A refreshing look at a well-worked topic.

MAXIMUM BRAINPOWER

CHALLENGING THE BRAIN FOR HEALTH AND WISDOM

An internationally recognized authority on the relationship between stress and mental functioning explores how the same mechanisms that lay the basis for human creativity and expertise can also set us up for cognitive stagnation.

Cognitive psychologist Breznitz (Memory Fields, 1992, etc.) suggests that “our [unique] ability to find solutions buried in our experience is a hallmark of human creativity,” yet to be matched by any computer. It is the basis of an expert's rapid intuitive grasp of a situation. But it has a downside as well. With the assistance of Hemingway (co-author: The Fifth Wave: A Strategic Vision for Mobile Internet Innovation, Investment & Return, 2012, etc.), Breznitz explains how our major cognitive strength is also a potential weakness, leading us to overlook danger signals or new possibilities and trapping the brain in the “tomb of experience.” Breznitz cites research that demonstrates the proclivity of the brain to take shortcuts—e.g., automatically accepting a solution to a problem based on past experience. In a rapidly changing world, to adapt by unlearning old ways can be critical to survival. Mental rigidity, writes the author, can create a vulnerability for Alzheimer's disease and dementia later in life. However, this need not be the case. “[T]axing mental challenges” are necessary at every stage of our lives. By embracing them, we create cognitive reserves that can slow down mental deterioration even as our brains age. Despite the known problems caused by chronic stress—anxiety, depression, immune disorders, etc.—and despite the fact that any change can be stressful, it is necessary if we are to avoid mental stagnation. Among Breznitz’s recommended activities, reading ranks high.

A refreshing look at a well-worked topic.

Pub Date: July 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-345-52614-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

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Clever and accessibly conversational, Manson reminds us to chill out, not sweat the small stuff, and keep hope for a better...

EVERYTHING IS F*CKED

A BOOK ABOUT HOPE

The popular blogger and author delivers an entertaining and thought-provoking third book about the importance of being hopeful in terrible times.

“We are a culture and a people in need of hope,” writes Manson (The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, 2016, etc.). With an appealing combination of gritty humor and straightforward prose, the author floats the idea of drawing strength and hope from a myriad of sources in order to tolerate the “incomprehensibility of your existence.” He broadens and illuminates his concepts through a series of hypothetical scenarios based in contemporary reality. At the dark heart of Manson’s guide is the “Uncomfortable Truth,” which reiterates our cosmic insignificance and the inevitability of death, whether we blindly ignore or blissfully embrace it. The author establishes this harsh sentiment early on, creating a firm foundation for examining the current crisis of hope, how we got here, and what it means on a larger scale. Manson’s referential text probes the heroism of Auschwitz infiltrator Witold Pilecki and the work of Isaac Newton, Nietzsche, Einstein, and Immanuel Kant, as the author explores the mechanics of how hope is created and maintained through self-control and community. Though Manson takes many serpentine intellectual detours, his dark-humored wit and blunt prose are both informative and engaging. He is at his most convincing in his discussions about the fallibility of religious beliefs, the modern world’s numerous shortcomings, deliberations over the “Feeling Brain” versus the “Thinking Brain,” and the importance of striking a happy medium between overindulging in and repressing emotions. Although we live in a “couch-potato-pundit era of tweetstorms and outrage porn,” writes Manson, hope springs eternal through the magic salves of self-awareness, rational thinking, and even pain, which is “at the heart of all emotion.”

Clever and accessibly conversational, Manson reminds us to chill out, not sweat the small stuff, and keep hope for a better world alive.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-288843-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2019

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Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...

MASTERY

Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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