Perhaps overly upbeat, but it contains useful new insights into thinking well.

THE WORKING MEMORY ADVANTAGE

TRAIN YOUR BRAIN TO FUNCTION STRONGER, SMARTER, FASTER

A lucid how-to on ways to strengthen your processing of everyday information.

Alloway (Psychology/Univ. of North Florida) and her husband, Ross, are leading researchers in the emerging field of working memory, a cognitive skill that allows the brain to focus on and process information for the task at hand. In this informative book, they describe recent studies, including their own, indicating that working memory is a stronger predictor of success in school and in later life than IQ. “If we want to know how well students will perform in the classroom, we need to look at their working memory,” they write. This explains why high-IQ children do not always excel in school: They may be knowledgeable but unable to use what they know effectively. Working memory allows us to prioritize, focus, make decisions, think quickly, take smarter risks, learn more easily, and stay motivated and positive. With a good working memory as our brain’s conductor, we can exercise our will, delay gratification, and manage time and information. With a poor working memory, we may engage in out-of-control and addictive behaviors. The authors trace the development of working memory in individuals from the womb through old age (the skill peaks in our 30s) and explain its importance to a happy and optimistic life. Much of the book covers ways to improve working memory through exercises that simplify the complexity of incoming data, enhance your ability to work with information and keep your working memory in optimal condition.

Perhaps overly upbeat, but it contains useful new insights into thinking well.

Pub Date: July 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4516-5012-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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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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