Sound research and informed speculation best suited to an academic audience.




If you can read the signs, boredom might just be your friend.

Boredom, note the authors, betrays a fundamental human need to be engaged with the world and to have agency in our actions. Taking a psychological approach to a universal condition, Danckert, a cognitive neuroscientist, and Eastwood, a clinical psychologist, seek to unify a fragmented area of inquiry and provide a framework for further study. The authors loosely define boredom as having the desire to do something but being unmoved by the options open to you in the moment. It is a subject full of both obvious and counterintuitive features (a little obvious in some of the authors’ discussions). Boredom is sending us a message, write the authors, and it’s anticipatory, a call to act. But boredom is biological, and our strategies for dealing with it are subject to paradox: “Our drive to avoid the distress of being bored can lead us to some dark places”—e.g., internet addiction and isolation. The authors claim that research suggests boredom is both a transient state and a disposition, that some of us are more prone to boredom than others, and that age is one of many factors—again, rather self-evident. While there is much of value in their presentation and the analyses of the work of other researchers, complete with a bevy of potentially useful insights, lay readers will have to hack through thickets of repetition to find it. With minor variations, Danckert and Eastwood tend to establish the same definitions and make the same points over and over. This is all clearly fascinating to the authors, who demonstrate their enthusiasm, and doubtless to colleagues involved in the subject, but one can’t escape the feeling that this entire book could have been distilled quite effectively into 50 pages.

Sound research and informed speculation best suited to an academic audience. (6 photos; 2 illustrations)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98467-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.


The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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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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