Book Bag: ‘The Mindful Way to a Good Night’s Sleep’ and ‘Bricklayer Bill: The Untold Story of the Workingman’s Boston Marathon’  

Thursday, February 08, 2018

by Steve Pfarrer


by Tzivia Gover

Storey Publishing


It’s no secret that many Americans — many people across the western world, in fact — have trouble sleeping. As just one example, a survey by Consumer Reports last year found 27 percent of U.S. adults had trouble falling asleep or staying asleep most nights, while 68 percent had problems at least once a week, contributing to an array of problems such as obesity, depression and poor work performance.

And, the magazine reported, Americans are spending over $42 billion annually for sleep aids, from medication to white-noise machines to sleeping coaches — often with indifferent results. 

Northampton writer Tzivia Gover suggests there’s another way to get some shut-eye. From doing simple yoga exercises, short meditations, and keeping a journal about your dreams, Gover offers what she calls a holistic approach for making the night a truly restful time.

Gover, a former journalist and teacher, now works as a dream therapist. In her new book, “The Mindful Way to a Good Night’s Sleep,” she says sleeping well is closely connected to our waking lives and needs to be treated as such: “Sleep, dreams and waking [are] a continuous process, in which each state of consciousness flows naturally into the next.” 

She offers plenty of practical steps for spending time before getting ready for bed: light stretching, reading something pleasurable (no crime novels or thrillers), avoiding eating, and keeping electronic devices far away.

There are also several chapters dedicated to recording your dreams, even in the middle of the night when you wake up from one. As Gover sees it, looking seriously at your dreams can help you become aware of unresolved issues that may be affecting your waking life, which in turn can cause you to lose sleep.

“As in mindfulness meditation, the act of turning toward dreams with curiosity and an attitude of openness helps us become self-aware and awake in daily life,” she writes. “As a result, we can reflect on — rather than react to — situations and events, and experience greater mental flexibility and more equanimity.”



By Patrick L. Kennedy and Lawrence W. Kennedy

Bright Leaf/University of Massachusetts Press


Today, long-distance running, like most sports, is a business, with top runners earning endorsement deals, major prize money and plenty of celebrity.

But a little over a century ago, marathon running was pretty much the province of amateurs — working-class athletes who most people thought were a little nuts to run 26 miles at a clip.

In “Bricklayer Bill,” published by University of Massachusetts Press, journalist Patrick L. Kennedy and his father, University of Scranton history professor Lawrence W. Kennedy, tell the tale of their great-uncle, Bill Kennedy, who won the Boston Marathon at age 33 in 1917, just two weeks after the U.S. entered World War One (Kennedy wore a stars-and-stripes bandana for the race).

As the story shows, Bill Kennedy was indeed a bricklayer by trade — The Boston American newspaper carried a photo of him back on the job the day after the 1917 race — and he’d also been an amateur boxer earlier in his life.

The book, which is based on an unpublished memoir by Bill Kennedy, also relates a string of deadly accidents and problems the man somehow overcame, like falling five stories from a rooftop, falling off a freight train, getting hit by a car and being stricken with typhoid fever.

“The Harlem native [also] survived … a tour of duty in war, a Depression bankruptcy, decades of backbreaking work, and his own bad habits to win four four marathons (including one against a horse) while raising a family,” the authors write.

And, the two Kennedys say, their great-uncle’s colorful story points the way to a larger tale: “It is about struggling to overcome immense obstacles, as well as about America and the way it was when a few bricklayers, plumbers, and printers could be star athletes, as big as Babe Ruth, at least for a day.”

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.