There are already more than a dozen good reviews on Goodreads that cover the book's strong and weak points (nothing stood out as way off the mark), soThere are already more than a dozen good reviews on Goodreads that cover the book's strong and weak points (nothing stood out as way off the mark), so I don't feel I really have to sell or defend this one - just check them out for yourself. I came across this roaming the stacks at the library and it was a welcome find.
Patrick Hunt takes ten archaeological discoveries you've heard of, but probably only knew about in outline. For each discovery he gives a little Indiana Jones-style introduction story, a little background to separate the fact from legend (or what is certainly known, from what is speculated, from what might never be proved or disproved), some relatively obscure facts the casual reader will probably find interesting, an explanation for why this discovery remains important today, and finally a summary section (with the occasional anecdote for good measure).
I liked it for being a quick, fun, and easy read. If you're curious about any of these discoveries or about archaeology in general, it's a good place to start. ...more
Every once in a while you come across something, a book, a movie, a song, a technical skill, an idea, a way of doing things, and you wonder how couldEvery once in a while you come across something, a book, a movie, a song, a technical skill, an idea, a way of doing things, and you wonder how could you have spent so many years in the profession and only now be coming across this. Finding this book was like stumbling into a desert oasis. Well, maybe that's not the best example, as my survival was not on the line, and furthermore because it was lended to me (and so not entirely chance I came across it now). But nonetheless it was as welcome as a cool glass of water on a hot day.
Scott T. Meier stated that this was his attempt to do for counseling what Strunk and White did for writing with their classic The Elements of Style. That's an ambitious goal. The Elements of Style is one of my personal favorites, not only as a reference for good writing, but as an example of an excellent reference and educational book: clear and concise. One thing that aggravates me to no end is the ocean of wasted paper printed every year for embarrassingly low-grade text books, reference books, general interest books, technical books, etc. that runs the gamut from totally useless to marginally valuable - all printed just to make a quick buck off an unwitting consumer. These books are just packed with useless, cluttered content only too increase the prima facie value. Strunk and White went in the opposite direction and created a paper-thin masterpiece that has been getting its due respect ever since. So how did Meier's attempt measure up?
This thin volume sets the standard for both introducing new counselors to the field and reminding experienced counselors of the basics. Of course, people are complicated and helping them work through problems is naturally a complicated process. Problems vary as personalities vary, and there never a one-size-fits-all solution. Unfortunately, beyond just doing the work, it can be even harder to put it all into words that will make sense to an unseen reader. Some writers share their professional experience with long-winded explanations that only fellow professions can understand (and that few will agree with, as is often the case); others assume too much familiarity with the topic so they don't provide enough explanation, and even I am left wondering what they're saying. Generally the examples are too opaque, too vague, or aim to illustrate/explain too much. In general you don't understand much more by the end than when you started.
Meier's approach is to use five brief chapters, each with a single theme. Each chapter is then broken down by bullet-points "lessons," each with a one-liner header and about a page of explanation. Examples are as rule kept to a few lines of dialogue. Normally I would dismiss this method and cynically assume that nothing so brief could ever be clear or practically informative. However, just the opposite is true. Meier is successful expressly because he keeps it simple. Reading this book made me realize that the reason why so many manuals, introductory books, and such are not successful is because they aim to do too much (and perhaps don't want to be left apologizing for what they left out, or why the chose example x over y). Meier is upfront that this is far from a summary of what every counselor would ever need to know, and that it is not intended to be. And that, I believe, is why it he successful. Another writer who deserves mention on this topic is Jacalyn Duffin for her masterpiece History of Medicine: A Scandalously Short Introduction, as she also did excellent work by choosing quality over quantity.
So in the reading list of students, fledgling counselors, and veterans of the field, just where does this book belong? May I start by saying that the Goodreads summary to "Master the qualities of a skilled therapist with THE ELEMENTS OF COUNSELING!" is beyond ridiculous. For starters, most states require a minimum of a master's degree (in social work preferably, but sometimes in related degrees) followed by two years of supervised fieldwork in that same state before they grant a full license for independent practice. Could you imagine a book that said "Master the art of carpentry" or "auto mechanics" in a 150 page introductory volume? I'd rather live in house and drive a car with the assurance of professional work behind them (I mean, there's nothing guaranteed in life, but seriously). That being said, this book trumps all others as an friendly welcome to the field. I remember one of my first supervisors suggesting I read Where to Start and What to Ask by Susan Lukas. It wasn't a bad book, but since I was plunged directly into intake and day treatment counseling, I didn't have time to leisurely read it cover to cover, didn't finish it, and didn't find it terribly informative. Maybe it's due a second look, but just reading it earned my a few looks, laughs, and comments from the older staff. Okay, laugh it up, guys, but next time can you offer this one instead? Experienced counselors will probably also enjoy the clarity and simplicity of Meier's style and his examples. It certainly stirred up some lively conversation with my peers at work and everyone could relate to something.
My only hesitation with praising this book is that a quick search on Amazon show the average price around $50.00. That's a shame. The edition I read came out in the early 1980's and had a retail price of a whopping $8.95, which is about right. I just put that out there because I wouldn't want anyone to drop that kind of money and feel totally cheated for what you get. Just like The Elements of Style, half of what makes it so practical is the price tag.
Overall I'll give it to Leonard Mlodinow for writing a math book that's surprisingly accessible to the general public. Well, maybe it's not exactly aOverall I'll give it to Leonard Mlodinow for writing a math book that's surprisingly accessible to the general public. Well, maybe it's not exactly a math book, or even a statistics book. But there's a fair amount of each and he did a fine job with keeping it generally light and interesting.
Mlodinow explains that there are basically two definitions of random, and they don't always go together (pp. 84-85). The first is by Charles Sanders Peirce and basically states that a process or method is truly random if given enough tests, trials, samples, examples any outcome is equally likely as any other (the "frequency interpretation of randomness"). In other words, regardless of how things seem (especially when you're only looking at very little data), there's nothing "special" going on that prefers or encourages one result over another. Mlodinow doesn't go in this direction, but I would say most people would relate this to/understand this in terms of neutrality, equality, fairness, balance, impartiality, etc. Setting aside debates in cognitive psychology and linguistics about modules and association, let's just say that most people would say these things are important (ideally) in business, law, politics - anywhere where people and things should be treated the same. Mlodinow then offers the second common definition of randomness, the "subjective interpretation," where "a number or set of numbers is considered random if we either don't know or cannot predict how the process that produces it will turn out." Again, he doesn't take this road, but I think most reader would relate this to things like luck, whimsy, risk, guess, judgment, odds, choice, etc.
You'd think that he'd establish these weird heavy definitions and and run with them for another 200 pages. But he doesn't. He leaves these definitions orphaned on pages 84-85, which is a shame because they seem to be the most interesting and relevant part of the whole book. What was the purpose of bringing them up at all? Better question is What is the purpose of the book? Sure, to sell books, makes some cash, and better inform the public. But more than that I think this book somewhat aims at the "big dreamers," those people who seek big success, or at least dream about it, and want to know why it works. Or why it doesn't. Mlodinow uses a fair number of examples of business stories, Hollywood stories, scientist stories, and gambling stories. It's not a glorification attempt, but to illustrate that luck has a lot to with it. From Bill Gates to Bruce Willis, Stephen King to Anne Frank, Thomas Edison to George Lucas, luck plays a role as much as hard work. He offers the advice to persevere to those who aim to succeed because often not bad talent but bad luck that fails you. Okay, fair point. I think this is the kind of stuff that people want in such books so it's included for "sentimental" reasons, but it doesn't tell us anything we don't already know.
What is interesting to me is the discussion of why we believe what we do and how we act accordingly. Mlodinow discusses factors that influence our perceptions and our ideas. He references a few studies, including Daniel Kahneman intuition studies and Melvin Lerner's Just-world phenomenon, but he doesn't really go into the details. In particular he glosses over part of Kahneman's study and overlooks a point that's essential to his own book. On page 22 he reports finds of a fictional character "Linda" described with, I guess you could call it, hippie or generally leftist leanings, and participants ranked the likelihood of 8 statements:
1. Linda is active in the feminist movement. 2. Linda is a psychiatric social worker. 3. Linda works in a bookstore and takes yoga classes. 4. Linda is a bank teller and active in the feminist movement. 5. Linda is a teacher in an elementary school. 6. Linda is a member of the League of Women voters. 7. Linda is a bank teller. 8. Linda is a insurance salesperson.
The point here was that number 4 includes number 7, but was ranked as more likely. Mlodinow used this study to show that intuition is not a reliable judge and that people tend to make obvious mistakes once they get an idea in their head. (Specifically, Kahneman demonstrated that people are more likely to believe something is the case when additional, even irrelevant information is provided. But I read something else in this study - that people probably take number 7 to mean "Linda is a bank teller, but not a feminist." Maybe the original study specifically controlled for this (I doubt it), but the point is that number 7 is not "neutral" or "interchangeable" with other items. Whether she is a bank teller seems (to some degree) to be relevant to her social-political identity, as much as any of the other items suggest. For example, if they use "Linda's new shoes are blue," or "Linda was born in July," people would say they're both totally irrelevant to the description and uninformative to where they should rank. Is this really a relevant point? Maybe, maybe not. But I bring it up to show how difficult it is to really identify what people take into consideration when making decisions, which is a big part of what the book is about - given the fact that so much is outside our control, awareness, or understanding, how do we choose wisely?
A fair amount of the book is dedicated to math and statistics. I think most people will find it manageable, or can safely skip over anything technical without missing much. About half of it is really "about" the first definition above (frequency) - and that's the heavy math stuff. The other half is about how people act and think when there is not enough information to know better, and what goes into that thinking. I don't know if this would do much to really change how people think about chance, statistics or randomness, as he seemed to specifically avoid technical issues. Most people will probably just fit each case covered into their present ideas of any of those italicized words I put after each definitions. Those are the real concerns I think most people have on this topic, and he did a fair job covering them.
I wouldn't call this a social science classic, but it was entertaining and easy enough to get through. ...more
It's always refreshing to read a book that promises and delivers. It's all the better when it's written in clear, accessible language, meaningful orgaIt's always refreshing to read a book that promises and delivers. It's all the better when it's written in clear, accessible language, meaningful organization, and consistent terms.
Marie Jahoda wrote the original text in 1958 to review, of course, current concepts of positive mental health. In a nutshell, she argues that there currently is not unified, consist definition of what "mental health" really means, and that all the major literature on in relies on either vague terms or various convenient (perhaps arbitrary) definitions. Then is it a moot point, meaningless to argue over semantics? She argues in the Introduction that the concept of positive mental health needs to be taken seriously and examined because "Whether we like it or not, the term mental health, or mental hygiene, is firmly established in the thought and actions of several groups": voluntary and government agencies; specialists helping (counseling) professions; and finally scientists themselves, namely psychiatrists, psychologist, sociologists, and anthropologists (pp. 5-6). She quickly argues her points and moves onto the bulk of the book - what is mental health?
In Section II she presents the three major conceptions (popular and scientific) of mental health, and why each one is insufficient. First, the most popular, is Absence of Mental Illness. Jahoda argues that besides simply defining defining health in terms of its literal opposite, this creates problems because it "often depends largely on accepted social conventions" (p. 13), meaning relative and lacking the kind of grounding she's looking for. Second is Normality, whatever is statistically most common or frequent. This can't work because a given definition of normality is inherently based on some prior or assumed understanding of positive mental health, or otherwise factors to measure are entirely arbitrary. Furthermore, "Psychological health may, but need not be, the status of the majority of the people," (p. 16). More so, this definition cannot define or account for behavior without a defined context - "in deciding a reference population, one is at least tacitly considering the determinant, contexts consequences and/or meanings of behavior relevant to it's evalaution from the viewpoint of mental health," (p. 17). Translate that to plain English: it order to make sense of whatever you're studying to see what's "normal," you have to start with some idea of what's normal and use that as the reference point. Point taken. Finally, Jahoda explores mental health as various states of well-being, in the sense of feeling good mentally and emotionally. But how would we define and determine what that actually means, to feel good? And from there, she questions, "what if social acceptability and personal satisfaction are incompatible?" Schadenfreude? It would be a hard sell to argue cruelty, narcissism and selfishness are signs of mental health. In fact, their generally taken to be the obvious signs of ill-being, if not true mental illness. And if mental health is tied to well-being, she asks, we would need to somehow distinguish between an unhappy disposition and unhappiness from circumstance.
I went into such detail above to illustrate the clarity of her thinking and the quality of her work. Writer on this topic, mental health or even mental illness, usually settle for vague descriptions and loose arguments to pitch their theories or perspectives. Usually I end up being disappointed that the writer has failed to deliver anything new, challenging, or interesting and had settle for rehashing the same story with new binding. Jahoda, however, delivers magnificently.
To sum up the remainder of the book, she analyzes in detail some of the major proposals for positive mental health in the early 20th century. To do this, she uses 6 categories: 1. Attitudes of an individual toward his own self 2. Growth, development or self-actualization 3. Integration (of 1 and 2) 4. Autonomy 5. Perception of reality 6. Environmental mastery She discusses each in detail with examples to illustrate. Her effort is not to provide an exhaustive overview of the field, but to show how most descriptions of mental health fall into at least one of these categories with however much overlap.
Jahoda proposes her first original contribution in the book on page 70: The Multiple Criterion. She argues that mental health is likely not based on one single factor. I thought this was off-base, as it seemed to be rephrasing the very issue in question - what constitutes mental health? I thought the whole purpose of the book was to shed new light onto this old issue, not to reframe it with statistical language. She then follows through well with some discussion of understanding mental health in terms of physical health (I think fair, if take metaphorically), issues regarding values (perspective and culture), and a final word about putting these things in scope - that studying mental health will not bring solutions to all the world's woes, nor should it claim to. Jahoda argues for systematic, rigorous research to replace speculation and vacuous truisms. The Afterword is written by the physician Walter E. Barton, but it's worth skipping; it seems it was only included to provide some "balance" from the medical profession, whatever that means.
So is it for you and why? Jahoda's style can be a little dry, a little to the point (a little German? well, Austrian technically...). I read through it really quickly as it's a short book (110 pages), it's in my field, and the language is fairly accessible. It is certainly not a self-help book and won't lend any understanding on how to deal with specific issues or to improve your own mental health. It's a technical review of the state of the field in 1958, written most likely with scientists, government officials, and other professionals in mind, not anyone with a passing interest. I think that for the topic her writing is as clear, coherent and organized as anything you'll ever find. She maintains a clear sense of what she's saying and stays on topic throughout the book. Honestly, I'm not surprised that more hasn't been done to study "positive mental health" in the 50 odd years since she wrote this, considering how funding for research goes. But I am surprised that this book is so good and totally escape my radar until a few months ago. I'm also surprised that nothing this good has been written on topic in those 50 years, or hasn't been given it's do either. I'll say that for mental health clinicians and researchers, this should be required reading until something comparable comes along. ...more
The Human Animal is an ambitious work by Weston La Barre to explain in a single volume everything that makes us distinctly human. Well, that seems toThe Human Animal is an ambitious work by Weston La Barre to explain in a single volume everything that makes us distinctly human. Well, that seems to be what he had in mind when he started. The book can be neatly divided in two parts First is Science: our evolution from single cells to animals, our development as primates, our separation from the other apes, the development of material and social culture, the development of the family and social order, conceptions and misconceptions of race and ethnicity, and the diversity of different languages (chapters 1-11, pp.1-207). The the second part, Nonsense: understanding homosexuality as a social and evolutionary perversion, how primitive people are comparable to the mentally ill, how religion is a widespread superstition founded on a cult of fear and ignorance, and how the politics of the modern world cannot evolve us into golden age society because nations cannot resolve their Oedipal conflicts and come to terms with their motives and responsibilities (chapters 12-15, pp. 208-334). I wish I was joking.
I have three main issues with this book, and their all in that last part. First, this book totally lost its way. It began as a scientific book on the topic of human evolution written for the general public. Then, without any notice or explanation, it flipped into a disorganized rant about the ills of modern society and the foolishness of people who against against scientifically sanctioned ideas. Where did that come from?
Second, La Barre seems to have undergone some Freudian conversion somewhere between chapters 11 and 12. The remainder of the book frames everything in terms of Oedipal conflicts, with no real sense of scope, boundary, or measure. I could never tell when he was being literal or metaphorical when using the Oedipus conflict for... just about anything. Maybe he lost sense of it himself. I guess this book was first published around the time psychoanalysis and Freudianism had reached its peak in academia, so it's no surprise to find references in here, but these aren't passing references. They're the recurring theme of a disorganized rant. One thing that keeps coming up is the riddle of the Sphinx, which I couldn't for the life of me understand what he meant. Fortunately, while reading this I happened to come across a reference to a book called Riddle of the Sphinx by Géza Róheim, 1934) mentioned in Rethinking Psychological Anthropology (by Philip K. Bock), which explained it as an outmoded explanation of human sexuality, routed in psychoanalysis. Probably already outdated by the time La Barre wrote this book, but that's speculation so let's set it aside. What really matters is that La Barre is waaaaaay out on a limb with this one. I can't imagine he reached (or impressed!) his contemporary readers, his fellow anbthropologists, or even his fellow Freudians. It pays to get your point across. Which brings me to three.
Finally the writing. The first part was so well written: solid examples, clear line of thought, no obvious bias or personal opinions, plain language with light humor - everything you could expect from an introductory science book! The writing in the second part is just terrible. No chapter has any clear thesis, or traceable line of thought. Chapter 8 - People are Different - begins with this: "Genetically, the human species is 'polytypical.' The implications of this biological fact are most remarkable - and even now are only becoming more fully understood." He goes on to explain that this means there is no single type or norm of 'proper' human, from which we all depart. That is, no person or group displays any fundamental, normal attributes but instead all races are really different arrangements of genetic traits, but none are any closer than any other to some abstract norm. In other words, there are different types of people. Okay, maybe science isn't your thing, but you probably got that he's talking about genetics, the species, and what we're learning about they're related. He then goes on to give perhaps the best 17 pages I've read yet debunking any scientific basis for racial prejudice. Was this controversial to the American public in 1954? Maybe so, maybe not. It was certainly in line with the ideas of professionally anthropology, at least since Franz Boas. In other words, excellent writing to convey well-established professional ideas. Compare this with the introduction to chapter 14, Superstition and the Soul: "The durability of a belief and its dignity as 'culture' (as opposed to 'psychosis') have to do with the number of its cultural adherents, geographically and historically. It's viability is largely related to it emotional attractiveness and efficacy in providing a current equilibrium and peace of mind; its persistence in time has nothing to do with the cosmic truth of the belief." Where's he going with this? Well, obviously he's not the religious type, but other than that, who knows? He spends 37 more pages loosely discussing how religion and superstition are obviously(!) based on "irrational" beliefs that contradict the mighty and righteous cult of Science. I couldn't find any clear argument anywhere in the remaining chapters. The final chapter is a loose discussion of local, national, and international politics, Hegel's dialect of history, Marx's vision of a proletariat uprising, every man's basic Oedipal conflict (which is never really discussed in terms of being "resolved" vs. "unresolved," even as a matter of degree; and in which mention of women is totally absent), war, industry, intellectualism, and a vision of the potential future, all of which somehow bears relationship to our genetic heritage. Yeah. So there you have it. All in one book.
What's really crazy about all this is La Barre clearly had some talent for writing, even if you're not into his style or humor. But all that got totally lost in the end. It's almost like he went on some spirit journey and came back as a bitter psychopath (which he equates, see p. 286). Or his contempt for the "irrational," as when he rails against dreaming of all thing: "Dreaming is an indiscipline of the mind, a temporary psychosis that unfetters the organism from reality, social and cultural as well as physical" (p. 278). He puts psychotics and poets in the same boat as minorities of thought (talk about stretching a point), and at one point talks about intellectuals as the culture heroes of the new era. He even decries all of Western Philosophy as a product of "bad grammar," the unfortunate consequence of misunderstands due to the nature of ancient Greek (pp. 299-301). Tongue in cheek? Again, I wish I was joking. All the humor from the first half of the book was drained away, and only bitterness remained.
Why 2 stars? Because what was good was really good. He even included a good list of further reading reference, something I'm big fan of. But he really went off the deep end. Maybe those first chapters are still worth reading, but you'd probably do just as well with couple modern books and a few good conversations. ...more
I've been doing psychiatric counseling for a few years and I'm always looking for good resources, both for myself and as recommendations for the generI've been doing psychiatric counseling for a few years and I'm always looking for good resources, both for myself and as recommendations for the general public. This book sets the standard for the topic. I have two main issues for review: first for the general and then for the professional.
Bramson makes the point toward the end that this is not a "self-help" book in the sense of improving self image or self esteem. It is, as it claims, a guidebook for how to cope with difficult people in your life. To be clear, it's not a book to improve your self image, to get motivated, to have a sense or purpose, etc. that so many of the self-help books of that era promise. More to the point, it is not a book on how to change people around you. As he frequently points out, this book is about finding ways to deal with people and situations when we can't escape and can't change them.
The book addresses 7 types of difficult people (or more accurately, 7 categories of difficult behavior or personalities): - Hostile-Aggressive (that threaten, intimidate, or attack you) - Complainers (that raise dissent without working toward solutions) - Clams (that are silent and unresponsive to you) - Super-agreeable (that can't say 'No' when they should) - Negativist (that erode motivation, like a wet blanket) - Know-it-all Expert (that won't or can't hear other opinions) - Indecisive Staller (that can't make a decision, urgent or not)
I wouldn't be surprised if you find the writing a little dry or the examples a bit too simple. A few times I found myself thinking, "Are you serious...?" But that's really beside the point. The lessons are clear, the examples are simple to follow, and the theory is sound. Is it a solution to every interpersonal problem? Of course not. Bramson's point is that you won't be worse off than you are now for trying.
Regarding professional counseling issues, this book should be standard reading. I'm sure not everyone will go for it, but it's an easy, short and accessible resource. I didn't feel any strong allegiance to any school or orientation in the field. Perhaps it belongs in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (doesn't everything now?) just based on it's practical approach and its focus on adjusting attitudes through action. But again, I think Bramson is right to say this is not a proper "self-help" book, and more a critique of social interactions. A recurring theme is how most of these problems we have with people grow out of proportion due to learned customs and proper etiquette - even when it doesn't fit or make sense. Perhaps I'm contradicting myself, but it seems to be an open-ended format that would lend itself well to an of the schools. ...more
It's hard to give this book a scale review as I have strong and mixed feelings, but I'll have to settle it with two stars. Please note that this pertaIt's hard to give this book a scale review as I have strong and mixed feelings, but I'll have to settle it with two stars. Please note that this pertains only to the first section of the book on guard dog training, not the section on obedience training, which I did not read.
5 stars: This book is an excellence text on the principles of learning, doing far more for teaching the best of behavioral psychology than Pavlov or Skinner ever did. Koehler does an excellent job drawing from his experience training 15,000+ dogs to give step-by-step instructions for the fundamentals of police dog, industrial plan watch dog, and military dog training. I don't have much experience with dogs, let alone guard dogs, so I would no feel confident trying to train a dog without an experienced professional. (Also, from reviews I've read of his other books it seems that at least the public is divided on whether Koehler is just effective or just cruel; I'd like to hear some professional opinions.) One of the more interesting points of the book is that no one teaches a dog to be a guard dog any more than one teaches a dog to hunt - the essence of the training is it bolster and shape a dog's natural instincts to better serve your particular needs. Along those same lines, many dogs a simply not cut out for the job, so much of the work goes into working on good candidates, not trying to "make" guard dogs out of unfit or unwilling animals.
1 star: Koehler often uses a patronizing, smug tone that is unfitting in a dog manual, or really any manual at all. It's one thing for a professional to criticize others' practices or beliefs, but I found his tone unprofessional, even condescending. In several cases he defends dogs who did not behave as expected (such as biting people), and rightly attributes it to the ineffective or misguided training of the handler. However, his condemnation of police captains and precincts that do not employ canine units would hardly win anyone over. More to the point, the dismissive and patronizing tone he uses when discussing minorities and the 1960's race riots convinced me he's probably a bigot, or at least a fool. He should leave the social commentary for another text, or better yet to keep it to himself. ...more
This is an interesting book that, well, tells the truth about burnout. For those of you who don't know, "burnout" is basically what happens to workersThis is an interesting book that, well, tells the truth about burnout. For those of you who don't know, "burnout" is basically what happens to workers who lose passion for their work and accordingly both they and their work suffer for it. Maslach and Leiter do a good job to explain burnout in simple terms with some helpful examples. They also separate burnout from clinical issues, such as depression, and personality issues. Over and over again they emphasize the crucial role of a good fit between worker and job, and moreso the organization forces that affect it (that is, such issues the worker experiences cannot rightly be blamed on the worker). They highlight six major causes of burnout: work overload, lack of control, insufficient reward, breakdown in community absence of fairness, and conflicting values.
What I liked: The authors take a balanced tone throughout the book. They don't attack management as evil-doers trying to wring every drop of joy and effort out of helpless clock-punchers. Instead they do a thorough job explaining the common misconceptions about burnout and why "It's a problem of the individual [worker:]," is both wrong and counter-productive. Furthermore, they explain the many effects that burnout has through departments and entire organizations. Basically, when people become disengaged from their jobs, quality decreases, people job contributing any more than they must, suspicion and hostility increases, medical and mental health expenses increase, sick days increase, cynicism sets it, and monetary reward more and more becomes the main reason to work. The authors provide several examples to illustrate cases. I liked information in the appendix about the burnout measure that Maslach developed, but I would have like more detail and explanation (at it seems central to the whole book).
What I didn't like: Déjà vu. At first this book was really interesting, but after the first, say, 30 pages I got the feeling they were repeating themselves. By the end it felt like I was force-feeding myself the same leftovers I'd been eating for the past week. Do they explain what burnout is, show why it matters, and illustrate how it all ties together in clear examples? Yes. But they took 169 pages to do a job that could have taken about 30. By the end it just felt like the same stale mush you find in any standard school giant text book. No flavor, no spice, no urge to turn the page except to make sure you didn't miss anything. This book could have used more focus. They should cut down all the tedious redundant passages, I think put in there for emphasis. It only takes one paragraph and one clear cut example to make the case for a good fit between worker and role, or for fairness in the workplace, of for conflicting office values, or for work overload, etc.
Furthermore, the examples they use do make the point, but they are so stale and watered down with soft language that it takes the bite out of the experience. For example, on page 54 they use the example of Jane the researcher at a university who gets screwed out of her guaranteed research space for her lab; she later finds out that her space was cut to entice a new professor to the program, and furthermore that, contrary to assurances by the dean, among the researchers she was the only one to have a space reduction. The dean approved this because "he had assumed that Jane, being such a nice person, would not be as upset as some of the other professors might have been about losing lab space. Quite the contrary, Jane was furious about the unfairness of it all. Her expectation of fair treatment had been violated, she had not been treated with the same respect as the other professors, and she had been lied to by her superiors." Well, where I come from "quite the contrary" is not the first thing that comes to mind - more like seething rage. I feel like the authors didn't want to come across with too strong a stance in case the offend someone or, God forbid, come across like socialist reformers. Understandably so, but this spiritless and appeasing approach doesn't work either.
So in sum, less talk more rock. For the second edition I hope they whittle this down to about 30 pages, take a stronger and still balanced position, use more lively examples and more interesting language, illustrate cases where people failed to manage burnout (largely neglected in this book), and give more of a background in terms of labor and worker relationships. I think the book would lose it's focus if it wander off into issues with labor unions, advocacy, and the labor movement, but the issues are so closely and importantly related it would be nice to see them tied neatly together. ...more
Walten Neff sets the standard for excellent scholarly work on psychology and social science in general. This book is by far the best overview on the tWalten Neff sets the standard for excellent scholarly work on psychology and social science in general. This book is by far the best overview on the topic of work (as he noted in 1974, there wasn't much that psychology had to say on the topic then, and I haven't personally come across anything striking since). More than that, he uses a light, accessible writing style to explore various aspects of work and behavior, exploring each issue from multiple angles. This is probably the single best thing about the work, since it provide the balance and perspective that you don't generally find in scholarly publications, whether for professionals or the general public.
I read this book in pieces over the course of two years, so it wouldn't make much sense to get into the details of the ideas and issues reviewed (except in the most general and pointless way), so I'll leave the comments to the general theme, scope and style of the book. Students and professionals of the social sciences would strongly benefit from reading this at any point in their career, if not for the specific issues related to work or the methods of psychological study, than certainly to use as a model of good writing. ...more
Economics and finance are outside my field, so I can't make any solid claims about how this book stacks up compared to others. I can claim that this iEconomics and finance are outside my field, so I can't make any solid claims about how this book stacks up compared to others. I can claim that this is the most accessible and readable book I've come across yet on the topic. To be more precise, the several topics, as Phillips ties together several intertwined threads related to international economics and finance. Perhaps most notable and interesting for today are the chapters on oil and "Bullnomics" in light of current events. But rather than just tossing these topics out there with a handful of buzzwords, Phillips craftily ties them into the other related issues that have not attracted as much attention. At least not yet.
On the cover of the edition I've been reading (2009 release) it quotes Bill Moyers as saying something to the effect of, "If you read one book on the economic crisis, read this one." I agree wholeheartedly that this is probably the best summary and explanation out there, but this book goes well beyond the issues of the most recent events and goes deeper into the causes of how all this came about (reaching back, 30 or 100 or 400 years for examples and comparisons).
Phillips's prose is light and accessible, not overly technical, and full of straight-forward examples instead of (all too common) rhetoric and abstract discussion of general principles. There are too many "get rich quick with these simple investment principles" and "how to be a hedge fund manager" books out there; this isn't one of them. He treats the material seriously and openly, and seems to have no particular axe to grind. Anyone with a high school education shouldn't struggle too much and should be able to gloss over some of the vocab without losing the message. This book sets the standard for explaining economics and finance to people who don't study economics and finance. ...more
I read this book a few years ago, I think 2003, and it really stood out from everything I had read or heard about Feminism. I don't know how well it wI read this book a few years ago, I think 2003, and it really stood out from everything I had read or heard about Feminism. I don't know how well it would hold up today, but I like Roiphe's methodically and careful approach to the subjects, generally all taboo. She discusses sex, rape, gender relations, safety policies, and Feminist theory and ideology.
I'm not surprised this book has received a lot of negative attention. I didn't have the sense that Roiphe at all apologized or justified rape in any way in the book. She criticizes Take Back The Night and the now common university Blue Light system, and she does so by thoroughly explaining her position, not by angry blind attacks. I don't remember whether she targeted anyone specifically in the book, but she criticizes the contemporary Feminist Movement (at the time of publication, 1993) as working against its own goals and acting contrary to the Feminist ideals and values of her mother's and grandmother's generations; essentially she holds contemporary Feminism to be concerned with restricting dialogue and branding subjects (such as rape or sex in general) as taboo and restricting sexual freedom; she argues that previous generations strove to increase sexual freedom and to make taboo subjects open to discussion. Notably, she argues that today survivors have a "monopoly" on dialogue and no one else's opinion is considered relevant or worthy of consideration. It's pretty clear why her position creates a lot of heat.
Her purpose for writing the book was to open up dialogue on (what she considers) a more and more closed subject. I don't know enough to advocate for or against any of the specific ideas or policies she brings up (such as the usefulness and the consequences of the Blue Light system), but I strongly agree that this has become a touchier subject in recent years with less and less room for (and tolerance of) controversial opinions. Roiphe makes a noble effort at least to put these topics back on the table. Well written, well organized, non-technical, easy to read. ...more
I can't remember this too well because I read it for a sociology course my first year of college in 2000, and I've since lost the text. From what I reI can't remember this too well because I read it for a sociology course my first year of college in 2000, and I've since lost the text. From what I remember, it was easy and clear enough and provided a good introduction to some of the more pressing social concerns today.
Good read for sociology students, or anyone concerned about social problems in general. ...more