Hope for the endurance of the human spirit in the face of tragedy.

SUPERSURVIVORS

THE SURPRISING LINK BETWEEN SUFFERING AND SUCCESS

Two psychologists provide a nontechnical exploration of how certain people not only survive trauma, but actually thrive after a traumatic experience.

Feldman (Counseling Psychology/Santa Clara Univ.; co-author: The End-of-Life Handbook: A Compassionate Guide to Connecting with and Caring for a Dying Loved One, 2008, etc.) and Kravetz use artfully described case studies to demonstrate their point, while also avoiding excessive psychological terminology. The authors base each chapter on a particular aspect of change in the trauma victim—e.g., individuals such as anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, who was forced to reassess her understanding of the world around her after tragedy: in her case, the loss of her son in the Iraq war. For others, there is an awakening to faith, as in the case of social activist James Cameron, who testifies that he was saved from lynching by God. There are also intensely powerful stories of forgiveness, such as that of Clemantine Wamariya, who survived the slaughter in Rwanda, followed by life as a refugee. However, the very aspect that makes the book approachable also limits its effectiveness. The authors’ work is largely anecdotal in nature and does not delve into true analysis of the supersurvivor phenomenon. Though they provide some discussion of the psychological, physical and social aspects of these survivors’ stories, readers are left wondering just how often a trauma survivor thrives in such ways, and why. Nevertheless, the book is uplifting and provides hope for the human condition. Feldman and Kravetz’s closing story—about Nobel Peace Prize recipient Betty Williams—is particularly riveting. Her life was drastically changed one day when she witnessed a senseless sectarian killing in Northern Ireland. Instead of recoiling, she acted and began a peace movement that changed the history of that country.

Hope for the endurance of the human spirit in the face of tragedy.

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-226785-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper Wave

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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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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