Sloan has done well to sound the alarm, while providing an excellent primer on how medical evidence should be collected.

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BLIND FAITH

THE UNHOLY ALLIANCE OF RELIGION AND MEDICINE

Sloan (Behavioral Medicine/Columbia Univ.) takes a close look at the growing encroachment of religion in yet another sphere of American life: medicine.

In a series of well-argued, well-documented chapters, Sloan first addresses the medicine tradition in which ill health and disease were linked to moral turpitude and the displeasure of the gods. Disturbingly, he sees signs of a return of this anti-scientific attitude in the rise of religious fundamentalism and New Age touchy-feely behavior. Next, he addresses the “research” purporting to show that religiosity pays off—that going to church and praying or having prayers said for you are good for your health and lead to lower mortality rates. His arguments here form a neat summary on how science works, and on the pitfalls that can beset the design, conduct, analysis and reporting of a clinical trial. For example, the research suggesting that regular attendance at church services (as opposed to even sporadic attendance) was associated with lower mortality rates totally ignored a confounder: People who are sick or disabled are not likely to be regular churchgoers. Other egregious examples include making multiple comparisons after a trial to search for some secondary outcome measure or for a subset of patients where the findings appear statistically significant. (Chances are that such a finding is indeed by chance alone.) Finally, the author deals with the many ethical issues that arise when doctors are encouraged to take spiritual histories, ask their patients to pray or otherwise promote religion. Issues here involve the white-coated authority vs. the vulnerable patient, the lack of training of physicians in areas of religion, the trivializing of faith and even the potential for studies that would explore whether Christian prayer is more healthful than Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist.

Sloan has done well to sound the alarm, while providing an excellent primer on how medical evidence should be collected.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-312-34881-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2006

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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

THE ROAD TO CHARACTER

New York Times columnist Brooks (The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, 2011, etc.) returns with another volume that walks the thin line between self-help and cultural criticism.

Sandwiched between his introduction and conclusion are eight chapters that profile exemplars (Samuel Johnson and Michel de Montaigne are textual roommates) whose lives can, in Brooks’ view, show us the light. Given the author’s conservative bent in his column, readers may be surprised to discover that his cast includes some notable leftists, including Frances Perkins, Dorothy Day, and A. Philip Randolph. (Also included are Gens. Eisenhower and Marshall, Augustine, and George Eliot.) Throughout the book, Brooks’ pattern is fairly consistent: he sketches each individual’s life, highlighting struggles won and weaknesses overcome (or not), and extracts lessons for the rest of us. In general, he celebrates hard work, humility, self-effacement, and devotion to a true vocation. Early in his text, he adapts the “Adam I and Adam II” construction from the work of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Adam I being the more external, career-driven human, Adam II the one who “wants to have a serene inner character.” At times, this veers near the Devil Bugs Bunny and Angel Bugs that sit on the cartoon character’s shoulders at critical moments. Brooks liberally seasons the narrative with many allusions to history, philosophy, and literature. Viktor Frankl, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul Tillich, William and Henry James, Matthew Arnold, Virginia Woolf—these are but a few who pop up. Although Brooks goes after the selfie generation, he does so in a fairly nuanced way, noting that it was really the World War II Greatest Generation who started the ball rolling. He is careful to emphasize that no one—even those he profiles—is anywhere near flawless.

The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9325-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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