Illuminating reading for those seeking to understand the whos, hows, and wherefores of getting hooked.

NEVER ENOUGH

THE NEUROSCIENCE AND EXPERIENCE OF ADDICTION

What is it about our brains that causes us to crave things that are bad for us, and why are we experiencing an epidemic of addiction? The answers are joined—and, this book suggests, not always obvious.

Unusually among academic researchers, behavioral neuroscientist Grisel (Psychology/Bucknell Univ.) has had extensive experience with nearly every addictive substance imaginable; her account of her wayward early 20s, chasing one high after another, is harrowing. A lesson she learned early on provides the title: “there will never be enough drug, because the brain’s capacity to learn and adapt is basically infinite.” That is to say, feed the brain addictive substances, and that new normal yields an insatiable hunger for homeostasis. “The brain’s response to a drug,” writes the author, “is always to facilitate the opposite state; therefore, the only way for any regular user to feel normal is to take the drug.” The neurobiology of addiction is imperfectly and incompletely known, she writes; there is certainly a genetic component, while brain structures shape and reshape depending on what is passing through them. For instance, if cocaine is a kind of laser hitting a certain point, marijuana is “a bucket of red paint” that touches many neural centers with its feel-goodness. As for alcohol, suffice it to say that the “primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain” gets caught up in the process, which helps explain some of the stupider things people do when drunk. It also explains why in moderate doses, anxiety is quelled while in greater doses it is activated, going back to that homeostasis model. Grisel writes clearly and unsparingly about both her experiences and the science of addiction—tobacco and caffeine figure in, as well—making plain that there is still much that remains unknown or mysterious about the brain’s workings. In the end, she notes, much of our present culture, which shuns pain and favors avoidance, is made up of “tools of addiction."

Illuminating reading for those seeking to understand the whos, hows, and wherefores of getting hooked.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54284-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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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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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