A rewarding text steeped in laboratory analysis and thought-provoking, motivating patient-based conclusions.

WHY GOOD SEX MATTERS

UNDERSTANDING THE NEUROSCIENCE OF PLEASURE FOR A SMARTER, HAPPIER, AND MORE PURPOSE-FILLED LIFE

The fascinating science behind the intersection of sexual pleasure and brain functionality.

In her debut book, cognitive neuroscientist and sex therapist Wise presents the “culmination of many decades” of scientific study dedicated to sex and its effects on the human brain. Findings from the author’s clinical neurobiological research comprise the first sections of the book, in which Wise reveals how the primal emotional brain and its serpentine circuitry helps to drive our ability to experience joy. In many of her clients, the author recognized a “pleasure crisis,” whereby debilitating symptoms like anxiety, stress, and chronic depression stifle one’s ability to feel gratification. Though addictive quick fixes such as TV and social media have become exceedingly popular, their effects are fleeting, and anhedonia—an inability to experience pleasure—briskly returns to dull the psyche. Wise examines how we arrived at this crossroads by way of our historic ambivalence toward pleasure; while “we are intrinsically sexual beings,” the number of roadblocks obstructing the pathways to true sexual satisfaction increases with age and the complexities of modern life. The author describes our “seven emotional systems” and how understanding them “is the first step to bringing your own brain-body into balance and returning to pleasure.” Wise then introduces patients from her psychotherapy practice whose personal happiness has been hijacked by emotional imbalances and a lack of brain pleasure chemicals such as oxytocin and dopamine, which are released through touch and orgasm. For readers less scientifically attuned, the book’s second half clearly addresses core issues of sex and pleasure through the practices of “good sex tools” (yoga, breathing exercises, etc.) to promote better self-care, erotic empowerment, and a heightened understanding of what role sex plays in our lives. Featuring a harmonious blend of clinical research and relatable instruction, the book will appeal to sexuality specialists and lay readers seeking guidance on matters of achieving pleasure.

A rewarding text steeped in laboratory analysis and thought-provoking, motivating patient-based conclusions.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-45130-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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