Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

You Review: How to Make a Human Being – Christopher Potter

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Reviewed by David Young

How to Make a Human Being has to be the most interesting and challenging book I’ve ever reviewed. No information about the author (I discover he is a publisher with a well-received “pop science” book to his name) or an introduction explaining the purpose of the book – no, the reader is plunged straight into the famous 18th century “Materialism” versus “Idealism” controversy stimulated by Bishop Berkeley. And it doesn’t get less challenging….

The book is divided into 3 sections: the first covers our physical environment (cosmology, physics, mathematics, philosophy), the second where we come from (genetics, psychology, more philosophy) and the third how we relate to the world around us (psychology, neurology, sociology). The author is an amazingly well-read polymath, but he wears his learning very lightly and is capable of explaining highly complex topics in a very comprehensible fashion – this is the nearest I’ve ever come to understanding Quantum Mechanics, for instance.

I recommend reading this book in small chunks, as every chapter is really full of meaty stuff which needs some absorbing. On the plus side the author occasionally drops in a delightful insight of his own which will certainly make you think, and there are some nuggets with which you can impress your dinner party guests (did you know that humans share 50% of their genes with bananas?).

Overall Christopher Potter has succeeded in presenting a remarkably comprehensive summary of the Human Condition, one from which I learnt a great deal and will return to in the future with enormous pleasure.

You Review: The latest releases, reviewed by ABC customers.

ABC’s Gift Ideas: Psychology/Self-Help, Religion, Romance

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

The gift-giving season is upon us – hooray!

The ABC Staff has rummaged through their sections and order lists, and come up with another year’s worth of wonderful gift ideas for you: from fiction to history to cookbooks to children’s books to travel to non-books and onwards.

In a series of blog posts and recommendation lists throughout the coming month, you will find what we think will make great gifts, whether you celebrate Sinterklaas, Christmas or just like giving books to people. And since we’re a bookstore, these posts will be alphabetical by subject. :-)

Today you’ll find gift ideas for Psychology/Self-Help, Religion and Romance as picked out by section buyers Agnes, Martijn and Sophie. Bear in mind that this is just the tip of the iceberg – come to either one of our stores to browse many, many more titles in any of these subjects.

We are ready as ever to be your personal shoppers again this year, and hope you will find our selections useful and inspiring!

You can find our gift ideas from previous years here (scroll down a bit pas 2013), and be sure to have a look at our ABC Favorites, too.


You Review: The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Reviewed by Katherine Matthews

Why do we trust someone who says something well, even if what they’re saying is superficial? Or even, why do we think that somebody believes a certain viewpoint, just because they say it out loud, even in reporting or fiction? Why are we willing to travel 10 minutes to save 10 euros on a 100 euro purchase, but we wouldn’t dream of it for a purchase of 10,000 euros, to save the exact same 10 euros? Our brain is a complicated thing, full of decision-making capabilities that we can’t begin to fully comprehend… not to mention full of errors.

Rolf Dobelli’s new book The Art of Thinking Clearly aims to illuminate us on some of the largest and most common logical errors of day-to-day living. Laid out in 99 chapters covering 99 flaws of life inside the human condition, the book is a straight-forward and accessible look into biases, fallacies, effects, illusions and anomalies that plague us both as individuals and collectively as society. Written in a succinct, down-to-earth way, Dobelli uses examples and hypotheticals to illustrate each error. It’s clear and clever, and no doubt that you’ll start applying the lessons you learn almost immediately. It’s also a helpful guide for anyone who spends entirely too much time on decisions, whether from being overwhelmed by choices, taking on too many decisions, or over-thinking.

The only thing which makes this book a little hard to read is its brevity. That is, each chapter (of 99, recall) is only 2-4 pages long, which means you’re in and out of each topic before you can really take a breath. Some people (the short-readers and scanners) may enjoy this aspect of it terrifically, but the long-readers will find it difficult to sit down and just turn pages and read — it just doesn’t lend itself to that well, and I personally found it a bit frustrating, wishing he would slow down and take the time to really sit with something and explore it longer. Maybe some aspects would even solidify in my head better if they were tied together, rather than the somewhat more gimmicky approach of 99 chapters. That aspect is really just a matter of preference though and, as I already said, the book is otherwise quite fantastic. A great read, full of food for thought, but also easily approached.

You Review: The latest releases, reviewed by ABC customers.

Gift ideas for this Christmas: Art, Travel, (Big) Kids, and Psychology and Inspiration

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Let us be your personal shoppers!

ABC’s booksellers don’t just sell books: as well as being voracious readers, almost everyone you’ll meet at the cash desk at ABC is personally responsible for buying the books for one or more sections in the store. That means you’ll always find someone who can put exactly the right book in your hands when you need it. We asked our buyers for their tips for the best gifts for Christmas, and they came up with some crackers: a sackful of ideas to suit every taste and budget. There are new books, classic books, magazines, games, puzzles, and even cuddly toys. Here are just a few of their ideas. Follow the links to find more ideas on:

Art and Design
(Big) Kids
Psychology & Inspiration

Or, to see all of our gift ideas for 2011, see the other posts!


You Review: Deceit and Self-Deception by Robert Trivers

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Reviewed by Katherine Matthews

Deceit and Self-Deception by Robert L. Trivers is a wide-angle look at deception, its origins, functions and results. Trivers identifies at the beginning that it’s still an infant field; much more research needs to be done, so it’s an exploratory effort. This initially frees Trivers up to write hypothetically or contemplatively, which gives the writing a lot of energy. The book starts out really strong, and even gave me quite an emotional reaction, imagining the various ways that both deceit and self-deception have been a part of my own life.

He goes into the ways deception is used in nature (that is, outside of humans), and various ways individuals, couples, or family units deceive or self-deceive. These sections were, for me, the most informative and relevant to the topic.

Later in the book, Trivers introduces the concept of false historical narratives, ways that whole societies deceive by, for example, writing themselves as the righteous victor of wars, or the validated aggressors. It’s a valid discussion, but around this section, the book sort of loses the plot, and feels much more like a personal soapbox. Trivers takes on highly controversial topics like war, politics and religion. He presents a series of facts giving one perspective (because, being the nature of controversial topics, different facts can be perceived differently by other people), and basically asserts this as “the truth”, which means that if you disagree with him, you’re a pawn of a false historical narrative (i.e. you’ve been deceived, and you’re still self-deceiving). Even when I agreed with him in his telling of the story, I really resented the implication, as well as the author himself, for using his work on deception to push forward other agendas.

As an example, he writes on the 2003 US war on Iraq, “Using the false pretext of 9/11, it was a war of choice and aggression apparently designed for control of oil and related economic assets, as well as to build a regional power base and to support its joined-at-the-hip ally, Israel.”  Later, he questions why women are left out of the Catholic church and says “What continually haunts me when I think about such matters is the function of all this nonsense. Who benefits from an all-male priesthood?”  Then later, on discussing physics, “When I read of nine billion euros spent on a supercollider in which tiny particles are accelerated to incredible speeds and then run into one another, I think ‘bombs.’ This factor may lead to more resources being directed towards physics and to some subareas than is objectively sensible, but it is unlikely to have much effect on constructing theory.”

For me, as a reader, it almost doesn’t matter to me if facts are on his side because I find his writing so biased towards giving a particular perspective, that all the trust is lost. He asserts his perspective as neutral and factual, and if you’re so naive to disagree with him, you’re self-deceiving or you’ve been deceived. Can you imagine this guy at a party? You’ve probably met him and avoided him all night. He writes on each of these vast subjects as an absolute authority, but I’m not able to take him as one. Instead, I feel manipulated and preached to.

(Blogmistress’s note: In the US, this book has been published under the title The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life.  Unless, of course, we’ve all been lied to.)

You Review: The latest releases, reviewed by ABC customers.

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