote a post about Stacy Horn, one of her favorite nonfiction writers. Sarah noted, “I am very fond of her books because they cover a wide variety of topics, she takes fact-checking seriously, and her writing is always very, very sincere.”

At Sarah’s suggestion, I found a copy of Horn’s most recent book, Imperfect Harmony, a mix of memoir, history and science that explores why humans love to sing together. I was struck by how wide-ranging the book was, the unique structure, and how deeply personal the subject was for her and the way she approached it. Since I have a soft spot for true time, The Restless Sleep pushed it’s way onto my reading list.

The Restless Sleep, first published in 2005, is an inside look at the Cold Case Squad of the New York City Police Department. The book looks at the history of the squad and the challenges of investigating cold cases while following detectives through three different cold cases. In addition to write about these crimes, Horn explores the intricacies of police bureaucracy, the process of investigations and the personalities of detectives in this squad.

I really love these sorts of outsider/insider stories, where a writer who is new to a topic tries to make it meaningful to other outsiders. And for the most part, I really enjoyed reading this book.

But I don’t want to let my opinion dictate the discussion to much so I’ll just offer up some questions to spark conversation: What did you think of the book? What did you think of Horn’s approach to the subject? How well did she manage to bring all of these threads together? Did this book make you curious about other police groups or about cold cases in general?

Programming Notes

  • Leslie (Regular Rumination) is also writing about The Restless Sleep. You can visit Katie (Doing Dewey) and Rebecca (I’m Lost In Books) for posts on Cleopatra: A Life. Just leave links to your post, if you have one, in the comments.
  • Our Nonfiction November Twitter hashtag is #nonficnov. Share posts or chat about the books there too!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Megan November 19, 2014, 9:58 am

    I didn’t realize this book was by the same author as Imperfect Harmony. I’m sorry I didn’t have the time to readalong with you, but I’ll definitely have to look for this book. I kind of love watching re-runs of the Cold Case on TV, getting a real-life perspective sounds even better.

    • Kim November 23, 2014, 12:33 pm

      No apologies necessary — we were just trying to think of other ways to expand Nonfiction November beyond bloggers. I used to watch some cold case detective show pretty regularly, but now I can’t remember much about it 🙂

  • Leila @ Readers' Oasis November 19, 2014, 10:19 am

    I didn’t get the chance to read this one . . . I did read Cleopatra and posted comments on that book–ha, I didn’t know if I’d finish it in time, so I feel very accomplished. :). But anyway, reading your post now, I have to say, I’m more interested in trying Imperfect Harmony than The Restless Sleep! That sounds truly fascinating.

    • Kim November 23, 2014, 12:35 pm

      Nice job! If I remember, that’s a dense book to get through. I thought Imperfect Harmony was really great, especially if you’re interested in music

  • Jancee @ Jancee Reads November 19, 2014, 1:40 pm

    I loved the premise of the book, and it was well written and researched. I learned a ton. That being said, I had a lot of issues with the structure. Here’s my official review http://janceereads.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/nonfiction-november-the-restless-sleep/

    • Kim November 23, 2014, 12:38 pm

      The structure was a little confusing to me too, although I read a post on the book that talked about how it was based more on the processes of the cases (the crimes, detecting, concluding) than it is a more traditional structure. It was a little challenging though, especially with all of the names across the different cases and the precinct. Thanks for reading with us!

  • Trisha November 21, 2014, 8:42 am

    November and the beginning of December are horribly busy months for me pretty much all the time – end of the semester and all the fun that comes with it, so I didn’t get to do much reading for Nonfic Nov. I did put this one on my to read list though!

    • Kim November 23, 2014, 12:39 pm

      I thought once the election was finished life would calm down, but it’s been just nutty. I’m glad to be finding any reading time.

  • Kerry M November 21, 2014, 8:51 am

    Ok, so I have the same problem you and Andi seem to be having. I have Restless Sleep out from the library, but I’ve had little energy for reading at all. I’ve managed graphic novels in the past few weeks (I read all of Sweet Tooth in a day), and lots of Gilmore Girls. And little else.

    But I will likely be renewing this at the library so I can try to pick it up when I get my reading mojo back.

    • Kim November 23, 2014, 12:39 pm

      I had a huge stack of library books out this month and I’m going to have to return all of them unread. I hate when that happens. I’m hoping I can sneak away from my family for a bit over Thanksgiving to find some reading time 🙂

  • Nupur November 21, 2014, 10:16 am

    I just read this book last week. I thought it was engaging and I learned so much- I was especially surprised at the chaos of how evidence is stored, for example. But I thought Horn’s narrative style was jumbled and very frustrating to wade through. This book could have used a deft editorial hand.

    • Kim November 23, 2014, 12:41 pm

      It’s amazing how important structure can be in nonfiction. A book that’s organized well is so much easier to read than a book that seems jumbled. I agree with you though, I learned a ton. I couldn’t believe the stuff about evidence storage, and the political games that get played with the numbers.

  • Sheila (Book Journey) November 21, 2014, 11:32 am

    I want to to read this one. I agree with you and Estelle… wow… I worked the past 16 days in a row 12-16 hours a day in Florida outside in the heat and then in the cold (yup – Florida got cold and rainy). I just got home last night and I am in the mind frame that I never want to leave home again…LOL I am so wiped out and feel so behind 😉

    • Kim November 23, 2014, 12:42 pm

      I can’t even imagine how far behind I’d feel after that! Take some time to relax at home (and open all your book mail — saw that on Twitter, I think), then get back to reading 🙂

  • Care November 21, 2014, 6:22 pm

    I read this in 2009 and am actually impressed with my review I just re-read. Here’s a bit of my praise, “She sets up the book well – right off the bat we are pulled in to the concept and philosophy of death. Her words grab you by the heart and make you face the idea of dying by violence.” I didn’t mention having issues with the structure; my only complaint was when it had TOO many facts? (I don’t remember what I might have meant by this!) I remember REALLY liking the book and was fascinated by her style for nonfiction. She reminded me somewhat of Kidder in that she is not shy to talk about what she does to get her stories, would you agree? How she discusses her process?
    I have had Imperfect Harmony on my tbr since your review.

    • Kim November 23, 2014, 12:43 pm

      Yeah, I agree with that, I love the way she puts herself into the story and shares some of how it gets told. She does that in Imperfect Harmony, too, although in a little different way. I think that personal touch helps ground this story. I can see what you meant by too many facts — it’s really dense, lots of names and people and politics that were a little hard to keep straight.