Inclusive and recognizably sturdy advice on building a healthy brain.

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: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6673-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020


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

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. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011


An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

Close Quickview