by James Hamblin ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 21, 2020
A rich mix of sociocultural history detailing how marketing transformed beliefs about cleanliness.
A wide-ranging study that shows how cleanliness was not always next to godliness.
A staff writer for the Atlantic and lecturer at the Yale School of Public Health, Hamblin notes that for centuries, bathing was viewed as suspect in Western culture, in which Christianity celebrates baptism but otherwise lacks the ritual washings of other religions. Germ theory changed all that, launching a hygiene revolution that followed the Industrial Revolution. Entrepreneurs made millions creating an ever expanding soap and skin care industry promising baby-soft, germ-free skin. The author believes we have gone too far. The skin that shields us from the outside world is also home to trillions of bacteria. Like their kin in the gut, the bugs are useful, aiding the skin’s protective and immune functions. Wash them away and you throw the immune system out of whack, so it attacks the body’s own cells in a frenzy that gives rise to allergies, eczema, and other conditions. To demonstrate that less is better, Hamblin gave up showering while writing the book. (He did wash his hands.) He did not become a public nuisance, he writes, and his skin improved. As he admits, this is not for everyone. Indeed, the very lack of clean water, soap, and sanitation among impoverished groups across the globe leads to needless disease and death. Hamblin, however, is not a righteous crusader exposing marketers of skin lotions and potions as phonies. He does call out some products, but most are benign. Cosmetics, which are not subject to safety and efficacy rules, can often cause dangerous side effects. Ultimately, Hamblin argues for more skin microbiome research and greater biodiversity in all aspects of our lives, underscoring the value of pets and plants and parks to enhance our lives—and those that live in and on us.A rich mix of sociocultural history detailing how marketing transformed beliefs about cleanliness.
Pub Date: July 21, 2020
Page Count: 288
Review Posted Online: April 21, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020
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by Walter Isaacson ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 12, 2023
Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
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
Page Count: 688
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023
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by Daniel Kahneman ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 1, 2011
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
Page Count: 512
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011
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