Never again will endlessly poring over a crossword or Sudoku puzzle be considered a waste of time.

THE PLAYFUL BRAIN

THE SURPRISING SCIENCE OF HOW PUZZLES IMPROVE YOUR MIND

Neuroscientist Restak (Think Smart: A Neuroscientist’s Prescription for Improving Your Brain’s Performance, 2009, etc.) and puzzle-designer Kim provide mental activities, and the reasoning behind them, for brain-performance enhancement.

The brain never ceases to undergo structural and operational changes, writes the author in this lucid, entertaining book of how puzzles—with dozens of witty, stylish and often vexing examples created by Kim—can ward off the inevitable decline in brain function. Like muscle tissue, the brain needs stimulation to stay healthy, with practice and repeat exposure establishing and maintaining brain circuitry. Restak addresses concentration, memory, fine motor skills, visual observation, logic, numbers, vocabulary, visual-spatial thinking, imagination and creativity. For each function, he describes the workings of the relevant brain areas, and he clearly explains brain plasticity, synaptic connectivity, dendritic complexity and other such neurological terms. He also provides a selection of pertinent studies to illustrate our increasing knowledge of the brain’s landscape. The author is helpfully able to identify a weak function—for instance, in your ability to turn an image in your head, because “our schools neglect visual and spatial thinking, focusing instead on developing language and mathematics skills”—and then provide a number of opportunities to work on it. Kim’s puzzles run the gamut from engaging to bewildering, and although it can be disconcerting to be flummoxed by a puzzle considered to be kindergarten-level, Kim provides insightful tips and strategies, as well as the correct answers.

Never again will endlessly poring over a crossword or Sudoku puzzle be considered a waste of time.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59448-777-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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Rhimes said “yes” to sharing her insights. Following her may not land you on the cover of a magazine, but you’ll be glad you...

YEAR OF YES

HOW TO DANCE IT OUT, STAND IN THE SUN AND BE YOUR OWN PERSON

The queen of Thursday night TV delivers a sincere and inspiring account of saying yes to life.

Rhimes, the brain behind hits like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, is an introvert. She describes herself as a young girl, playing alone in the pantry, making up soap-opera script stories to act out with the canned goods. Speaking in public terrified her; going to events exhausted her. She was always busy, and she didn’t have enough time for her daughters. One Thanksgiving changed it all: when her sister observed that she never said “yes” to anything, Rhimes took it as a challenge. She started, among other things, accepting invitations, facing unpleasant conversations, and playing with her children whenever they asked. The result was a year of challenges and self-discovery that led to a fundamental shift in how she lives her life. Rhimes tells us all about it in the speedy, smart style of her much-loved TV shows. She’s warm, eminently relatable, and funny. We get an idea of what it’s like to be a successful TV writer and producer, to be the ruler of Shondaland, but the focus is squarely on the lessons one can learn from saying yes rather than shying away. Saying no was easy, Rhimes writes. It was comfortable, “a way to disappear.” But after her year, no matter how tempting it is, “I can no longer allow myself to say no. No is no longer in my vocabulary.” The book is a fast read—readers could finish it in the time it takes to watch a full lineup of her Thursday night programing—but it’s not insubstantial. Like a cashmere shawl you pack just in case, Year of Yes is well worth the purse space, and it would make an equally great gift.

Rhimes said “yes” to sharing her insights. Following her may not land you on the cover of a magazine, but you’ll be glad you did. 

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4767-7709-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 1, 2015

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