An informal, highly accessible tour of neuroscience for general readers.



A professor of neuroscience, psychology, and linguistics examines how our brains inspire individual behaviors, thoughts, and actions.

During the first year of the pandemic, Prat, along with millions of others, traded her daily routine for the “pervasive anxiety” of quarantine. The stressful situation inspired the author to delve deeper into individual brain operation and management. The result is a fascinating reverse-engineered exploration of brain design and how methods of thought and behavior are unique to each individual, creating “the story of you.” Prat begins with an informative, congenial introduction to the numerous internal “design features” driving the two “lopsided” sides of our brains and how this asymmetry (along with outside chemicals like caffeine or prescription drugs) shapes its complex neurochemistry. She addresses how the largely “misunderstood” connection between nature and nurture actually creates habit-driven personalities and identities. Moving into how outward factors influence brainpower, Prat details how a brain adapts to changing or challenging environments and how those factors affect one’s ability to focus and create an “understanding of reality through a lens shaped by your life experiences.” The author also includes a series of hands-on evaluative “assessments” for readers who want to tailor her explanations to their own brain design. One evaluation can help a reader determine if they are “a chooser or an avoider.” Furthermore, Prat sheds new light on contemporary research on topics like the “biological pretzel that is epigenetics,” a discipline that can show, for example, how “environmental experiences can create chemical changes in our DNA.” Numerous candidly written footnotes add comedic flair to the narrative, which will be appreciated by readers eager but intimidated to learn how and why their brains generate thoughts, feelings, and decision-making patterns. While Prat doesn’t aim to provide specific diagnoses for mental illnesses, she shines a positive light on how the brain operates from the inside out and from the outside in.

An informal, highly accessible tour of neuroscience for general readers.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4660-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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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 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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A convincing case for the societal benefits of sports fandom.


A Fox Sports executive and the founder of a consulting firm explore the social value of fandom in this nonfiction book.

Chicago Cubs season ticket holder Nick Camfield’s fandom “runs at least three generations deep,” and every trip to Wrigley Field “transports” him back to his childhood experience of watching games with his father. In conducting interviews with the Cubs enthusiast and others for this well-researched work, Valenta and Sikorjak came across dozens of individuals like Camfield whose emotional well-being and favorite memories revolved around sports—from Little League coaches and fantasy football leaguers to local fan club members and season ticket holders. In addition to anecdotal oral histories, the authors (self-described data geeks) convincingly deploy a host of statistical data to back their argument that not only do sports fans “have more friends,” they also “exhibit stronger measures of wellbeing, happiness, confidence, and optimism than non-fans.” Not only does fandom bring families closer together, the volume argues, but it is also an essential tool—for instance, it is used by immigrants to find a welcome home in new cities or countries. And as much as rivalry is central to the world of sports, fandom, the book contends, can actually “soften the hardened boundaries between ‘us’ and ‘them.’ ” Valenta, the senior vice president of strategy and analytics for Fox Sports, and Sikorjak, the founder of an analytics consulting firm and a former executive with Madison Square Garden, combine their career insights into American sports with a firm grasp of data-driven analysis that is accompanied by a network of scholarly endnotes. At times their prose can revel in the sappy nostalgia of sports history, which may alienate more objective sociologists while gripping the average fan. Still, their writing effectively blends keen storytelling with erudite statistical analysis that will appeal to both scholars of human behavior and lifelong sports enthusiasts. The book’s readability is enhanced by an ample use of full-color charts, graphics, diagrams, and other visual aids that support its overall message that the value of sports goes far beyond its mere entertainment value, as its “social power” has the potential to “heal an ailing world.”

A convincing case for the societal benefits of sports fandom.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2022

ISBN: 979-8-9858428-1-4

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Silicon Valley Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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