Posts Tagged ‘book review’

REVIEWS FROM THE REV: “Split-Second Persuasion: The Ancient Art and New Science of Changing Minds” By Kevin Dutton, Phd.

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

FROM THE WEBSITE: DR. KEVIN DUTTON is a psychologist and research fellow at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion at Cambridge University. His work has been published in journals that include Scientific American Mind, Journal of Experimental Psychology, and Cognition and Emotion.

Reading too much about the neuroscience of the human animal can, I think, be a bit  like learning a little too much about how sausage is made.  I mean, it’s better to know how things work (and how things are made), but it can sure put you off your favorite food for a while.

Having tempted you with THAT introduction, I nonetheless can recommend “Split Second Persuasion”, which is really a neuroscience book tarted up as a sort of guide book for would-be master persuaders out there.  The author takes situations we are all familiar with (the person in a tense situation that has said just the right thing to defuse things, the smooth talker that has talked us out of something) and takes us to the root of what is happening inside our brains.

The author is an English psychologist, and he references a boat-load of studies and brain scans that paint a pretty clear picture of not only how our brains work when it comes to “persuasion”, but where the frontiers of this sort of research are right now (which inevitably points to where it might be taking us in the near future).

It’s a highly readable book  — seasoned with judicious sprinklings of wit — that includes some experiments on the reader (as well as one of the best descriptions and explanations of psychopathy I’ve yet to run across).

If you have any interest at all in just how it is that your own brain makes its own “sausage” when subject to “persuasion”, you’ll enjoy this book.

t.n.s.r. bob

The Rev gives is 3.5 out of 4!

REVIEWS FROM THE REV: “Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945″ by Tony Judt, by t.n.s.r. bob

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

“Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945″ by Tony Judt  (Penguin Books, 2006)

I caught the last bits of a repeat of an earlier interview with author Tony Judt on The Charlie Rose Show in August (re-run, I would guess, because of the author’s death at 62).  I was immediately interested in his 2006 book on the history of postwar Europe, and tracked it down at my beloved local library.  Little did I know that it was one of those books that would take me a month (one renewal and a new check-out) to complete!  It’s been worth the work.

The events that make up European history from the defeat of Naziism to (roughly) today are now far enough in the past for some meaningful perspective, and yet recent enough to be completely relevant to the issues facing Europe in particular and the West in general, today.

Judt’s style is concise and highly readable, yet carries a gravity that inspires confidence in his conclusions.  It is almost dizzying to contemplate the sheer number of countries and rulers that are encompassed in this book: a study of all of the varied cultures, political movements, ideologies and governmental experiments of so many countries, large and small (and — ever since World War Two — in the shadow of the U.S. and it’s relationship with the Soviet Union) provides an all-you-can eat buffet of the many different incarnations of democracy, social democracy, socialism, communism and monarchies that were (and continue to be) tried out in postwar Europe.

(One thing that struck me is the perspective such an education gave me on the current conviction of America’s far right that we are living under a would-be Socialist state.  I can tell you that even a casual reading of this book will show one what a real Socialist or Communist state is like and brother, we ain’t it).

Enough to satisfy my own vanity, the U.S.A. does play a role in this book.  It almost has to!  For Judt goes into detail about how America’s Marshall Plan (imperfect though it was) was fundamental to the rebuilding of an economically self-sufficient Europe (a sad contrast to Europe’s revival is provided by the decades of bleak economic stagnation that faced a “victorious” post-war England!).

It’s all in here: the immediate task of rebuilding Europe after a World War, the beginning, middle and end of the Cold War, the famous events in the Gdansk Shipyards, Perestroika, NATO and even popular culture.  It is really a breathtaking sweep of history that all of us have lived at least a part of (though generally watched from this side of the Atlantic).

If you don’t want to take my word on it, Postwar was named one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by the New York Times Book Review, and was also a Time and San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year.

Tony Judt died this last August of Lou Gehrig’s disease.  For a fascinating and compelling obituary on the author, see this article from USA Today.

t.n.s.r. bob