This was well organized, well-written, and highly readable, and considering the number of business-psych books I've been reading late...moreGenre: Nonfiction
This was well organized, well-written, and highly readable, and considering the number of business-psych books I've been reading lately, recounted a number of studies I hadn't run into before, plus it suggests tools that I as an individual can put to use to change my own habits if that is my desire. However it has one major drawback that caused me to lower it's rating: it occasionally relies on somewhat anecdotal evidence such as the section on alcoholics anonymous -- which I've heard studies showing that they're not any more effective than not attending a rehab group, specifically because of the faith-based requirement taking the responsibility out of the hands of the participant (thus giving an excuse for failing), Duhigg, however touts the faith-based requirement as one of the main benefits of the program. So... given my concerns over an area that I have some familiarity with I don't know how much trust to put into those areas where I have no familiarity with the subject matter. However, Duhigg puts together a compelling argument, and in many cases I don't see a reason to quibble, but would I have seen a reason to quibble with the AA story if I hadn't already been given different data? (less)
This purports to be a biography of Queen Isabella of England, the wife of Edward the Second, the first English monar...more**spoiler alert** Genre: Biography
This purports to be a biography of Queen Isabella of England, the wife of Edward the Second, the first English monarch to be deposed by parliament... but I really didn't get a sense of who she was from reading this book. A large part of that is probably the sources Weir had to work with -- there was plenty of information on what Edward the Second was doing, but what there seemed to be to work with for what Isabella was doing was her account books, and records of whether she wrote letters and to whom (NOT you'll notice, the actual letters). In the first third of the book you get a real good sense of who Edward was (an unobservant, self-centered ass) -- and I suppose one can be amazed that Isabella continued to support him for as long as she did, as loyally as she did... but... not a lot of sense of who she was other then that. Politically active, yes - she was involved in various negotiations both within and outside of England... She must've had diplomatic skills. But since you're determining that by inference, it's hard to get a real sense of the woman.
Then Edward falls in with Hugh Despenser the Younger and her position as Queen starts to be persistently undermined... We still don't see her reaction to what is done to her; no one is going to like having all her lands and money taken from her, and having all her French courtiers (including her nursemaid who'd been with her since early childhood) sent back to France and prosecuted if they didn't go) but how one reacts to things like that are very telling personality-wise, and we don't know how Isabella reacted, other then that by the time she was sent to France on a diplomatic mission she had gotten to the point of being willing to start a rebellion to depose the Despensers. She also felt disaffected enough to start an affair with Roger Mortimer, a man Edward had declared a traitor. Plus, she convinced her teenaged son, (Edward's heir) Edward the Third to remain with her in France and join this rebellion, despite many entreaties on his fathers' part. HOW she comes to this point, isn't entirely clear to me.
The weakest part of the book imo, is after Isabella successfully leads the rebellion and deposes Edward the Second. She starts out as being the unofficial regent and very popular. Due to a couple missteps on the international stage (namely the incredibly unpopular peace with Scotland, although it's completely understandable how Isabella thought it was a war that couldn't be won -- as a reader I certainly agreed with her! And, in a long-term view it probably wasn't a misstep.) Isabella looses popularity and has to put down another baronial rebellion. Which leads to Mortimer being over-proud and both of them being too money hungry (in case they need ready cash to deal with another rebellion). So, Edward the Third, right before he reaches his majority, leads a coup against Mortimer, and puts his mother under house arrest for most of the rest of her life (although it's a very comfortable and respectable house arrest, with lots of visitors, and eventually some political influence as an elder statesman.) What's motivating Isabella though all of this, and why she makes the decisions she does (except the big political moves, like the peace with Scotland) are left a complete mystery.
The book certainly succeeds in it's main aim, which is to rehabilitate the much maligned posthumous reputation of Queen Isabella as the ultimate femme fatale... but I'm not sure what image of her it's put in it's place. (less)
This is about training and fighting in the SCA as a woman. It's highly readable, straight-forward and easy to understand. Since I've...moreGenre: Non-Fiction
This is about training and fighting in the SCA as a woman. It's highly readable, straight-forward and easy to understand. Since I've only just started training I can't comment about how helpful or accurate it is. But, it lays out many things I didn't know or didn't apply to martial arts -- for example that generally men's fists and women's fists are different, which means we naturally hold swords at different angles. Ditto, I knew we processed adrenaline differently, but I hadn't thought about how that might play out on the tournament field. As a non-fighter I've seen many of my female friends struggle with the social/psych issues Beck talks about... and certainly one of my biggest concerns was could I handle hitting someone and/or being hit which she lists as major hurdles.
The section on blows and blocks was a little problematic for me - the blows that I had been shown made sense to me, on a visceral level. The once that were unfamiliar to me... not so much. (It doesn't help that the reading order for those pages jumps around...). The drills however, I really want to try. (less)
This book was reviewed on NPR a month or two ago, as one of the best science books of 2013... It's quite readable, but I don't find...moreGenre: Non-Fiction
This book was reviewed on NPR a month or two ago, as one of the best science books of 2013... It's quite readable, but I don't find it very science-y, or it's not experimental or research-driven, only observational really. It's basically asking different experts to take a walk around a city block and talk about what they notice (or in the case of the dog and toddler for the author to describe what she thinks they're clueing into). As a basic "There's a lot more going on that you could be noticing" it certainly makes its point. But... I want more structure to the organization... I want more of a point then just that. I did find the section walking with the geologist fascinating, but that may just be because I'm vaguely interested in geology. Ditto the physical therapist and analyzing what movements say about people's physical health. The fact that for a toddler, a walk is not a movement from point A to point B, but an exploratory expedition, and as such starts long before you get out the door, is an interesting and useful observation... but I'm not sure how it fits with anything else in the book. How raccoons and rats and other wildlife interject themselves into city life and adjust to it (and how we don't notice them) was also fascinating, as was thinking about sky scrapers as a cliff ecology... But I'm not sure what to do with all these random factoids or how long they'll stick in my head without a framework to apply them too.(less)
This is a rather macabre subject -- what happens to a body after death. It doesn't really look at it from a biological point of view...moreGenre: Non-Fiction
This is a rather macabre subject -- what happens to a body after death. It doesn't really look at it from a biological point of view (although that's touched on somewhat) but journalist Mary Roach explores the different uses corpses can be put too and different options we have beyond cremation and burial. The whole thing is quite readable, and oddly fascinating -- but it does skip lightly from one topic to another with very little rhyme or reason that I can see except that these are things that can be/are done to corpses. I found the chapters on scientific testing the most interesting - it never occurred to me that of course corpses must be used in car tests, otherwise you wouldn't know how much stress a human body could take. (Crash test dummies can tell you how much stress is applied to the body, but not whether that level of stress is a survivable amount - to figure out acceptable stress levels, you need actual bodies.) The description of how corpses are used in forensic research was rather lurid (and smelly) but again, not something it occurred to me before would be needed -- but of course, one needs to create a baseline in order to go to a crime scene and be able to say (reliably) "this body's been dead for a week". I was aware of organ donation and corpses being used for medical training, generally, but I now have a much more specific understanding of those aspects. I was not at all aware of corpses being used for ballistics testing (or what a hot-button issue that might be) -- but it makes sense to me, gunshots being a major cause of injury, both intentional and unintentional. You need to make sure that the bullet damages what you want and not more and the ballistics goo will only take you so far. I was less fascinated by the idea of plasticizing bodies or composting them or cannibalism... but the description of how bodies are used to reconstruct plane crashes was unexpectedly fascinating (although I wouldn't recommend reading it if you have any fear of flying!)
When I first finished the book I was rather unimpressed, because there was so little connection between all these topics - it didn't seem like a cohesive book to me... however, it's given me oodles of conversation topics! (if slightly macabre ones...) and I will say it did leave me with the strong determination to look up willed body donation programs in my state. (less)
I'm not sure what I think of this book... it was all over the map in what it discussed and what it tried to cover... and my initia...moreGenre: Pop-Economics
I'm not sure what I think of this book... it was all over the map in what it discussed and what it tried to cover... and my initial reaction to many of the initial statements was -- "but modern business psychology has proven that people don't behave like that" (e.g. as the ultimate rational actors that classical economics seems to think we all are...)
I thought the question it purported to try to answer, why we pay what we do was interesting, but that I didn't really feel that the book answered it to my satisfaction. That may be more a limitation in the book's view to a more classical economic theory versus my desire to incorporate the psych studies on decision making and choice discussed in The Honest Truth About Dishonesty by Dan Ariely, Nudge by Richard Thaler and Sidetracked by Francesca Gino. Plus, the book flits from topic to topic without actually getting a cohesive vision from them. There were a number of interesting ideas/different perspectives to think about... but not really what I was looking for or expecting out of the book.(less)
I really enjoyed listening to this book, but I think I'm going to have to get a paperback copy - you s...moreGenre: Self help, I guess... or maybe psychology
I really enjoyed listening to this book, but I think I'm going to have to get a paperback copy - you see it's one of those books where you need to stop and think about things and take notes. The audiobook serves as a good introduction, but it would not be my recommended way to read this book. The basic takeaway I got is that based on Brené Brown's research there are a lot of coping mechanisms that everyone applies to try to protect ourselves from our feelings of vulnerability and try to not feel shame or hurt. Strategies such as perfectionism and "fitting in". Ironically, these strategies actually lead to increased feelings of shame and pain. Strategies for numbing negative emotions such as escapism and keeping busy all the time, and addictions just mean that we numb ourselves to the positive emotions as well, since they're at root the same neurological pathways. What requires a lot more thought is that the book starts to talk about ways to keep ourselves from over-utilizing negative strategies, but it requires a fair amount of reflection and self-analysis, and I am not sure I caught all the suggested avenues of reflection and practice on the first listen. (less)
For a book named "Focus" purportedly on the benefits of focusing, it was remarkably unfocused. There was quite a lot of stuff I foun...moreGenre: Non-Fiction
For a book named "Focus" purportedly on the benefits of focusing, it was remarkably unfocused. There was quite a lot of stuff I found interesting in it, and quite a bit I didn't. But how much of it connected to each other -- not so clear to me. For example, towards the end, it had lots of interesting stuff to say about leadership. For years I've actually wondered what IS leadership? And this book actually started towards a useful definition for it. However, what exactly that has to do with focusing and the benefits of focusing, I'm not so clear on - nor what it had to do with the earlier stuff on pre-school and grade school education and how training in focus and emotional intelligence improved kid's overall performance academically and in life... was interesting, but didn't really connect to the leadership stuff, nor to the stuff in the very beginning of the book.
The book did inspire me to look into ways to improve my own ability to focus and work on my own emotional intelligence, so, while it had some problems as a book, it did convince me that there was something there to work on, and that it was something that could be worked on. Unfortunately, it failed to give any concrete guides to how to improve either of these abilities. We'll see what I think of _Emotional Intelligence 2.0_ (not by the same author, but obviously building on his previous work _Emotional Intelligence_).(less)
I had to read this for work. It’s hard not to be cynical and say this is basically a Ra-Ra book to encourage opti...moreGenre: Self-Help/Business Motivation
I had to read this for work. It’s hard not to be cynical and say this is basically a Ra-Ra book to encourage optimistic thinking, and therefore optimistic results and it has no substance. Well… if the substance is supposed to be optimism = optimistic results then that’s all the substance there needs to be, right? I even agree with that premise, but it’s still very hard not to be cynical about the book. It is written in a story form so it’s quick and easy to read… it’s just the story is at a second-grade level… (less)
This mostly read like a basic economics book. It was written in an approachable way, but I did feel that it argued beyond the data it...moreGenre: Nonfiction
This mostly read like a basic economics book. It was written in an approachable way, but I did feel that it argued beyond the data it presented. The basics of economics covered I was already familiar with, but I learned quite a bit from the examples and applications from the real world. The audio version was an approachable way of reading this book; although I think I may need to listen to it again to absorb everything I would’ve gotten if I’d read a print version instead.(less)
This book was a great deal of fun to listen too! It’s a really interesting companion to The Omnivore’s Dilemma in that both books are looking at where...moreThis book was a great deal of fun to listen too! It’s a really interesting companion to The Omnivore’s Dilemma in that both books are looking at where our food comes from. However, is a personal story of how one family responds to the issues brought up in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle starts with a personal discussion of the moral aspect of where our food comes from. The entire book is a personal narrative, describing how the authors’ family attempts to live a year on only locally produced food (with a heavy emphasis on their own garden). If you’re looking for a dramatic tale of deprivation, this isn’t it. I don’t think any of the three authors ever really complains about the project.
I am unabashedly a city-girl who has no clue what produce belongs in which season; however, I found it quite inspiring – they evoke a pastoral ideal with their bountiful garden and the tales of chickens and turkeys – but also quite intimidating. I am not a gardener, it’s not something I like doing, nor is the idea of being tied to a work-schedule immovably dictated by plants an appealing prospect. However, I can’t imagine attempting to eat entirely locally without having the kind of abundance their psudo-farm provides. (Nor can I imagine devoting the sheer amount of time their farm takes! I have other hobbies I want to pursue). But I still find it a tempting project. I like the idea of sustainability. I like the idea that my food has all of the nutrient’s it’s supposed to have, and is not doused in chemicals. I like the idea of the improved taste of the food (although I’m highly skeptical of this claim). Obviously, the book has a certain seductive charm ;-)(less)
I barely made it though listening to this. It’s long. It’s incredibly repetitive, and there was barely anything that wasn’t obvious;...moreGenre: Nonfiction
I barely made it though listening to this. It’s long. It’s incredibly repetitive, and there was barely anything that wasn’t obvious; job competition is now world-wide, since many jobs can be done from anywhere. Yes, I knew that. I’ve done that. The advent of the World Wide Web (e.g. Netscape) changed business, science, and day-to-day living. Well, duh, I lived though that. I am not sure why this book was touted as brilliantly insightful, except possibly that these observations may not have been as blindingly obvious in 2003 as they are in 2010.(less)
This was just as readable (or is that listen-able?) an audiobook as The Omnivore’s Dilemma however I felt like ther...moreIn Defense of Food
This was just as readable (or is that listen-able?) an audiobook as The Omnivore’s Dilemma however I felt like there was a lot less substance. It’s basically some rules of thumb to use when making personal food choices, which makes it a good companion piece to The Omnivore’s Dilemma, even if some of the points made were repetitive between the books. There were a few really fascinating tidbits mentioned, like the study done on a group of city-dwelling Australian aboriginals with diabetes – they spent a month living a hunter-gather lifestyle in the brush and by the end of the month nearly all the indicators for diabetes (and the other “western diseases” they had expressed symptoms for) disappeared. It only took a month! Of course, it’s a rather large life-style and diet change… but still incredibly dramatic findings!(less)
This is a cross between a travel memoir and essays exploring different aspects of happiness. The organizing principal is exploring hap...moreGenre:Nonfiction
This is a cross between a travel memoir and essays exploring different aspects of happiness. The organizing principal is exploring happiness in relation to geography (or more accurately cultural geography).
Eric Weiner starts by heading to the Netherlands and the World Database of Happiness, which simply rates the countries of the world based on how happy their citizens claim to be. This is part of the (relatively) new science of happiness, which Weiner relies on for much of his attempts to explain the whys behind his observations. The Netherlands themselves rate fairly high on the Database of Happiness. Weiner lightly explores the idea that this is due to their lack of rules/restrictions; marijuana is legal, as is prostitution. This idea contrasts strongly with the next country he visits, Switzerland , which is incredibly rule-bound.
In Switzerland Weiner seems to have trouble explaining why the Swiss rate so high on the happiness scale. Mostly he concludes that it has to do with a lack of negative factors to happiness. Envy is a huge depressor to happiness and the Swiss culture frowns on showing off wealth, which presumably decreases envy. Inefficiencies (such as traffic jams) are linked to unhappiness. The Swiss are very good at eliminating those. Weiner even suggests that all the rules that surround life in Switzerland are actually beneficial to happiness, because it eliminates extraneous choices – people like having choices, but having too many options is overwhelming and causes depression. Finally, Weiner flirts with the idea that the Swiss’ happiness is due to their connection to nature and the beauty of their geography.
As he did for Switzerland , in all the happy places Weiner visits he flitters from explanation to explanation but doesn’t try to draw any conclusions. In Bhutan it’s attributed to having low expectations, not analyzing happiness (instead simply enjoying it), a belief in reincarnation, and having a popular monarchy with a military more known for its beer production then its military aspects. In Iceland happiness is attributed to a strong sense of community, embracing ART as a down-to-earth and expected activity, and an acceptance of (possibly even reverence for) failure – it indicates that you’re trying new things. In Thailand Weiner attributes happiness to a “don’t sweat the small stuff” attitude and again, a lack of analyzing happiness. I found the final three chapters on Great Brian, India and America to be mostly forgettable; Weiner didn’t really suggest any unusual reasons for these countries’ happiness levels, although I did find it ironic that he explored how American’s search for happiness based on location, since that’s exactly what his book was doing.
In general I found this to be a superficial search. Weiner throws out a lot of interesting potential reasons for a high happiness index; but no hypotheses can be drawn. He never tries to draw similarities between the happy places or to draw conclusions from his observations. He comes closest to drawing negative conclusions; beyond a fairly low threshold money doesn’t make you happy, feeling a lack of control will make you unhappy, and so will having expectations greater then your prospects. I guess it’s a whole lot easier to say what causes unhappiness then to say what causes happiness. (less)