by Ellen J. Langer ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 5, 2023
A readable primer on how to navigate emotions and, in the bargain, become a more discerning medical consumer.
Thought-provoking exploration of the mind-body connection and its relationship to health.
Langer, a professor of psychology who was the first women to be tenured at Harvard, opens with mention of an experiment in which several elderly men roomed together in housing “that was retrofitted to suggest that time had gone backward twenty years.” The men quickly began to behave as if they were 20 years younger: “Their vision, hearing, strength, and even objective appearance improved.” Received medical wisdom has no room for such “miracles,” relying instead on hard measures that are, Langer holds, sometimes arbitrary and probabilistic. For example, there’s not much difference between A1C counts of 5.7 and 5.8, but one is held to be normal and the other prediabetic. Furthermore, telling someone they are prediabetic often leads to diabetes owing to the way people are inclined to read medical judgments as infallible and fixed. “Labels aren’t just labels,” Langer writes. “They also can change how we behave.” That behavior involves decision-making, a fraught venture: Will we decide correctly in making a medical decision such as whether and when to get that hip replaced? The thing to do, the author suggests, is to allow the possibility of uncertainty and become mindful about how we “take these probabilities and convert them into absolutes, making it hard for us to question basic assumptions.” Devotees and practitioners of integrative medicine will be on top of some of Langer’s thinking already, though more traditional doctors may not be quick to endorse her view that “in some sense, health may be only a thought away.” Regardless, a reminder to keep tabs on how we feel and what cues we respond to isn’t out of place, and Langer is both lucid and encouraging.A readable primer on how to navigate emotions and, in the bargain, become a more discerning medical consumer.
Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023
Page Count: 288
Review Posted Online: June 29, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023
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by Jonah Berger ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 7, 2023
Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.
Want to get ahead in business? Consult a dictionary.
By Wharton School professor Berger’s account, much of the art of persuasion lies in the art of choosing the right word. Want to jump ahead of others waiting in line to use a photocopy machine, even if they’re grizzled New Yorkers? Throw a because into the equation (“Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”), and you’re likely to get your way. Want someone to do your copying for you? Then change your verbs to nouns: not “Can you help me?” but “Can you be a helper?” As Berger notes, there’s a subtle psychological shift at play when a person becomes not a mere instrument in helping but instead acquires an identity as a helper. It’s the little things, one supposes, and the author offers some interesting strategies that eager readers will want to try out. Instead of alienating a listener with the omniscient should, as in “You should do this,” try could instead: “Well, you could…” induces all concerned “to recognize that there might be other possibilities.” Berger’s counsel that one should use abstractions contradicts his admonition to use concrete language, and it doesn’t help matters to say that each is appropriate to a particular situation, while grammarians will wince at his suggestion that a nerve-calming exercise to “try talking to yourself in the third person (‘You can do it!’)” in fact invokes the second person. Still, there are plenty of useful insights, particularly for students of advertising and public speaking. It’s intriguing to note that appeals to God are less effective in securing a loan than a simple affirmative such as “I pay all bills…on time”), and it’s helpful to keep in mind that “the right words used at the right time can have immense power.”Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.
Pub Date: March 7, 2023
Page Count: 256
Publisher: Harper Business
Review Posted Online: March 23, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023
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by Matthew McConaughey ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 20, 2020
A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.
“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.
Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020
Page Count: 304
Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020
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