Even science-savvy readers will find surprises in this insightful exploration of how two humans learned a new sense.

COMING TO OUR SENSES

A BOY WHO LEARNED TO SEE, A GIRL WHO LEARNED TO HEAR, AND HOW WE ALL DISCOVER THE WORLD

Through stories of two amazing individuals, a neurobiologist explains how we see and hear.

That newborns must learn to talk is old news, but Barry, professor emeritus of biology and neuroscience at Mount Holyoke College, points out that newborns come into an incomprehensible world. Their eyes detect shapes and colors, and their ears hear sounds, but nothing makes sense. Over their first few years, babies literally discover how to see and hear, after which their ability to do so plummets. Doctors have long known that children who have sight restored after being blind throughout childhood never regain full sight. The same is true for hearing in congenitally deaf children. Until recently, writes the author, “few attempts were made to restore vision or hearing in congenitally blind or deaf people older than eight years. By age eight, the brain, it was thought, was no longer plastic enough to allow for the development of a new sense.” Yet exceptions exist, and Barry delivers gripping accounts of two. The first, Liam McCoy, lived in a “cocoon of visual blur.” At age 15, surgeons inserted a second lens into his eye (keeping the original), which vastly improved his vision. The result was not a familiar scene but rather a “tangled, fragmented world” of colors, lines, and edges. Barry devotes the first half of the book to the five years during which Liam gradually made sense of his new world. The second, Zohra Damji, was profoundly deaf. She was fortunate in that the condition was diagnosed very early and that her extended family provided intense support and the large sum of money required for the cochlear implant she received at age 12. Her first experience with sound was “loud, scary, and uncomfortable” as well as incomprehensible, but she ultimately sailed through graduate school. Both stories are inspiring and well rendered by the author.

Even science-savvy readers will find surprises in this insightful exploration of how two humans learned a new sense.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5416-7515-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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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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A refreshingly candid, fearless look into a model’s body of work and its impact on her identity and politics.

MY BODY

The international model embarks on a nuanced investigation of her body and identity.

Ratajkowski’s exploration of fame, self-identity, and what it means to be a “beautiful” woman is surprisingly engaging. Originally thrust into the spotlight in 2013 due to her scantily clad appearance in the music video for Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” the author eventually became known for her stances about beauty and sexuality and how they are commodified. Now that she is a wife and mother, she writes, “I feel a tenderness toward my younger self. My defensiveness and defiance are palpable to me now. What I wrote and preached then reflected what I believed at the time, but it missed a much more complicated picture. In many ways, I have been undeniably rewarded by capitalizing on my sexuality….But in other, less overt ways, I’ve felt objectified and limited by my position in the world as a so-called sex symbol.” This short book includes the juicy tidbits that avid celebrity-memoir readers seek, and the author shares how she really felt about the video shoot and how the aftermath affected her. Beyond that, the book is a reflective coming-of-age-in-the-industry tale, a story that is never maudlin but contains a few thick, murky sections. Ratajkowski attempts to break down the construction of her identity and sexuality in relation to the ever present male gaze as well as her relationships with the women in her life. The charm of this book lies in the author’s largely relatable writing, which shows the complex emotions and confusion of a young woman experiencing her sexual development and maturation into a capable adult. Admitting that the “purpose of the book is not to arrive at answers, but honestly to explore ideas I can’t help but return to,” Ratajkowski grapples directly with a host of thorny issues.

A refreshingly candid, fearless look into a model’s body of work and its impact on her identity and politics.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-81786-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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