An entertaining overview of the science of physical attraction.

THE CHEMISTRY BETWEEN US

LOVE, SEX, AND THE SCIENCE OF ATTRACTION

A pop-science analysis of the complex brain chemicals behind lust and love.

Why do we drunk-dial our exes? Why do strippers make more money when they are ovulating? Why do fools fall in love? These are some of the questions explored by Young (Psychiatry/Emory Univ.) and journalist Alexander (America Unzipped: In Search of Sex and Satisfaction, 2008). The authors argue that the causes are related to the potent, sometimes irresistible, chemical cocktails our bodies produce. In interviews with scientists of all stripes (psychiatrists, neuroscientists, researchers), Young and Alexander examine their ideas and how they pertain to us, often illuminating their explanations with funny, and sometimes raunchy, anecdotes. One researcher studying leeches described the male leech as “the icky guy in the bar hitting on every female,” while a neuroscientist studying the links between smell and sex in rats joked that a female rat became “the major party girl” during an experiment. Some animal lovers may be disturbed by the occasionally flippant tone describing some gruesome lab experiments—e.g., “it turned out shooting electricity into cat brains just gets you angry cats.” The authors’ analysis of the differences between male and female brains suffers from this glib attitude as well, but the book is sure to hook even casual science readers with its subject, because, as Young and Alexander point out, “the combination of erotic desire and the love it leads to may be the most powerful force on earth.”

An entertaining overview of the science of physical attraction.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59184-513-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Current

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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