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HEARTWARMING

HOW OUR INNER THERMOSTAT MADE US HUMAN

Explaining thermoregulation for a popular readership may seem a stretch, but the author succeeds admirably.

According to this insightful exploration of how humans relate to temperature, warmth is essential for biological survival as well as the advancement of civilization.

In a narrative that combines hard science and accessibility for general readers, social psychology professor Ijzerman, one of the world’s leading experts on “social thermoregulation in humans,” begins by describing studies in which subjects exposed to heat felt more sociable and kind than those exposed to cold. Later, however, he warns that when other scientists have repeated similar studies, the majority were unable to confirm the original findings. As a result, the author treads carefully, emphasizing large-scale research and acknowledging that “we psychologists are better at research than we are at giving practical advice and furnishing simple remedies.” Generating their own heat allows warmblooded animals to be incredibly active, but the process requires huge quantities of fuel; on the other hand, some snakes can go a year without food. Infants of all species seek warmth, and this quest persists throughout life. Although humans are intensely social, most of us do not understand the links among physical temperature and concepts of trust, friendship, and love. Even though many people believe in the universality of the connection between warmth and affection, “human cultures diverge with respect to affection-is-warmth.” Readers may be surprised by Ijzerman’s claim that “modern human relationships are organized around body-temperature regulation,” but he marshals impressive evidence in such chapters as “People Are Penguins, Too” and “Rat Mamas Are Hot.” It turns out that an infant’s search for warmth plays an essential role in attachment behavior later, and adults proactively seek it out, if not from physical proximity then through a romantic partner or social network. As the author shows, conventional wisdom about humans and warmth is often wrong. For example, studies do not confirm that weather influences our moods or that depression peaks in winter.

Explaining thermoregulation for a popular readership may seem a stretch, but the author succeeds admirably.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-324-00252-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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ELON MUSK

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

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A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

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F*CK IT, I'LL START TOMORROW

The lessons to draw are obvious: Smoke more dope, eat less meat. Like-minded readers will dig it.

The chef, rapper, and TV host serves up a blustery memoir with lashings of self-help.

“I’ve always had a sick confidence,” writes Bronson, ne Ariyan Arslani. The confidence, he adds, comes from numerous sources: being a New Yorker, and more specifically a New Yorker from Queens; being “short and fucking husky” and still game for a standoff on the basketball court; having strength, stamina, and seemingly no fear. All these things serve him well in the rough-and-tumble youth he describes, all stickball and steroids. Yet another confidence-builder: In the big city, you’ve got to sink or swim. “No one is just accepted—you have to fucking show that you’re able to roll,” he writes. In a narrative steeped in language that would make Lenny Bruce blush, Bronson recounts his sentimental education, schooled by immigrant Italian and Albanian family members and the mean streets, building habits good and bad. The virtue of those habits will depend on your take on modern mores. Bronson writes, for example, of “getting my dick pierced” down in the West Village, then grabbing a pizza and smoking weed. “I always smoke weed freely, always have and always will,” he writes. “I’ll just light a blunt anywhere.” Though he’s gone through the classic experiences of the latter-day stoner, flunking out and getting arrested numerous times, Bronson is a hard charger who’s not afraid to face nearly any challenge—especially, given his physique and genes, the necessity of losing weight: “If you’re husky, you’re always dieting in your mind,” he writes. Though vulgar and boastful, Bronson serves up a model that has plenty of good points, including his growing interest in nature, creativity, and the desire to “leave a legacy for everybody.”

The lessons to draw are obvious: Smoke more dope, eat less meat. Like-minded readers will dig it.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4478-5

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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