A compassionate and eye-opening approach to healing mentally and emotionally wounded soldiers.

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Vets For Vets


A revolutionary look at methods to treat veterans in distress.

Alpern (Divorce: Rights of Passage, 2000) draws on decades of experience dealing with combat soldiers returning to civilian life in order to distill some essential lessons in his plainspoken book. He began his service as a neuropsychiatric technician in 1954 at an Army hospital in Pennsylvania and has seen firsthand the various ways—some embarrassingly simple, others complex—that many customary protocols for treating the problems of veterans ultimately fail the people they’re intended to help. The author aims his own findings and approaches at three main groups, the obvious target audience of this volume: the veterans themselves, their families and loved ones, and Alpern’s fellow mental health workers. His book breaks down the daunting intricacies of his subject into basic components: chapters dealing first with the phenomenon of veterans transitioning to civilian life, then with the common but wrongheaded ways these returning soldiers have been treated for their various psychological issues, then a chapter outlining the right ways to address these difficulties, and then two chapters elaborating on procedures that work. At every stage, Alpern, a Korean War veteran, stresses the alien nature of these ailments. “Many of the dysfunctional behaviors of our returning warriors (suicide, anger, hermitizing, the inability to relate to loved ones or common civilian tasks) are the direct result of the soul-destroying actions, fostered by extraordinary circumstances, in which a sizable number of soldiers have engaged,” he writes, adding emphatically: “There are no pills to heal such soul wounds!” His passages on the strain veterans’ families face are at times heartbreaking (wives describe feeling as though they haven’t regained their husbands but rather acquired an additional—and very troubled—child). The core of the author’s approach is in retrospect startlingly apparent: the people best qualified to help suffering veterans are other veterans. The hugely readable book’s most instructive section targets an exclusive audience: invaluable advice on how veterans can train to become mental health professionals (“Vets almost universally believe that they can be understood only by vets who have ‘been there’…Vets, through training, military ethics, and, especially, human bonding, are highly motivated to help other vets”).

A compassionate and eye-opening approach to healing mentally and emotionally wounded soldiers.

Pub Date: May 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62217-927-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: WaveCloud Corporation

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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