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December 17, 2004

News & Opinion: 13 Dreams Freud Never Had

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 4:45 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Hobson's "13 Dreams Freud Never Had" is one of the most unique books I have ever read. It's not engrossing, but neither is it uninteresting. It's not great, but it's not bad. It's not new and refreshing, but it isn't old and stale. What it is, is a strange combination of narrative, fantasy, neuroscience research, history, and autobiographical material that takes the reader all over the place - so much so that it may be difficult to pin down what the book is about.
The central idea of the book is that Freud's theory that dreams result from repressed emotions is wrong. Hobson instead argues that the strangeness of dreams can be explained by the physical structure of the brain itself, and by brain chemistry. Hobson intertwines stories about thirteen unusual dreams he experienced with lots of research and autobiographical material. He attributes many of his strange dreams to drinking to much wine, and the fact that alcohol supresses REM sleep.
Each chapter opens with Hobson's recollection of a bizarre dream. He then proceeds to discuss what Freud might have thought of the dream, why he was wrong about what he thought, and ways in which modern research might show a different answer. The time spent discussing the brain is somewhat technical, but not so much as to lose a novice reader. One nice thing about the book is that the chapters can be read, for the most part, individually, without the reader feeling lost and confused because of missed information in another chapter.
I would recommend this book for those who like scientific biographies, or are interested in dreaming and the corresponding neuroscience behind it. If you have bizarrer or lucid dreams yourself, you will probably get a kick out of Hobson's descriptions of his own dream. The neuroscience in this book may bore the layperson who has some previous familiarity with the brain, and thus those with an extensive background in the subject should choose one of Hobson's other works.
[Rob May runs a little site called Businesspundit]

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.