Inclusive and recognizably sturdy advice on building a healthy brain.

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KEEP SHARP

BUILD A BETTER BRAIN AT ANY AGE

CNN chief medical correspondent Gupta counsels that in order to best take care of your body, you have to first take care of your mind.

The author’s primary concern is to nurture a resilient brain that propagates new cells, makes the ones you have work more efficiently, and is continuously enriched throughout life. In particular, he wishes to stave off age-related brain illnesses classified under dementia, with Alzheimer’s at the fore. Unfortunately, writes Gupta, “we often don’t and can’t know what triggers cognitive decline in the first place or what propels it over time.” Regarding the brain as a whole, “we are still not exactly sure what makes it tick.” As such, the author suggests that we get out in front of it and act preventatively by engaging in behaviors that are widely considered brain-friendly. In a steady, measured voice, he presents a comprehensive view of the best that brain science has to offer to preserve and improve memory at the cognitive level. The villains are a rogue’s gallery of familiar faces: “physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, smoking, social isolation, poor sleep, lack of mentally stimulating activities, and misuse of alcohol.” Gupta explores the evidence, both scientifically documented and anecdotal (but common-sensical), behind the value of exercise; strategies to heighten attention, focus, and concentration; relaxation (including meditation and restorative sleep); diet’s microbial effect on the brain; and the value of a diverse social network. None of this is going to make your jaw drop, but they are all good reminders of their import and how we can let them slide by without much thought. Gupta is a shameless name-dropper—“my friend, actor and fitness buff Matthew McConaughey” gives him exercise advice; the Dalai Lama privately tutors him in meditation—but he is also a genuine source of practical knowledge and sympathy to those struggling with dementia and the family members who are primary caregivers—to whom he tenders a wealth of resources.

Inclusive and recognizably sturdy advice on building a healthy brain.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6673-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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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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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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