Very cute. Chapters begin with the description of a relevant cupcake. The book would have been better with cupcake recipes, and it was predictable, buVery cute. Chapters begin with the description of a relevant cupcake. The book would have been better with cupcake recipes, and it was predictable, but like a fluffy strawberry cupcake with an interesting buttercream and a little chocolate ganache, tasty and light with just the very slightest tang....more
Light and engaging read. Great characters, particularly the main character, a female chef who suffers from injuries caused in a teenage accident whichLight and engaging read. Great characters, particularly the main character, a female chef who suffers from injuries caused in a teenage accident which killed her sister and boyfriend and, naturally, made it impossible for her to trust love. Some of the side characters, such as Patrick and Mia her best friends, are not as fully developed as would be ideal, but the love interest and Ivan her sous chef are interesting and fill out the story....more
What can I say, it's Jodi Picoult. This time a book about a man twice wrongly accused of raping a teenage girl. As usual, there's a twist at the end,What can I say, it's Jodi Picoult. This time a book about a man twice wrongly accused of raping a teenage girl. As usual, there's a twist at the end, though this time it doesn't impact the plot. It was, sadly, telescoped about halfway through, since it goes to one of the themes of the book.
Overall not bad, though the history of the main character is written in a backwards episodic fashion - periodically throughout the book there's a flashback to some pivotal time in his life, each one earlier in his life than the last. The first one, about the first rape accusation and its following plea bargain and jail time, bogs the book down with information that doesn't necessarily add enough depth to the characters to make up for the difficult emotional impact.
I would recommend this to people who already likes Jodi Picoult and not to anyone who prefers true literature....more
Boomsday is a highly entertaining story about what might happen when the Baby Boomers begin to retire and bankrupt Social Security. The main protagoniBoomsday is a highly entertaining story about what might happen when the Baby Boomers begin to retire and bankrupt Social Security. The main protagonist, Cassandra, is a 29-year-old PR flack with a cynical (and popular) blog and a Red Bull habit, joined in protagonistness by her mentor Terry and a politician named Randy. There's a cast of memorable supporting characters including her sleazy father, a wheeling-dealing southern minister, a rich Catholic priest, the foul-mouthed President of the US, and his slimy sidekick Bucky. The characters are memorable enough to mostly keep straight, though from time to time I forgot who one or another person was, like Arthur Clumm, the euthanizing nurse who showed up just infrequently enough (or without enough context) to be confusing.
The first half of the book, setting up Cassandra's back story and the setting of conflict between the "Whatever" generation and the "Un-Greatest" generation moves quickly and his highly amusing. Through Cassandra's proposal of "Voluntary Transitioning" - that senior citizens would elect suicide at age 70 in exchange for tax breaks, thereby making the government solvent - the book is engaging, fast-paced, and funny. After Randy champions the idea and begins wheeling and dealing, the book bogs down, notably with descriptions of a blue-ribbon commission appointed to study the proposal. The book picks up towards the end, as the presidential election heats up with most of the minor characters involved in one way or another. It does not end where I would have anticipated; the ending is satisfying.
Overall an excellent, light, fast read. Though published in 2007, the book will be timely for a number of years to come, particularly in light of continued economic woes. ...more
The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business is exactly the kind of book I love - a well-written synopsis of dozens or hundreds of psThe Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business is exactly the kind of book I love - a well-written synopsis of dozens or hundreds of psychology studies.
Duhigg defines habit scientifically: a choice initially made deliberately but which we stop thinking about but continue doing regularly. Habits are the brain's way of conserving energy, since once you go into the routine of the habit, you aren't really thinking about it in a conscious way. He touches very briefly on one of my favorite cognitive psychology concepts, chunking, which is that we aggregate individual steps into a larger pattern. For example, when you "brush your teeth" you're really doing dozens of little things - get toothbrush, wet toothbrush, open toothpaste, put toothpaste on toothbrush, etc. But we've chunked it cognitively into a single routine.
Duhigg describes a circular pattern made up of cue -> routine -> reward with an arrow back from reward to cue. It takes a while for him to explain how the hell it's a circle, as he spends a while convincing us about the mental efficiency and that it happens this way. He gives many examples, which could be too much, but they're entertaining and he's layering new information with each example, so it works. A cue might be something like a time (it's 5:00, time to go home) or seeing something (a pink box, pastries are probably inside!). Initially, you have to think about what to do; as a child it being 5:00 didn't trigger the "time to go home" routine the way it does after you've been working at a job for a while. You aren't born with a pink box having meaning. But if you follow the same routine enough times, with the same reward (carbs and fat, yum!) then it becomes habit.
What makes it truly a habit, which is what drives the arrow from reward to cue, is craving. At some point your brain will start craving the reward as soon as you hit the cue. It isn't that you necessarily have a routine of having a pastry whenever you see a pink box, but damn if you don't want one. That craving drives you to follow the routine - have a pastry - because you'll get the tasty reward of fat and carbs.
He states that "a habit cannot be eradicated - it must, instead, be replaced" (p. 92). This makes sense from a neurological point of view - the neural pathways that define the routine will never go away, but you can strengthen other neural pathways. The more you follow a new routine, the stronger the new pathways will be by comparison to the pathways for the old routine.
He discusses "keystone habits" which he defines as levers that start a chain reaction of change. That is, when you go to change habits, some are more key than others. While he gives several examples, I'm not sure he makes a very strong case for this, probably because although he can kind of point to examples, he acknowledges that it's incredibly difficult to predict in advance what habits will be keystone habits. He cites exercise and making the bed as habits that are correlated with positive outcomes in other areas, but exercise in particular is mentioned in a section about how if you can strengthen willpower that you can affect other things. So I think keystone habits may be habits that, when changed, strengthen willpower, rather than being uniquely powerful themselves.
He discusses inflection points in strengthening willpower - that it isn't just deciding to make a change, but figuring out consciously what the new routine will be when faced with a forseeable challenge, which makes a difference. So if you're dieting, it isn't just deciding to eat less, but deciding what you'll do to handle the problem of facing a pink box, of feeling hungry, of being offered things you feel you shouldn't eat.
Another point he makes - again, not as well as he could have - is that belief is important in permanently changing habits. The problem is that he doesn't clearly distinguish if he means belief that change is possible or if he means belief in a higher power. His main example in this section is Alcoholics Anonymous, and while he's very convincing, when away from the book, I'm not sure he's entirely right in his conclusions about drinking as a habit for alcoholics. For example, he says that most alcoholics don't crave the feeling of being drunk, but I had an alcoholic tell me that's not true.
While I've given personal examples, he has a number of examples from business and society. He uses Alcoa as an extensive case study in the middle of the book - Paul O'Neill used worker safety as a keystone habit that led to incredible gains in productivity and stock price, among other things. He also talks about the Montgomery bus boycott and how habit and social forces interacted, particularly how weak ties reinforced people's actions in terms of traveling to participate in the civil rights movement. In the section on business, he spends a while talking about how marketers use the power of habit to get us to use products like toothpaste and Febreeze.
Overall the book is interesting and engaging. It's very well-written and easy to read. It walks a fine line between self-help - you can see how to apply it to your life or dealings - while still fundamentally being about all these psychology studies....more
Good light read, perfect for a long flight or sitting by the beach or pool. Predictable, not a lot of character development or deep plot, but easy andGood light read, perfect for a long flight or sitting by the beach or pool. Predictable, not a lot of character development or deep plot, but easy and reasonably fun....more