How We Live Now (Hardcover)

Scenes from the Pandemic

By Bill Hayes

Bloomsbury Publishing, 9781635576887, 160pp.

Publication Date: August 25, 2020

List Price: 20.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


From the beloved author of Insomniac City, a poignant and profound tribute in stories and images to a city amidst a pandemic.

A bookstore where readers shout their orders from the street. A neighborhood restaurant turned to-go place where one has a shared drink-on either end of a bar-with the owner. These scenes, among many others, became the new normal as soon as the world began to face the COVID-19 pandemic.

In How We Live Now, author and photographer Bill Hayes offers an ode to our shared humanity-capturing in real time this strange new world we're now in (for who knows how long?) with his signature insight and grace. As he wanders the increasingly empty streets of Manhattan, Hayes meets fellow New Yorkers and discovers stories to tell, but he also shares the unexpected moments of gratitude he finds from within his apartment, where he lives alone and--like everyone else--is staying home, trying to keep busy and not bored as he adjusts to enforced solitude with reading, cooking, reconnecting with loved ones, reflecting on the past--and writing.

Featuring Hayes's inimitable street photographs, How We Live Now chronicles an unimaginable moment in time, offering a long-lasting reminder that what will gets us through this unprecedented, deadly crisis is each other.

About the Author

Bill Hayes is the author of Insomniac City and The Anatomist, among other books, and a forthcoming history of exercise, Sweat, to be published by Bloomsbury in 2021. Hayes is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in nonfiction and is a frequent contributor to the New York Times. A collection of his street photography, How New York Breaks Your Heart, was published recently by Bloomsbury. Hayes has completed the screenplay for a film adaptation of Insomniac City, currently in the works from Hopscotch Features, and he is also a co-editor of Oliver Sacks's posthumous books. He lives in New York. Visit his website at

Praise For How We Live Now: Scenes from the Pandemic

“Bill Hayes has unwrapped a New York under wraps during the lockdown. He is, in his photos and writings, the great poet of the everyday.” —Edmund White

“This is a love story-for one particular man in the love affair that began as the pandemic did, for the city of New York and its people coping with an unanticipated catastrophe, for what words can do, for the light and darkness, shade and illumination of black-and-white street photography, for wandering and encountering and seeing, for being truly a citizen of the city and an inhabitant of the streets. Even at a moment when we were all supposed to withdraw from each other How We Live Now reaches out.” —Rebecca Solnit

“Images of empty streets and subways, when juxtaposed with Hayes's recollections-mostly of romances and amusing encounters with other New Yorkers-make for a startlingly potent contrast and show how abruptly life shifted from the pre-coronavirus world to the 'new normal' of today. . . . Hayes's photos movingly capture a fraught and frightening moment in history.” —Publishers Weekly

“A touching volume . . . The photos serve as potent documentation of an unprecedented time.” —Kirkus Reviews

“An achingly timely and moving portrait.” —Booklist

“[A] loving tribute to Sacks and to New York . . . Frank, beautiful, bewitching-[Hayes's photographs] unmask their subjects' best and truest selves.” —Jennifer Senior, New York Times on INSOMNIAC CITY

“Poetic and profound . . . A lyrical reminder that happiness and heartache are inseparably entwined . . . Insomniac City is an ineffably splendid read in its entirety, a mighty packet of pure aliveness.” —Maria Popova, Brain Pickings on INSOMNIAC CITY

“Like Patti Smith's haunting M Train, Hayes' book weaves seemingly disparate threads of memory into a kind of sanctuary . . . where one can shake off the treasured relics of past lives and prepare to be reborn anew.” —San Francisco Chronicle on INSOMNIAC CITY