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

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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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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