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. 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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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 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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...


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. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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