I love nonfiction because there's always something useful in it. Even long bad sections normally don't detract from the gems of wisdom in a work of nonfiction. But if this one had any gems, I must have already been asleep when I got there. Mostly it's all vaguely stated and carefully hedged opinions with little categorical value.
A scholarly dissertation on defecation couldn't be any worse. I forced my way through about half of it before revulsion forced me to put it down. I refuse to think about this while I'm alive. When I'm dead, rush me to the crematorium, please.
With "The Selfish Gene" and "A Random Walk Down Wall Street" in the seventies, up through this book and "The Invisible Gorilla" issued by audible, educated people are offered a chance to struggle with the counterintuitive randomness that rules us, and the brain wiring that cannot detect randomness without training. History is linear certainty. The future is only probability, and hence unknowable. Garth Brooks says to "...Thank God for Unanswered Prayers." I say to read/hear every book like this you can find in a struggle to grasp the nature of randomness, and our own inborn blindness to it.
This is the type of book I love, issued as soon as possible by a great author. His attempt to make the dead friends and relatives of his sources look good is understandable, but a mild distraction. His description of the culture on a floating oil rig is great, as is his rendition of what it's like to be in the middle of an explosion. The turbines revving in spite of the automatic shutdown, fed by airborne gas and their own momentum until the scream rose beyond the range of human hearing, haunts me. I can hear it in my bones. What fiction writer could have conceived such an omen of doom?
Yes, the first listen-through it would have been better if performed by a professional voice actor. And I don't care. I love the book, and I love the author. I'm glad for the additional intimacy of hearing her words in her own voice. Think of her as an aural political cartoonist; a kinder, gentler Molly Ivins.
The first third is a boring philosophical/epistomological historical background of the subject. The rest is mostly about sex, giving us all grand permission to spray it around. What could be better than that?
I blundered into this subject as a wannabe writer looking for insights into human nature. This was pretty good. So were the two Tonny recommended. I also suggest "The Invisible Gorilla"
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