A delightfully unexpected blend of personal anecdotes, pop-cultural erudition and scientific understanding.

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THE SCENT OF DESIRE

DISCOVERING OUR ENIGMATIC SENSE OF SMELL

A lively, seductive exploration of what the nose knows.

Pity olfaction, the least celebrated of the five senses: In one poll, people ranked smell as the sense they’d mind losing the least. But, says Herz (Psychology/Brown Univ.), one of a handful of researchers doing groundbreaking work on the psychology of smell, the ability to smell the world around us shapes and informs every part of our lives—particularly our emotional existence. When robbed of a sense of smell—whether through head injury, severe depression or other cause—we lose a vital connection to the material world and its sensual pleasures. In thoughtful and accessible writing, Herz explains why it is that smells act as such direct conduits to emotional memories—think Proust and his famous madeleines—and why they have such a profound ability to affect our well-being (consider the lingering and distinctive smell in New York City after 9/11 and the power it had over the memories of its residents). Demystifying—and in some cases, debunking—everything from aromatherapy to the mysterious disorder Multiple Chemical Sensitivities to the bizarre circumstances surrounding the 1997 suicide of INXS frontman Michael Hutchence, Herz explains the neural and physical bases of scent perception and the idiosyncratic ways in which smells become tied to particular experiences. But her explanations of why we smell are perhaps the most fascinating. Smell not only underlies the ability to tell which meat is rotten and which is fresh, but also potently affects sexual attraction, and not as Coco Chanel might have thought (the grande dame of fashion once said, “Without perfume, women have no future.”). Before you apply deodorant tomorrow morning, consider that it is in fact the natural body odors we spend so much time trying to cloak that most inform who we will choose to mate with and who we will avoid.

A delightfully unexpected blend of personal anecdotes, pop-cultural erudition and scientific understanding.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-06-082537-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2007

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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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The book would have benefited from a tighter structure, but it’s inspiring and relatable for readers with depression.

THE HILARIOUS WORLD OF DEPRESSION

The creator and host of the titular podcast recounts his lifelong struggles with depression.

With the increasing success of his podcast, Moe, a longtime radio personality and author whose books include The Deleted E-Mails of Hillary Clinton: A Parody (2015), was encouraged to open up further about his own battles with depression and delve deeper into characteristics of the disease itself. Moe writes about how he has struggled with depression throughout his life, and he recounts similar experiences from the various people he has interviewed in the past, many of whom are high-profile entertainers and writers—e.g. Dick Cavett and Andy Richter, novelist John Green. The narrative unfolds in a fairly linear fashion, and the author relates his family’s long history with depression and substance abuse. His father was an alcoholic, and one of his brothers was a drug addict. Moe tracks how he came to recognize his own signs of depression while in middle school, as he experienced the travails of OCD and social anxiety. These early chapters alternate with brief thematic “According to THWoD” sections that expand on his experiences, providing relevant anecdotal stories from some of his podcast guests. In this early section of the book, the author sometimes rambles. Though his experiences as an adolescent are accessible, he provides too many long examples, overstating his message, and some of the humor feels forced. What may sound naturally breezy in his podcast interviews doesn’t always strike the same note on the written page. The narrative gains considerable momentum when Moe shifts into his adult years and the challenges of balancing family and career while also confronting the devastating loss of his brother from suicide. As he grieved, he writes, his depression caused him to experience “a salad of regret, anger, confusion, and horror.” Here, the author focuses more attention on the origins and evolution of his series, stories that prove compelling as well.

The book would have benefited from a tighter structure, but it’s inspiring and relatable for readers with depression.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20928-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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