First off, let me preface this review by saying I was already familiar with Steven Novella through his podcast, The Skeptics Guide to the Universe.
When I heard he had this series of lectures available on Audible, I was quite excited!
I was hoping for a clear, detailed and thorough treatment of Critical Thinking - and Novella delivers in spades, covering topic after topic with a treatment that is brisk, peppered with examples, constructed in a logical and understandable manner and order, and delivered eloquently.
The content is exactly what is says on the tin: if you are interested in Critical Thinking, in knowing how you think and how TO think -- there is no fat here. Logical fallacies and cognitive biases are examined, illustrated and explained.
I would caution the potential listener that this is a series of lectures on a specific subject; I enjoyed it immensely because I happen to be interested in the topic. If I didn't have that interest or I was expecting more of a narrative-type production, I think I would be disappointed.
A further caution: if you have a set of "alternative beliefs", prepare to be challenged! Examine the unfavorable reviews to see this side of things.
However -- and in summary -- if you desire to develop your Critical Thinking skills, to build the sharpest reasoning possible for yourself, or just to explore a scientific approach to understanding how your brain plays tricks on itself, then I give this work the highest recommendation!
I love Oliver Sacks, and this is one of his best!
I read this title long ago, and it came up as a Daily Deal (I think) here on Audible, so I decided to enjoy it again - glad I did!
If you don't know what Sacks is all about, he tells stories about some of the most amazingly strange things that can go wrong in our brains. People that can't identify others, what they are doing, or even who they are struggle to communicate and find themselves.
This title is quite similar to "The Tell-Tale Brain" by VS Ramachandran, something I recently listened to as well, but not quite as detailed. "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" might be a little better for a more casual reader, it has a more narrative, less clinical feel than "The Tell-Tale Brain".
Sometimes I was left wanting a little more detail and follow-up, especially in the cases where Dr Sacks only had one interview/meeting with the patient, and Sacks tends to wax a bit poetic from time to time, but those are truly minor complaints.
The production is excellent, the reader professional, everything fine in that area.
Very highly recommended!
First, let me get the performance aspect out of the way. Some of the other reviews are pretty hard on Mr. Shermer's efforts here at reading his own work. While it's true that the reading is not as good as one done by a more professional reader, it's still perfectly acceptable and doesn't distract.
Now, on to the content!
In the subtitle, Shermer lists the main topics he will touch on: ghosts, gods, politics, and conspiracies. I am familiar with Shermer's work in the excellent book "Why People Believe Weird Things" as well as an occasion article I've read, so I felt like I knew what I was getting into, and I did with 1 minor exception.
I did get what I expected in the ghosts, gods, and conspiracies: a clear approach to understanding and explaining why people believe in such nonsensical flights of fancy, with lots of examples, references to current research and well-thought out arguments. I found the underlying question of "why do people believe in _anything_" quite rich and fascinating, and handled well.
Those are the "3 out of 4 well-covered"...
I was very disappointed in the political treatment. Shermer dropped the ball here in a 2 ways.
For one, Shermer strongly promoted his Libertarian viewpoint. Without getting into the details, if you've ran across Libertarian discourses on the internet (and if you are on a message board of any substantial size, I know you have), you've heard everything Shermer has to say on that political position. I don't think any well-read person will hear anything new here, regardless of what politics you hold.
The larger disappointment, which only makes the Libertarian focus worse, was an over-reliance on putting political discussion into the left-right American political spectrum. Only after a long initial discussion confined to the American left-right spectrum, did we get a few brief sentences on a larger global perspective on politics, and then only to simplify them down into the same American left-right spectrum. There was virtually no consideration given to political thought outside of a strict American perspective.
Badly managed and highly disappointed with the political topic handling, I must say.
However, the rest of the content was quite well done, and even the political stuff was worth listening to, if only to reinforce my own personal theory that there is no such thing as true intellectual or rational commentary possible on modern American politics, from any perspective!
Overall, this is a skeptical book written by a deep thinking skeptic, and if that sort of thing is of interest to you, this is worth a listen.
Learn, understand, then decide whether you accept or reject.
If you're looking for a self-help course for self-control, this is not it. This is a course that looks at and analyzes scientific studies to understand the variables regarding self control in various individuals, both internally and externally. A good overview if you are already familiar with the experiments, which can also be an introduction for you to look deeper.
If anything, it could have been longer and give each experiment more time.