Aimed at the general public, highly readable, and more than a little provocative.

A rousing, straight-from-the shoulder call for a new approach to treating depression.

Mental disorders, writes Bullmore (Psychiatry/Univ. of Cambridge; co-author: The Diagnosis of Psychosis, 2011), the head of the Wolfson Brain Imaging Centre, can have their origin in the immune system. In a book previously published to acclaim in England, he makes the case for a link between inflammation and depression, delineating his argument with a “pioneering new field of research…called immuno-psychiatry or neuro-immunology.” This new field “exists at the boundaries between immunology, neuroscience, psychology and psychiatry.” Forcefully rejecting the Cartesian divide between body and mind—the immune system is now known to communicate across the blood-brain barrier, which was once thought to prevent this communication—the author outlines how the immune system triggers an inflammatory response to stress and how inflammation can cause changes in how the brain works, often leading to changes in mood and behavior. To illustrate, Bullmore refers repeatedly to a former patient with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune and inflammatory condition, and depression, and he adds a personal touch with references to his own temporarily depressed mental state after undergoing a stressful root canal procedure. Besides explaining the biological mechanisms linking stress, inflammation, and depression, the author provides a lesson in medical history that likens present-day thinking about serotonin to the Hippocratic notion of black bile and concludes with the statement, “in short, depression after Descartes is in a sorry state.” Bullmore’s involvement with a research program at the pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline, an arrangement he is quick to acknowledge, may raise questions about his interest in the development of new anti-inflammatory drugs to treat depression, but his insights into depression and its treatments are impressive and valuable. The black-and-white illustrations vary widely in quality, from woodcuts and engravings to some rather amateurish original drawings.

Aimed at the general public, highly readable, and more than a little provocative.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31814-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018



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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