Robert Fischer's Reviews > The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good

The Compass of Pleasure by David J. Linden
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Dec 13, 11

bookshelves: neuroscience-cognitive-psych
Read in December, 2011

This book is an excellent book, but not for the faint of heart. It is basically a conversation with a neurophysiologist about how pleasure works, and the author has no problem delving into the jargon, acronyms, and experimental design of neuroscience to get an accurate description across. If you're expecting science writing with the popular accessibility of Mary Roach or even Michael Shermer, you're likely to be disappointed. Because of that, I gave it 3 stars as a "for-the-general-public" rating.

Personally, however, I loved the book. It's not a 5 star book: it won't stand the test of time, and it didn't fundamentally blow my mind. However, if you want to get caught up on the state of addiction and pleasure science as of the book's writing, you've come to the right place. It engages with studies very carefully, including providing detailed-yet-accessible(-ish) experimental design notes and superb footnotes, and the book is extremely careful to present what is and is not actually scientifically known. This makes the book an excellent resource for people who are outside of the neuroscience field but still want to know what is empirically known about addiction and pleasure. It's also a fun read, and despite the jargon and acronyms, it's pretty smooth.

There's also a passing critique of The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul, which I found interesting. There's also a more in-depth critique of Ray Kurzweil (or at least Ray's timetables).
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