An absorbing, gripping, important report.

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COMPULSIVE HOARDING AND THE MEANING OF THINGS

Pioneering researchers offer a superb overview of a complex disorder that interferes with the lives of more than six-million Americans.

Frost (Psychology/Smith Coll.) and Steketee (Social Work/Boston Univ.), co-authors, with David Tolin, of Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding (2007), were the first social scientists to conduct systematic studies of hoarding when they began collaborating 15 years ago. In this jargon-free book, they offer their best understanding of this remarkably common behavior that now has its own reality-TV show, Hoarders , on A&E. Writing with authority and compassion, the authors tell the stories of diverse men and women who acquire and accumulate possessions to the point where their apartments or homes are dangerously cluttered with mounds of newspapers, clothing and other objects. Often intelligent but indecisive and tormented by their situations, hoarders form intense emotional attachments to their belongings, which offer pleasure, comfort and safety. “Without these things,” says one, “I am nothing.” The authors detail the lives of many sufferers: a librarian who is well organized on the job, but whose home is littered with belongings stacked on floors and furniture; a man living amid filthy objects scavenged on Manhattan streets, who remains utterly blind to his clutter; a nurse who gives neighborhood tours of easy-to-spot hoarder homes; and a filmmaker who cares for hundreds of hoarded cats. The subjects discuss the painful effects of growing up in a hoarder household; the differences between normal collecting and hoarding; and the issues involved in forced cleanups mandated by local officials for health and safety reasons, some of which have led to hoarder suicides. Hoarding may be inherited or driven by problems in the wiring of the brain, the authors write. There is a growing consensus that this secret affliction—now considered a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder—should be deemed a separate disorder in the next version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. While noting their own limited success treating clients, Frost and Steketee stress that overcoming this disorder requires a heroic, perhaps lifetime effort.

An absorbing, gripping, important report.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-15-101423-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2010

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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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