Some points are more provocative than convincing, but the authors put a lively spin on an age-old argument.

COOL

HOW THE BRAIN'S HIDDEN QUEST FOR COOL DRIVES OUR ECONOMY AND SHAPES OUR WORLD

A counterintuitive analysis suggesting that consumers instinctively know more about the value of the signals they are sending than their critics do.

Most books that cover this territory suggest that consumers are mere sheep, blindly led by the insidious forces of capitalism. That assumption, write Quartz (Philosophy and Cognitive Science/Caltech; co-author: Liars, Lovers, and Heroes: What the New Brain Science Reveals About How We Become Who We Are2002) and political scientist and communications professional Asp, is wrong. The authors’ credentials provide an indication of how much ground they cover, from a variety of perspectives that transcend conventional categorization. Perhaps the key concept concerns self-image as reflected through the perception of others: “The fact that our self-concept draws on how we think others think about us presents a tremendously intriguing possibility,” write the authors. Consumers proceed with an eye toward “how others might think of them with that product: that is, how the product might enhance their social image.” Where the measuring sticks for social image might once have been wealth and conspicuous consumption, the evolution of “cool”—from anti-materialist rejection of the bourgeoisie to dot.com mainstreaming and from bebop to beatnik to rebel to hippie to ironic hipster—has changed the signals and codes that consumers send. It shows how Harley-Davidson has gone from annual sales of around 70,000 in the early 1990s to more than 325,000 in 2005 by seeing its “consumer culture evolve from a hierarchical to a pluralistic one, a ‘mosaic of microcultures,’ ” while sales of minivans plummeted over the same period in favor of SUVs targeting the same market with a different coded message. Quartz and Asp are particularly incisive on the evolution from rebel cool to “Dotcool,” encompassing the embrace of nerdiness and hipster irony as “today’s knowledge worker is valued for his unconventionality, because originality drives innovation,” thus transcending the rebel-cool disdain for “selling out.”

Some points are more provocative than convincing, but the authors put a lively spin on an age-old argument.

Pub Date: April 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-374-12918-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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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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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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