Tashiro offers little revelatory information, but it helps to know that you are not alone.

AWKWARD

THE SCIENCE OF WHY WE'RE SOCIALLY AWKWARD AND WHY THAT'S AWESOME

An academic and psychologist examines the “quirks and unique talents of awkward individuals” and why it’s not so bad to be awkward.

Combining research and anecdote, Tashiro (The Science of Happily Ever After: What Really Matters in the Quest for Enduring Love, 2014) suggests that a certain amount of awkwardness is perfectly normal, that a little more can provide a series of learning experiences, and that any diagnosis short of autism might be handled in-house or with the help of a good therapist. As he writes, the author was socially awkward and is still recognized as such by some of his friends, though he proceeds to show how he met what in his case were mild challenges: “I am awkward by nature but socially proficient by nurture.” Such nurture comes in the form of training and advice, learning the consequences of some behavior, and becoming more adept at navigating social interaction. “Three important cues,” he writes, “tend to give awkward individuals trouble: nonverbal behaviors, facial expressions, and decoding language used during social conversations.” Awkward people tend to have a tighter focus and more obsessive routines; they are better at following rules than deciphering clues. They may not look others in the eye, and they tend to lecture rather than converse (when they are not alone, where they feel more comfortable). Sometimes awkwardness correlates with giftedness and thus standing apart. The awkward must learn what seems to come more naturally to others, to recognize the importance of social belonging, and to extend their comfort zones to include others. The cultural shift to the internet, in areas ranging from business communication to dating, can complicate the challenge, making cues more difficult to decipher without facial expression and tone of voice. Yet the author assures that awkwardness can be a gift and that one can be grateful for it—because he is.

Tashiro offers little revelatory information, but it helps to know that you are not alone.

Pub Date: April 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-242915-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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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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