I needed to learn about Saudi Arabia fast for a project I am going to do there shortly. I bought this book because Robert Lacey is well known for his expertise on Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately I found this book difficult to follow and fairly convoluted in its prose. I later found a different book, Prophets and Princes by Mark Weston and found it significantly more digestible. If I had been able to read a few pages of Inside the Kingdom I think I would not have purchased the book.
Brooks refers to a number of books by other authors - Jeff Hawkins (On Intelligence), Dan Ariely (Predictably Irrational), Daniel Gilbert (Stumbling on Happiness), among others. Each of those books provides a better in-depth view of a particular idea Brooks tries to get across at different points in his book, but The Social Animal attempts to provide a survey of current understanding of our unconscious brains and is reasonably entertaining and successful in doing so. If you want to gain an in-depth understanding our our unconscious mind and how it functions, there are better books. But if you want an introduction into the many ways that our unconscious brain affects our everyday lives and allows us to be happy (or not), this is a good introduction.
I bought this book because it is part of the popular literary culture these days and I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. I was surprised by how really, truly bad this book is, because I've read some delightful books that were also very popular. This book has minimal plot, excruciatingly bad writing, and listening to the whiny, nasal voice of the narrator was at times like listening to fingernails on a blackboard. I kept thinking that it MUST get better, then (spoiler alert!) the book ended abruptly, but not in a cliffhanger I-have-to-see-what-happens-next kind of way, just in a really annoying way. It appears merely a ploy to get readers to buy yet another book.
The only reason I can see for the popularity of this book is the well-publicised explicit sex scenes. However, even these are dull. I imagine some repressed women might be thrilled by these scenes, but to anyone with a decent sex life, it's all rather bland (no, there isn't much S&M in the sex scenes, it's mainly, as the main character says, "vanilla" sex). Don't waste your time or money on this horrible book.
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