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The Art of Lying Down

A Guide to Horizontal Living

Translated by Lori Lantz

An utterly charming study of the history of lying down—which is more complicated than you might think.

We spend a good third of our lives lying down: sleeping, dreaming, making love, thinking, reading, and getting well. Bernd Brunner’s ode to lying down is a rich exploration of cultural history and an entertaining collection of tales, ranging from the history of the mattress to the “slow living movement” to Stone Age repose—when people did not sleep lying down—and beyond. He approaches the horizontal state from a number of directions, but never loses his keen sense for the odd or unusual detail.

Far from being a pose of passivity or laziness, lying down can be a protest, a chance to gather thoughts or change your point of view—the other side to our upright, productive lives. Brunner makes an eloquent case for the importance of lying down in a world that values ever-greater levels of activity, arguing that time spent horizontally offers rewards that we’d do well not to ignore.

Bernd Brunner is the author of Inventing the Christmas Tree, Moon: A Brief History, Bears: A Brief History, and The Ocean at Home: An Illustrated History of the Aquarium. His essay “The Wild Dogs of Istanbul” was selected for The Best American Travel Writing 2013. He lives in Istanbul, where he is at work on a novel set in Turkey. Visit him at

Lori Lantz has translated Bernd Brunner’s Bears: A Brief History and Julia Voss’s Darwin’s Pictures: Views of Evolutionary Theory, 1837–1874.

“Before you talk yourself into the Ultra-Marathon Desk, take a deep breath. Pick up this book. Read it in bed.” —Slate

“Cultural writer Brunner celebrates the many rewards, and notes the occasional pitfalls, of taking life lying down.” —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, holiday gift guide

“A serious yet truly entertaining book about the art of lying down. Prompts us to think about what has become of this art – and the opportunities that have passed us by as a result.” —Welt am Sonntag

Praise for Bears and Moon:

“A little gem.” —William Grimes The New York Times

“This droll, heavily illustrated history of the relationship between humans and bears brims with curious facts and anecdotes.” —The New Yorker

“A learned but fluently written almanac of things lunar, with less emphasis on the science of the whirling orb than on the uses we have made of it in art, literature, folklore and the imagination over time.” —One of ”10 Must-Have Reference Books of 2010,” Kirkus Reviews

“A fascinating tour of the moon in ancient cultures. … well written.” —Washington Post