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THE IDEAS THAT RULE US

HOW OTHER PEOPLE'S IDEAS RULE OUR LIVES AND HOW TO CHANGE IT.

A well-researched, thought-provoking reconsideration of society’s sacred cows.

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A researcher explores the power of ideas in this debut nonfiction book.

“Ideas,” writes Murphy, “cut the fabric of our being and determine who we are.” With a focus on the ideas that shape our actions, beliefs, and notions of family, the author contends that the question of “Whose Ideas Am I?” is far more important than the more ubiquitous rumination, “Who Am I?” Per the author, some of modern society’s primary assumptions—such as the idea that wearing a collared shirt with a knotted tie somehow transforms a middle-aged man into a professional—would be mocked by societies with other ideas of success. While pointing out some of the absurdities baked into daily life, Murphy is particularly effective at highlighting our propensity to accept bad ideas. From Aztec heart sacrifices and European religious wars to the rampant consumerism that drives today’s society, it’s clear to the author that “practical realities created by our imagination are not always wonderful.” (Murphy writes that consumerism is an “antisocial ideology” undergirded by the flawed assumptions that “new is always better than old” and “want supersedes need.”) While the author, the founder and lead researcher at the think tank Prepolitica, has long focused on the ways in which political ideologies hamper data-driven policy, this book is interdisciplinary in its approach. The cogent narrative, backed by 350 scholarly endnotes, draws on 21st-century neuroscience and evolutionary biology and incorporates lessons from sociology, history, and anthropology. Geared toward practical solutions—a central argument of the book is that “abstracted life is miserable, lonely, and stressful”—the work concludes with a list of pragmatic ways to help readers better examine and potentially move beyond counterproductive ideas. At just under 165 total pages and full of drawings, diagrams, photographs, and other visual aids, this is an accessible book that strikes a fine balance between academic research and engaging prose. Readers driven by political, religious, or other ideologies will be challenged—the book is a good reminder to question the conventions that shape our lives.

A well-researched, thought-provoking reconsideration of society’s sacred cows.

Pub Date: May 1, 2024

ISBN: 9781068611001

Page Count: 306

Publisher: Arc_titru

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2024

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THE BACKYARD BIRD CHRONICLES

An ebullient nature lover’s paean to birds.

A charming bird journey with the bestselling author.

In his introduction to Tan’s “nature journal,” David Allen Sibley, the acclaimed ornithologist, nails the spirit of this book: a “collection of delightfully quirky, thoughtful, and personal observations of birds in sketches and words.” For years, Tan has looked out on her California backyard “paradise”—oaks, periwinkle vines, birch, Japanese maple, fuchsia shrubs—observing more than 60 species of birds, and she fashions her findings into delightful and approachable journal excerpts, accompanied by her gorgeous color sketches. As the entries—“a record of my life”—move along, the author becomes more adept at identifying and capturing them with words and pencils. Her first entry is September 16, 2017: Shortly after putting up hummingbird feeders, one of the tiny, delicate creatures landed on her hand and fed. “We have a relationship,” she writes. “I am in love.” By August 2018, her backyard “has become a menagerie of fledglings…all learning to fly.” Day by day, she has continued to learn more about the birds, their activities, and how she should relate to them; she also admits mistakes when they occur. In December 2018, she was excited to observe a Townsend’s Warbler—“Omigod! It’s looking at me. Displeased expression.” Battling pesky squirrels, Tan deployed Hot Pepper Suet to keep them away, and she deterred crows by hanging a fake one upside down. The author also declared war on outdoor cats when she learned they kill more than 1 billion birds per year. In May 2019, she notes that she spends $250 per month on beetle larvae. In June 2019, she confesses “spending more hours a day staring at birds than writing. How can I not?” Her last entry, on December 15, 2022, celebrates when an eating bird pauses, “looks and acknowledges I am there.”

An ebullient nature lover’s paean to birds.

Pub Date: April 23, 2024

ISBN: 9780593536131

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2024

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A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

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The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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