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WHY WE REMEMBER

UNLOCKING MEMORY'S POWER TO HOLD ON TO WHAT MATTERS

A well-informed tour of a mysterious and crucial part of the brain, promising greater self-awareness and mental clarity.

A professor of neuroscience and psychology delivers a wide-ranging study of how memories make us who and what we are.

Memory is a quirky thing, writes Ranganath, director of the Dynamic Memory Lab at the University of California, Davis. We can remember song lyrics from 20 years ago, but we can also forget what we ate yesterday. The author has been trying to understand memory for decades, and he admits that a huge amount still remains a puzzle. He explains the mechanisms of memory in the brain and the different types and levels of memory, as well as the evolutionary reasons for it. Many theories have been posed about how memories develop, but the current thinking involves “a phenomenon called error-driven learning,” where memory is a constant process of reworking experiences to fit our larger mental picture. Memory failures have been linked to depression, poor sleep, and other ailments. Ranganath explains how fake “memories” can be inserted by repeated suggestion, to the point that people have “remembered” and confessed to crimes they didn’t commit. Some memories, especially those of traumatic events, break into our consciousness unbidden. The author suggests that they can be kept under control by persistent and intentional rejection, although it takes effort. He also offers tips on how to not forget routine things (phone, keys) by connecting their image to something else. It’s useful advice, but much of the book is devoted to Ranganath’s examination of theories of memory and the new generation of testing. Anyone expecting a simple how-to guide on improving their memory may be disappointed. The author’s research is undeniably intriguing, but the book will appeal to specialists more than general readers.

A well-informed tour of a mysterious and crucial part of the brain, promising greater self-awareness and mental clarity.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2024

ISBN: 9780385548632

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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ELON MUSK

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

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A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

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THE CULTURE MAP

BREAKING THROUGH THE INVISIBLE BOUNDARIES OF GLOBAL BUSINESS

These are not hard and fast rules, but Meyer delivers important reading for those engaged in international business.

A helpful guide to working effectively with people from other cultures.

“The sad truth is that the vast majority of managers who conduct business internationally have little understanding about how culture is impacting their work,” writes Meyer, a professor at INSEAD, an international business school. Yet they face a wider array of work styles than ever before in dealing with clients, suppliers and colleagues from around the world. When is it best to speak or stay quiet? What is the role of the leader in the room? When working with foreign business people, failing to take cultural differences into account can lead to frustration, misunderstanding or worse. Based on research and her experiences teaching cross-cultural behaviors to executive students, the author examines a handful of key areas. Among others, they include communicating (Anglo-Saxons are explicit; Asians communicate implicitly, requiring listeners to read between the lines), developing a sense of trust (Brazilians do it over long lunches), and decision-making (Germans rely on consensus, Americans on one decider). In each area, the author provides a “culture map scale” that positions behaviors in more than 20 countries along a continuum, allowing readers to anticipate the preferences of individuals from a particular country: Do they like direct or indirect negative feedback? Are they rigid or flexible regarding deadlines? Do they favor verbal or written commitments? And so on. Meyer discusses managers who have faced perplexing situations, such as knowledgeable team members who fail to speak up in meetings or Indians who offer a puzzling half-shake, half-nod of the head. Cultural differences—not personality quirks—are the motivating factors behind many behavioral styles. Depending on our cultures, we understand the world in a particular way, find certain arguments persuasive or lacking merit, and consider some ways of making decisions or measuring time natural and others quite strange.

These are not hard and fast rules, but Meyer delivers important reading for those engaged in international business.

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61039-250-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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