Not a light read but a fine starting point for exploring the mysteries of the brain.

SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS

HUMAN BRAIN AS DATA PROCESSOR

A nonfiction work that offers an in-depth look at the mechanics of the human mind.

Shoji follows the thread of his book Self-Consciousness: The Hidden Internal State of Digital Circuits (2013) with an examination of how the mind knows itself and engages with the outside world. This extensive work dissects complex topics regarding brain function, such as language processing, memory, and writing systems. The author provides diagrams to illustrate his concepts (such as a “Block-Subblock Support Circuit”), and he often breaks his explanations down into the language of mathematics: “distortion of the Cartesian ↔ polar coordinate conversion.” His conclusions include the notion that fear is ultimately “the driving force creating the human mind” and that excessive competition in modern society may lead to humanity’s downfall. One can easily infer that Shoji’s logical, unadorned prose style stems from his decades working as a semiconductor-chip designer for Bell Laboratories.Amid such technical material, the author also reveals much about himself, such as early memories of his childhood in World War II–era Japan. He notes that he believes firmly in the theory of evolution and states that he doesn’t look for answers about human advancement in a God figure. He’s also immensely fond of myths and holds particular reverence for advanced ancient cultures, such as that of the Inca people. As a result, the book creates a unique perspective by not only examining ideas about the brain, but also the man behind those ideas. Some portions, however, are undeniably dense (“the arc specification that is vector c’s reversal and rotation, is specified by the excitation of a character bus line”), and close reading, if not rereading, will be required to get a clear picture. Still, this well-organized work does manage to shed light on the endlessly complex phenomenon of the self.

Not a light read but a fine starting point for exploring the mysteries of the brain.

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5320-9392-0

Page Count: 576

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

Fans will find comfort in Lawson’s dependably winning mix of shameless irreverence, wicked humor, and vulnerability.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

BROKEN (IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY)

The Bloggess is back to survey the hazards and hilarity of imperfection.

Lawson is a wanderer. Whether on her award-winning blog or in the pages of her bestselling books, she reliably takes readers to places they weren’t even aware they wanted to go—e.g., shopping for dog condoms or witnessing what appears to be a satanic ritual. Longtime fans of the author’s prose know that the destinations really aren’t the point; it’s the laugh-out-loud, tears-streaming-down-your-face journeys that make her writing so irresistible. This book is another solid collection of humorous musings on everyday life, or at least the life of a self-described “super introvert” who has a fantastic imagination and dozens of chosen spirit animals. While Furiously Happy centered on the idea of making good mental health days exceptionally good, her latest celebrates the notion that being broken is beautiful—or at least nothing to be ashamed of. “I have managed to fuck shit up in shockingly impressive ways and still be considered a fairly acceptable person,” writes Lawson, who has made something of an art form out of awkward confessionals. For example, she chronicles a mix-up at the post office that left her with a “big ol’ sack filled with a dozen small squishy penises [with] smiley faces painted on them.” It’s not all laughs, though, as the author addresses her ongoing battle with both physical and mental illness, including a trial of transcranial magnetic stimulation, a relatively new therapy for people who suffer from treatment-resistant depression. The author’s colloquial narrative style may not suit the linear-narrative crowd, but this isn’t for them. “What we really want,” she writes, “is to know we’re not alone in our terribleness….Human foibles are what make us us, and the art of mortification is what brings us all together.” The material is fresh, but the scaffolding is the same.

Fans will find comfort in Lawson’s dependably winning mix of shameless irreverence, wicked humor, and vulnerability.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-07703-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

more