An illuminating account of how a great thinker with insatiable curiosity overcame a difficult childhood through his love of...

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NOT BY CHANCE ALONE

MY LIFE AS A SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGIST

A titan in his field recounts professional and personal achievements.

Growing up impoverished in a hardscrabble Boston suburb, Aronson never dreamed that one day he would teach at Harvard, let alone be considered one of the preeminent psychologists of the 20th century. The son of a Russian émigré who lost everything in the Depression, the author describes himself as a “painfully shy” and bullied boy always compared unfavorably to his star sibling, Jason. His brother nurtured him, however, imparting many valuable life lessons and insisting that he attend college despite financial hardship and poor grades. In perhaps his first social-learning experiment, Aronson decided to act “as if” he were outgoing and relaxed his first semester at Brandeis. This strategy was effective, and with newfound popularity came increased confidence. Always interested in the basis of others’ beliefs, allegiances and opinions, he selected social psychologist Leon Festinger—famous for his theory of cognitive dissonance—as his mentor, and then designed an experiment that emphasized self-concept, transforming the focus of this field of study. During the next five decades, Aronson remained at the center of dynamic developments in the field. This warm, humble and brilliant man takes pride as much in being a successful teacher, husband, father and friend as in his academic accomplishments. He peppers the narrative with amusing anecdotes about luminaries and colleagues such as Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (now Ram Dass), who asked for his help with the design of their LSD experiments. A humanist who led encounter groups in the ’70s and created the jigsaw classroom to address discrimination in the era of enforced school desegregation in Texas, the author demonstrates dramatically the real-world impact of research. His descriptions of experimental design and theory are thorough yet accessible to the average reader, but it is his profound insights, observations and compassion that make this a fascinating read.

An illuminating account of how a great thinker with insatiable curiosity overcame a difficult childhood through his love of social science.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-465-01833-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2010

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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