A timely, essential guide to understanding and molding our behaviors to achieve better results in our ever changing...




The nuances of creating a proactive, positively charged habitual life.

Wood (Psychology and Business/Univ. of Southern California) has spent her career amassing research material to support theories that human behavior is best controlled with habitual repetition rather than willpower and good intentions, which are often not nearly enough to shift everyday activity. The author believes that in order to change behavior, the mechanics of habit formation must be understood first. Wood persuasively instructs readers with an informative amalgam of data, graduate training experiments, and psychological theories on conscious thought and rewiring desire and mannerisms. She notes that the same learning mechanisms responsible for bad habits also control good ones. “Going to the gym regularly and smoking a couple of cigarettes a day are the same,” she writes, with the difference being how our habitual selves perceive and strive for personal goals. Wood notes that recent scientific studies reveal just how difficult human behavior is to change over the long term, but this data is also arming people with better game plans to disrupt the forces behind destructive patterns. Perhaps the most practical aspect of the book is the focus on functional tools and principles to interrupt and overcome the kinds of habits that prevent people from attaining more fruitful livelihoods and overall contentment. It is possible to achieve what she calls a “habit life” free from negative influences through the systematic replacement of poor habits with new ones that are beneficial and become just as familiar and comfortable. She instructs readers to disable the compulsive cues that engage such potentially bad behavior as overeating, distracted driving, and online shopping. When applied to real-life situations and acknowledged by readers seeking true behavioral reengineering, her research and valuable perspectives offer both hope and the possibility for a more manageable, productive life. A practical and cautionary story about how to break the cellphone habit concludes this intelligent assessment with encouragement.

A timely, essential guide to understanding and molding our behaviors to achieve better results in our ever changing lifestyles.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-15907-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


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

Did you like this book?

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...


A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

Did you like this book?