Excellent popular science in the service of fending off aging.

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SUCCESSFUL AGING

A NEUROSCIENTIST EXPLORES THE POWER AND POTENTIAL OF OUR LIVES

An enthusiastic review of old and new research into the means of extending life.

Neuroscientist Levitin (Emeritus, Psychology and Neuroscience/McGill Univ.; A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age, 2016) emphasizes “that it is the interactions of genes, culture, and opportunity that are the biggest determinants of the trajectory our lives take; how our brains will change; and whether or not we’ll be healthy, engaged, and happy throughout the lifespan.” He adds that since our years are divided into what he calls “healthspan” and “diseasespan,” we should aim to prolong the former. As background, he devotes more than half the text to a fine overview of brain function, human physiology, and psychology that supports his point. Good genes are necessary but not sufficient; upbringing and environment play an essential role, and both work best if one takes advantage of opportunities. Real science books have minuscule audiences compared with books that promise the secrets of perfect health; Levitin, a genuine scientist, aims to enjoy the best of both worlds. Some of his breathless prescriptions are old favorites—happy people live longer; eat mostly plants; have lots of friends; don’t retire—but he relies heavily on legitimate science, so readers will encounter life-extenders supported by studies (although not in humans) such as calorie restriction, metformin, and rapamycin, as well as long-in-the-tooth favorites like antioxidants and fish oil, which he advocates for while admitting that recent studies are not impressive. Warning against popular nonsense, the author nevertheless includes a generous selection of nutrients, lifestyles, and pharmaceuticals supported by little more than reasonable theories or obsessively health-conscious colleagues. Levitin seems to underestimate his skill as an educator, and he has written a lucid explanation of brain and body function. His longevity advice has plenty of competition, especially David Sinclair’s Lifespan, but this book’s breadth is impressive.

Excellent popular science in the service of fending off aging.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4418-2

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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