Acquainted with the Night: Excursions Through the World After Dark
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Acquainted with the Night: Excursions Through the World After Dark

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  122 ratings  ·  25 reviews
In twelve chapters corresponding to the twelve hours of night, Christopher Dewdney illuminates night's central themes, including sunsets, nocturnal animals, bedtime stories, festivals of the night, fireworks, astronomy, nightclubs, sleep and dreams, the graveyard shift, the art of darkness, and endless nights. With infections curiosity, a lyrical, intimate tone, and an eye...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published June 4th 2005 by Bloomsbury USA (first published May 18th 2004)
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This has now become my favorite book about the night. I liked this book better than “At Day’s Close” by A. Roger Ekirch, which was more of a scholarly examination of a very specific subject: how night was experienced before electric lighting. That book was interesting, but in a dry, factual way. "Acquainted with the Night" is chock-full of facts, too, but covers a broader range of night-related themes (such as sunsets, constellations, dreams, insomnia, bedtime stories, nightclubs, even a visit t...more
This book is arranged in "hours" of the night, starting with 6 PM and ending at 5 AM. Within each hour, there's a focus on one part of night, such as night creatures, dreams, stars, children's view of night and children's night literature, ancient and modern night celebrations, deep sea creature, etc, etc. Each section is informative and entertaining. The subjects were obviously well-researched as well as Dewdney taking the time to arrange the pieces into a cohesive whole.

What makes this collec...more
This is one of those books that is not easily classified. I found it in the science section of my favorite used bookstore (and there is a lot of information in this book about subjects typically associated with science--the animal kingdom, the stars, circadian rhythms...) but the book could as easily have been shelved in the poetry section--not only because of some of the other topics in the book (romantic poetry, fireworks, dreaming) but also because of the lyrical and vividly imagistic style o...more
Phillip Barron
In the process of describing the physics of sunset, Christopher Dewdney, in his meditation on all things nocturnal Acquainted with the Night, tells of a group of friends, nature lovers, peace seekers, poets, and fellow scholars who gathers to watch the sunset each evening in Toronto. And although he explains both the science and mystery of that planetary spectacle, he talks too about the healthy reasons he looks west with friends each night.

- from
Carol Harrison
This book is fascinating. The author explores "night" hour by hour, from sunset to sunrise. In the 300 or so pages of the book he discusses everything from astronomy to zoology, from acetylcholine to Zoroastrian festivals. And of top of that, it is beautifully written and a pleasure to read. "The night sky is a window into an incredible, dizzying abyss that drops away in every direction we look." You will come away from reading this with new perspectives on the dark hours!
Cor Heuvel
Finished this a while back. While the first half, or maybe two/thirds, was a fascinating recreation of aspects of experience with different periods of the night, especially with nature and natural events at those times, the last part of the book got bogged down, I felt, with too many intellectual, and scientific details that were hard to relate to. Since I can't give five stars to just the first 2/3ds of the book (which it deserves!), I'll just give the whole book 3 stars.
I adored this book. In fact, I'm eager to start reading it again from the beginning. Poet Christopher Dewdney breaks the night apart into hours, the better to examine, well, everything from the stars above to night in art to creatures who live in caves or the abyss under the sea. The book is reminiscent of A Natural History of the Senses, without the manic jumping from topic to topic. Dewdney's writing is clear, descriptive, lovely, and everything to which I aspire.
This was a wonderful, imaginative and meaningful book to read. It is along the same lines as "Oranges" by McPhee, or other books of that nature. I found his scope impressive - he took on so many aspects of night - mythology, lighting, dreams, sleep, lightning bugs, prostitution, and so on. Yet - it all tied together in a really natural way. I read this book every night before bed and was sorry when it ended.
The historical, literary and poetic elements were well done. However, I was sometimes left with a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth due to some pop psychology and pseudoscience elements in a few of the chapters (such as some unsubstantiated junk on dream interpretation and the occasional expounding of outdated Freudian theory as 'modern psychology', among other things). Other than that, an enjoyable read.
Fascinating book about the twelve hours of night, hour by hour. Nocturnal animals, bedtime stories, vampires/ghosts, stars, myths, insomnia, sleep rhythms, etc. Very interesting to learn more about the "other half" of life. I was also glad to re-learn why sunsets and twilight get longer closer to the poles, and why at the equator the sun drops out of the sky and it's almost immediately dark.
Carolyn Rose
I was enthralled with the first part of this book where he deals with the science and culture of night, the mythology and psychology and physiology. Toward the end, however, during the discussion of paintings that captured and were influenced by night, my interest flagged. Still, I recommend it for anyone fascinated by the dark hours.
I read this book to relieve my fear of the dark. (Yes, I was a grown woman afraid of the dark! I blame it on my older brother, who taunted me as a child!). It worked. Dewdney shares facts and myths about night. He even delves into the nature of twilight and the scientific evidence related to the 3AM hour, among other things.
I love the way the author describes night in so many ways. Sleeping, insomnia, and dreaming are all dealt with here. What to do with insomnia, rather than fight it. The joy of stars. The fears of darkness. Everything about night is in the book. Excellent writing.
Really interesting. Learned quite a bit that I never would have thought to even wonder about. In fact I may have even been a little obnoxious in sharing some of the things I learned in this book. But I really enjoyed it.
This book was constructed in a thoughtful manner. Though it is a genre that I usually don't prefer (non-fiction), it had a beautiful and poetic nature that I found myself drawn to. One of my all time favorites.
Highly recommended by a colleague. I really tried to get into it, but let's face it, it's just not my thing. I do appreciate that there are people who really enjoy this kind of thing. Too literary for me.
bumbling, bites off more than it even tries to chew. however, i did enjoy learning about olbers' paradox and sudden unexplained nocturnal death syndrome (sunds).
Not as good as I'd hoped — full of incompletely digested research.
'At Day's Close' is much better.
An exhaustive and fun trip through all things related to the night -- great stuff...
If you love the night and a bit of non fiction, then you'll love this book.
Interesting in concept and content but the prose was a little overworked.
t m
Sublime. I loved reading this book. It ended much too quickly.
Barbara Day
I loved this book and look forward to reading it again.
Nicole J
favorite book about the night.
Claire Kim
Claire Kim marked it as to-read
Jul 21, 2014
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