An eye-opening investigation of war’s casualties.

An exploration of the enduring human cost of war.

Journalist Morris (Storm on the Horizon: Khafji—The Battle that Changed the Course of the Gulf War, 2004), a former Marine and embedded reporter who suffers from PTSD, did not intend this book to be a therapeutic exercise, but he discovered that researching and writing about PTSD helped him to make sense of his own struggle with an affliction that “destroys the normal narrative of life.” Drawing on neuroscience, psychology, biochemistry, history, poetry and fiction, he offers an insightful—and never self-indulgent—overview of the “ghost that haunts history.” Among many traumatic stressors—rape, natural disasters, child abuse, for example—Morris focuses most intensely on war. The term PTSD emerged after Vietnam, but Morris discovered that soldiers’ trauma was recognized in Judeo-Christian times, in ancient Greece and in the Middle Ages, when religious authorities imposed “prayer, fasting, and abstinence from communion” on warriors who had killed. Civil War veterans were diagnosed with “nostalgia,” a term “used to indicate a number of conditions that today might be called clinical depression or simple panic.” For World War I veterans, the term was shell shock. Symptoms were common to all: nightmares, flashback memories and paranoia. The author summarizes current cognitive and pharmacological therapies: prolonged exposure therapy, or flooding, which reprises intense trauma; cognitive-behavioral therapy, with roots in psychotherapy; propranolol, to treat anxiety and panic; selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Prozac and Zoloft; eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing; and even yoga. In his experience, Morris has found “alcohol, taken in moderation, is one of the best PTSD drugs ever invented.” Morris deplores civilians’ lack of connection to soldiers’ brutal experiences. If the truth were known, he writes, “we wouldn’t continue to train, equip, and deploy warriors the way we do.” If soldiers were welcomed with empathy, “half of combat PTSD…would disappear overnight.”

An eye-opening investigation of war’s casualties.

Pub Date: Jan. 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-08661-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014



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

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. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011


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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