by Noga Arikha ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 3, 2022
A luminous, intellectually dense meditation on mind.
A lucid examination of the self in crisis.
For 18 months, Arikha, a philosopher and author of Passions and Tempers: A History of the Humours, attended weekly clinical meetings in the neuropsychiatry unit of the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris, observing patients who presented difficult, sometimes bizarre, symptoms to their assembled medical team. Like neurologists Oliver Sacks and Antonio Damasio, Arikha, who calls herself a “science humanist,” reflects on these patients in her investigation of overarching questions about consciousness, identity, affliction, and memory. The many cases include a woman in her 30s who could not recall 10 years of her life; a man whose personality split into two identities; an 82-year-old woman, nearly blind, experiencing visual hallucinations; a 50-something married father of five who felt haunted, hearing things and sensing invisible presences. Some symptoms were somatic: One woman’s hand became “the locus for all her anxiety, fear and frustration.” One man lost all feeling on his left side and then could not form new memories. Prominent among these cases was Arikha’s mother, a poet and memoirist who was sinking inexorably into dementia, her memory “shunting her from place to place, as if she were ice skating blindfolded.” Her mother’s mind takes a central place in this wide-ranging, engaging study that encompasses philosophy, history, medicine, memoir, and science. “This book,” she writes, “is about both the self as it studies itself, and the self as it loses itself”; how each of us makes our felt experiences coherent; how memory affirms our identity; and the ease with which our “planned trajectories” can rupture and plummet us into illness. “Our self in time,” writes the author, “is but a thin gauze wrapped around the shifting elements we are made of.” The book is also about the limits of medical and scientific knowledge to treat patients who defy categorization, to empathize with their experience, and to ameliorate their pain.A luminous, intellectually dense meditation on mind.
Pub Date: May 3, 2022
Page Count: 304
Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022
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by Walter Isaacson ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 12, 2023
Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2023
New York Times Bestseller
A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.
To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.
Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023
Page Count: 688
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023
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BOOK TO SCREEN
by Jonah Berger ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 7, 2023
Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.
Want to get ahead in business? Consult a dictionary.
By Wharton School professor Berger’s account, much of the art of persuasion lies in the art of choosing the right word. Want to jump ahead of others waiting in line to use a photocopy machine, even if they’re grizzled New Yorkers? Throw a because into the equation (“Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”), and you’re likely to get your way. Want someone to do your copying for you? Then change your verbs to nouns: not “Can you help me?” but “Can you be a helper?” As Berger notes, there’s a subtle psychological shift at play when a person becomes not a mere instrument in helping but instead acquires an identity as a helper. It’s the little things, one supposes, and the author offers some interesting strategies that eager readers will want to try out. Instead of alienating a listener with the omniscient should, as in “You should do this,” try could instead: “Well, you could…” induces all concerned “to recognize that there might be other possibilities.” Berger’s counsel that one should use abstractions contradicts his admonition to use concrete language, and it doesn’t help matters to say that each is appropriate to a particular situation, while grammarians will wince at his suggestion that a nerve-calming exercise to “try talking to yourself in the third person (‘You can do it!’)” in fact invokes the second person. Still, there are plenty of useful insights, particularly for students of advertising and public speaking. It’s intriguing to note that appeals to God are less effective in securing a loan than a simple affirmative such as “I pay all bills…on time”), and it’s helpful to keep in mind that “the right words used at the right time can have immense power.”Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.
Pub Date: March 7, 2023
Page Count: 256
Publisher: Harper Business
Review Posted Online: March 23, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023
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