Fascinating stories from the practice of a skilled neuropsychiatrist.

INTO THE ABYSS

A NEUROPSYCHIATRIST'S NOTES ON MADNESS

That psychiatric illness is at least partly brain disease still provokes skepticism in some circles, but these compelling case reports make a convincing argument.

In his first book, psychiatrist David (co-author: Lishman’s Organic Psychiatry, 2009), director of the University College London Institute of Mental Health, writes that journalistic accounts of mental health “either lament the overdiagnosis and the medicalization of life or blame it all on modern society. The real problem, they say, is social media, sexual abuse, drugs, poverty, wealth, patriarchy, feminism, religion, lack of religion…the list goes on.” After agreeing that social and personal stresses play a role—as they do in obesity, heart disease, allergies, and numerous other conditions—the author proceeds to discuss a dozen patients whose illnesses can only be explained by a combination of biology, psychology, and sociology: the “biopsychosocial model of mental disorder.” Among David’s case studies are a man who suffered a catastrophic accident that left him with severe brain damage, from which his body recovered but not his personality; two different patients who were completely paralyzed despite tests that showed their brains were awake and functioning; and a schizophrenic woman who developed Parkinson’s disease, which doesn’t make sense because Parkinson’s, a neurological disorder, results from a deficiency of dopamine, a chemical that transmits nerve signals in the brain; schizophrenia is thought to involve a dopamine excess. David comes across as a compassionate physician and talented writer who works hard to demonstrate the biopsychosocial model and usually succeeds. Americans will note that a major social source of treatment failure—inability to afford it—doesn’t apply in Britain’s National Health Service, and several of his long-term triumphs could not have been repeated in the U.S. The cases are complex and sometimes so bizarre that it’s often difficult to apply their lessons to familiar disorders, but readers will be captivated.

Fascinating stories from the practice of a skilled neuropsychiatrist.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-78607-705-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Oneworld Publications

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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