SLEEP THIEVES

AN EYE-OPENING EXPLORATION INTO THE SCIENCE AND MYSTERIES OF SLEEP

Forget that early-to-rise myth; getting too little sleep is unhealthful, costly, and downright unproductive, according to this lively, anecdote-laden report on the perils of sleep deprivation. Coren, a Canadian neuropsychologist whose previous work had wide appeal among dog lovers (The Intelligence of Dogs, 1994), will win the kudos of sleep lovers with this one. After a brief look at sleep in the rest of the animal kingdom, he focuses on what happens to the human mind and body when deprived of sleep. Citing research and using notes from a diary he kept while systematically cutting back on his own sleep, he demonstrates that reducing sleep decreases the quality and quantity of one's work. Furthermore, to ignore our biological clocks is to court disaster, for Coren notes that sleep deprivation weakens the immune system, leaving the body more vulnerable to infection and illness, even death. He looks specifically at the effects of sleep deprivation on truck drivers, airline pilots, air traffic controllers, hospital interns and residents, and shift workers such as police and firefighters. The statistics and anecdotes he provides are certainly eye-opening. A 1988 figure he cites gives the cost of sleep-related accidents in the US that year as $56.02 billion, and he presents persuasive evidence that the major disasters of Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and the Exxon Valdez were all caused by human beings with too little sleep. Tucked in among the sobering data are several charts and tables, quizzes to help one analyze one's own sleep habits and needs, and some tips on overcoming jet lag and getting a good night's sleep. All the justification one needs for turning off the alarm and catching another 40 winks.

Pub Date: April 9, 1996

ISBN: 0-684-82304-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1996

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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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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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