A thought-provoking, industry-minded, and polarizing perspective on the neurocircuitry of human desire and compulsion.

THE BIOLOGY OF DESIRE

WHY ADDICTION IS NOT A DISEASE

An argument against classifying addiction as a chronic “brain disease.”

Armed with scientific data and plenty of case studies, developmental neuroscientist and former addict Lewis (Memoirs of an Addicted Brain: A Neuroscientist Examines His Former Life on Drugs, 2012) enters the ongoing addiction nomenclature debate with an intellectually authoritative yet controversial declaration that substance and behavioral dependencies are swiftly and deeply learned via the “neural circuitry of desire.” The author blames the medical community for developing a disease-model juggernaut derived primarily from clinical data rather than biological and psychological research on brain changes and altered synapses. Lewis believes this conceptualization pegged the affliction as a disease instead of what he deems a “developmental cascade and a detrimental result of habitual behaviors.” As increasing numbers of medical communities have embraced the addiction model this way, he writes, treatment methodologies often become ineffective as well. Lewis further criticizes the Alcoholics Anonymous strategy and its emphasis on an addict’s ability to surrender to their “powerlessness” over a compulsion rather than promoting personal empowerment toward self-sustainability. Once past a somewhat overly clinical neuroscientific discussion on the brain’s plasticity, Lewis introduces biographical testimonies of Americans struggling with addiction that both humanize and reinforce his standpoint. Awash in the separate throes of heroin, methamphetamine, opiates, alcohol, and binge-eating compulsions, the cases are complemented with uplifting updates on their sobriety efforts, which the author prefers to call a “developmental journey” toward recovery. Lewis’ statement that addiction is “uncannily normal” likely stems from his experiences as a former narcotic addict who overcame a decadelong drug habit at age 30. While definite fodder for debate, the author remains firm in his belief that in order to fully process the addiction spectrum, we must “gaze directly at the point where experience and biology meet.”

A thought-provoking, industry-minded, and polarizing perspective on the neurocircuitry of human desire and compulsion.

Pub Date: July 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61039-437-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

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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