Full of interesting anecdotes and I love Gladwell's promulgation of social scientific and historical scholarship, but the extension of David & GolFull of interesting anecdotes and I love Gladwell's promulgation of social scientific and historical scholarship, but the extension of David & Goliath unifying theme was lazy. He didn't explore implications as much as I would want, or the contradictions between some of his arguments. Ex: okay, so great suffering can produce great accomplishments, even though much more often, it destroys people. He seems to imply that this makes the great suffering worthwhile in the big picture. But he also takes the position that affirmative action is misguided because black students overall do better in less competitive universities. Wouldn't it make sense using the logic of his position about suffering that some black students would be able to make it out of the crucible of top ranked universities able to accomplish more than they would have if policies prevented them from entering those places? The last chapter about the Chambon-sur-lignon resistance was interesting but weakly connected to the thesis-- it seemed less attributable to the characteristics of David as to the indulgence of Goliath's supporters.
*sigh* in any case, I liked learning about the fullcourt press in basketball, the dyslexic trial lawyer, the fact that childhood leukemia used to involve bleeding from every orifice, the Mennonite hero Dirk Willems, and the story behind California's three strikes legislation. ...more
A highly readable narrative account of the 2011 bombing and shooting massacre in Norway, in which Anders Breivik killed 77 people and grievously injurA highly readable narrative account of the 2011 bombing and shooting massacre in Norway, in which Anders Breivik killed 77 people and grievously injured more than 30 more. Most of the victims were teenagers attending an island summer camp for promising young members of the liberal labor party.
After a shocking opening chapter that takes place on the island mid-shooting spree, the book proceeds in roughly chronological order, going over Breivik's odd and sad parentage, his childhood and adolescence on the fringes, and to his financial successes, social failures, and self-isolation in adulthood. Chapters on Breivik alternate with chapters on the loving family lives and childhoods of two teenagers who ended up on the island during Breivik's shooting spree: Bana, an ethnic Kurd who fled Iraq with her family shortly after Saddam Hussein's ethnic cleansing campaigns, and Simon, an outgoing and popular leader with great organizing skills. The chapters on Breivik's preparations for the massacre, and "Friday," the chapter that unsparingly details the events of that day, were excruciating to read, so saturated are they in dramatic irony.
For the most part, the book is journalistic, with little overt analysis. Everything is based on interviews, records, and Breivik's detailed journals and website. I have never read such a close study of a mass murderer before, and I would have expected more violence, malice, or insanity. Instead, Breivik comes across as a vain, self-deceiving, and petty character. His thought processes, while bizarre and illogical, are dismayingly unexceptional. ...more
Highly readable, with moments that are as suspenseful as any novel (ex: the final story about flesh-eating bacteria, the chapter on the doctors who haHighly readable, with moments that are as suspenseful as any novel (ex: the final story about flesh-eating bacteria, the chapter on the doctors who harm their patients). I learned so much! But of course it's been over a month so that now I only remember the fact that morning sickness may be a protective mechanism for the fetus, with women who have bad morning sickness tending to have healthier babies than women who don't. Gawande makes a perfect spokesperson for the medical profession....more
Couldn't get into this that much. It felt like too much self-reflexivity in the service of itself, rather than in the service of doing greater justiceCouldn't get into this that much. It felt like too much self-reflexivity in the service of itself, rather than in the service of doing greater justice to something outside of the author. This impression was NOT negated by her self-reflexive acknowledgement that this was a possibility, the entire topic of the essay on Saccharine/Sentimentality. She references Joan Didion in one of the "Pain Tours" essays, and her style reminded me of the little Didion I have read, which would be great recommendation for many. Portions of the first essay, on being a medical actor, and the essay on Morgellons, were almost medical anthropology (which I like). Wide ranging in location/topic as well as in references. The references don't always add to the reader's experience, though contemplating them might have added to hers. ...more
Really enjoyed this. Fast, fascinating, funny, and sad.
"Little Eustace Conway was a teenager. He was already a skilled woodsman and a fierce leader,Really enjoyed this. Fast, fascinating, funny, and sad.
"Little Eustace Conway was a teenager. He was already a skilled woodsman and a fierce leader, the one who had every kid in his neighborhood working on regulated shifts around the clock to tend to his extensive personal turtle collection." (196)
"So Eustace doesn't know what to do about Ashley. In the end, his decision will almost certainly be a showdown between the two things he craves most: absolute love and absolute control. It's a tough call. Historically, love has always been a pretty fierce contender, but some people in this world need more than love. Eustace has lived without love before; that's a familiar sensation for him. whereas he has never lived a moment of his adult life without control." (246). ...more
Read this because of fascinating NYT magazine excerpt on how Target tracks our buying habits. The rest of the book is not as compelling -- anecdotes sRead this because of fascinating NYT magazine excerpt on how Target tracks our buying habits. The rest of the book is not as compelling -- anecdotes sometimes don't support particular arguments he's attempting to illustrate (the Hey-Ya examples being the most egregious), and his section on how social movements occur is weak and unconvincing, and not really about habits, per se. Style and structure were often clunky, and the book seems a bit muddled as its ultimate purpose. I dunno, I guess I was expecting slightly more substantial psychology or social science and instead got more of a book solidly for businesses/manager types and people on the beginning of their self-help journeys. But I fall into the latter category, so why am I pooh pooh-ing this book so much? I dunno. Maybe I am just jealous of how $$$ money this dude's gonna make at corporate speaking gigs.
Anyway, lessons I'll take away -- *making your bed every morning and committing to regular exercise are two habits that can transform your entire goddamn life *Diagram about mouse brain activity spike post-reward eventually arriving prior to reward (the origin of cravings) *Changing habits requires identifying the cues and rewards that trigger and support the habit behavior, then trying out various substitutes for the behavior that might achieve the same reward *deliberate advance plans for responding to challenging situations can be extremely helpful (ex Scottish knee/hip replacement patients, Michael Phelps, Starbucks) *With more challenging habits like alcoholism or stuff related to football, true belief and submission to some higher purpose is necessary *in general, it's more effective to change others' habits if you make them believe they have some power or authority over their decision than if you coerce them with force *casinos are super evil