For Chopra fans only—as such, likely to become a best-seller.

SUPER BRAIN

UNLEASHING THE EXPLOSIVE POWER OF YOUR MIND TO MAXIMIZE HEALTH, HAPPINESS, AND SPIRITUAL WELL-BEING

A mixture of recent research in the neurosciences and spiritual wisdom passed down through generations.

With his dozens of best-selling books, Chopra (co-author: War of the Worldviews: Science vs. Spirituality, 2011, etc.) has arguably done more than anyone to bring Eastern spirituality and healing practices to the West. His oeuvre brings to mind an inebriated dart player in a tavern—many attempts go wild, but when he connects, you're convinced he's a natural. This book, co-authored with Alzheimer’s Genome Project head Tanzi (Neurology/Harvard Medical School; co-author: Decoding Darkness: The Search for the Genetic Causes of Alzheimer's Disease, 2001, etc.), continues the trend of laying Eastern thought over Western science. This "tag team" author approach lends credibility to the less scientifically rigorous ideas Chopra has to offer, but with varying degrees of success. The plasticity of the young brain and the rate at which new synapse connections are made in children; the importance of regular physical activity and exercise; the idea that instincts and emotions are integral and necessary to social relations—these scientific propositions, as they're laid out, won’t strike readers as either controversial or revolutionary. The authors theorize about connections between neuroscience and long-held beliefs about the mind, and many of these connections don’t require a leap of faith to accept as valid hypotheses. The lion's share of the text, however, consists of platitudes and value judgments about happiness and success that can't really be held forth as a prescription for the "next leap in the human brain's evolution." Examples include such statements as, "Mind, not the brain, is the origin of consciousness," and the suggestions that an abused wife should “stop exposing herself to stresses that occur over and over.”

For Chopra fans only—as such, likely to become a best-seller.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-95682-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harmony

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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