Member Since 2014
My approach is to take notes/bookmark throughout the book the first time, so I can refer to certain sections in the future.
Definitely has enough info in this book to be a textbook, but fortunately it is a more enjoyable read.
Steven Pinker's other masterpiece "The Blank Slate" is still my favorite non-fiction. "How the Mind Works" is a more technical and challenging read/listen, but both are highly recommended based on their wealth of researched facts and arguments.
Probably the best way to absorb "How the Mind Works" is to read it. I found myself rewinding multiple times to re-listen to the more technical parts. Be prepared to exercise your mind, and you will be rewarded.
For an easier listen, "The Blank Slate" is just as informative; it is more on societal impact of our understanding on the mind rather than the technical mind mechanisms explored in this book.
This is one of the handful of gems that make you think in profoundly-different ways.
I heard excellent reviews of Mr. Graeber's book "Debt: the First 5000 Years", but I thought I'd like a more general book to start with and this was perfect.
Explores our assumptions of "democracy", and how Corporate and Government bureaucracy are top-down hierarchies which are quite simply contrary to real democracy.
I've often assumed "anarchism" was somehow extreme or unrealistic, but this book made a very compelling case for how horizontal decision-making is desirable and even practical, featuring numerous real-life examples along with common sense analogies.
This book also tackles the morality of debt and the morality of work head-on, most relevant and fascinating!
Only special books manage to shake one from one's stupor, or present clear explanations for those nagging ideas that were never understood. This is a lot to ask for, but this book delivers!
Also recommended is Matt Taibbi's book "Griftopia"
On top of everything, this book is surprisingly uplifting. Revolutions and revolutionary ideas do indeed cascade into society and our collective consciousness, often seemingly against all odds.
These book connected so many dots and opened up a new world of ideas and possibilities. For a non-fiction, that is the highest accolade.
Jon Ronson narrating a Jon Ronson adventure is highly recommendable. Gonzo journalism at its wildest: crazy events with vivid detail about a fascinating topic.
As always Mr. Ronson cleverly weaves informative background information into his twisting-and-turning narrative. So, you get some exposure to psychiatry and "psychopathy" during your wild ride down in the trenches of the madness industry.
This is clearly not meant to be a textbook; concise systematic review is neglected as the author hurls you right into the action. But it is nonetheless insightful, and you will find the experience most enjoyable.
Perfect, she got me right into the stories.
"The Yellow Wallpaper" is truly a gem. "When I was a Witch" was also a standout. Makes me want to read her non-fiction work as well...
This is truly a colossal topic to tackle, even 800+ pages leaves many areas untouched. However, there are certain themes in this book that provide some insight or at least some grounds for debate regarding the historical trend of violence and human nature.
Highly recommended to first read Pinker's "The Blank Slate", a truly excellent non-fiction that focuses more on human nature and ideologies. "How the Mind Works" is also excellent; it is more technical and more within Pinker's expertise.
This book sure did stir up some lively debates. I think it's important to first note that Pinker's book is about violence, not oppression/unfairness/"bad things", etc. So overall, I would agree that many forms of violence have been in decline, at least since the time when history was adequately-documented.
However, I would suggest that the evolution of ideas is not completely synonymous with improving the human condition. Negative ideas also evolve. Thus, while primitive forms of oppression like race and gender slavery are in decline, other forms of oppression continue to evolve and become further entrenched in our society. Example: unaccountable multinational corporations that force laws to pass without democratic scrutiny using hordes of lobbyists/less-than-transparent political systems/public's apathy, and can manipulate scientific research/marketing/media.
I've heard several dissident voices criticize the book's lack of interest in covering economic oppression. I do wish Pinker touched on this more, but I imagine he defined violence in the most strict form in order to keep the book's scope manageable. And sadly, if he did talk about economics I am sure he would open up a new can of worms, straying even further from his area of study and likely making this overall work less credible.
While I found many of Pinker's arguments to be compelling, I felt he glossed over the section on future dangers, particularly nuclear proliferation and climate change. True, no nukes have been successfully dropped on a population since the end of WWII, but it takes much more than "oh, well, it hasn't happened yet" to argue that our control over the situation is anywhere close to acceptable.
For example, John Oliver did a great commentary on USA's current nuclear weapons fiasco (search up "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Nuclear Weapons"), and the USA is supposed to be the most advanced nuclear weapons country in the world!
I can appreciate what Pinker and Matt Ridley (The Rational Optimist) are trying to get across (i.e. how much human progress has achieved and given such obvious improvements we have to continue to encourage such progress), but anytime you tackle such a large & complex scope you run the risk of over-simplifying certain topics to make it better fit your overall arguments.
MLK translates well in any format as each offers a different perspective. The first 2 audio speeches were not very clear, so it's recommended to do a quick search for the speeches online and read along with the audio.
It's an important piece of history, and many of the subjects covered are still very relevant. Non-violent progress is a fundamental human struggle.
If there's every an autobiography worth reading, this would be one of them.
I actually really enjoyed the narration, clear and easy pace.
MLK describing the darkest moments of his many protests, the social and personal dilemmas...
"Even the most starless midnight may herald the dawn of some great fulfillment."
This autobiography is so large in scope that it serves as a great introductory overview of MLK and his times, with audio excerpts of his speeches.
I was more interested in digging deeper into some of his beliefs and tactics, which needs to be found elsewhere, a 9-hour autobiography is limited. Despite being an autobiography, this was pieced together after MLK's death so it does do a good job covering his ideas and speeches.
Now, how about an unabridged audio version of Malcolm X's autobiography?
This audiobook starts pretty slow, but the historical preamble sets the stage for the more-concise facts that start pouring in during the 2nd half.
The topic of mental health, de-institutionalization, lack of accountability, and for-profit "solutions" are highly relevant. Just walk in the city and you'll encounter the consequences when you pass the homeless people muttering to themselves. And that's only the portion that are not incarcerated or in for-profit nursing homes (which should be used for the elderly).
Honestly took me a while to get used to, but the story makes up for it.
When making public policy, use science/research/evidence over ideology.
In this book, the shutting down of State mental hospitals was based on ideology around society and mental health that sounded good but parts of it were simply not backed by scientific evidence (which admittedly was sparse during that time since psychiatry was still in its infancy). The movement had no chance of evolving during the Nixon/Reagen era: they not only supported privatization, they were hostile to psychiatry!
Powerful topic and unique format (the book is mostly discussions between Julian Assange & three other hacktivists, and I found the format refreshing and easy-to-follow). Definitely recommended.
A perfect precursor to this book would be "This Machine Kills Secrets", which provides a great overview of the backbone historical details of modern encryption, all in an easy-to-understand and open-minded narrative.
Open your eyes.
This book's topic is critical for anyone who is not deluded enough to think they and their children/grandchildren can live in a protective bubble regardless of that happens to the rest of the world.
The book exposes the convergence of climate change with previous trends of economic imperialism and Cold War arms/violence. Thus, this book primarily frames the issue of climate-induced poverty, migration, and xenophobia in the political theater.
At first glance I might prefer more analysis on the economic side, but I do appreciate the author's argument that the #1 priority is to curtail greenhouse emissions and not wait for any drastic restructuring the world's socioeconomic structure. However you frame it though, both are connected.
For more environmental details, try "Eaarth" by Bill McKibben
A great read/listen on free market/austerity consequences to public health: "The Body Economic"
For more economics:
"Capital in the Twenty-First Century" (Piketty)
"All the Presidents' Bankers" (Prins)
"The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap" (Taibbi)
The topic of how economic ideologies affect healthcare policies, and how that in turn affects you, me, our families and friends... well, it's an essential topic indeed.
Plenty of gems like this one to broaden one's understanding of Economics and how it actually works in the real world. It is critical to realize how much of establishment Economics is more ideology than actual science! Austerity is clearly a mechanism to funnel money to the top, no one can argue the atrocious short-term consequences and this book demonstrates the long-term consequences are not rosy either.
Other related non-fiction gems:
"Capital in the Twenty-First Century"
"A Fighting Chance" (Elizabeth Warren's memoir, easy read)
"Retirement Heist" (technical but very informative)
I've heard impressive reviews for the following:
"Wall Street: A History" (Geisst)
"All the Presidents' Bankers"
"The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires"
"Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism"
"The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use 'Plain English' to Rob You Blind"
Perfect narration: clear and easy-to-follow-along pace.
Asides overarching facts, this book provided personal cases to make the reader/listener realize that there are faces, lives, and loved ones behind each statistic.
The writers of this have their hearts in the right place, but keep in mind their background (healthcare policies) restricts them to frame questions in that arena... which does offer new perspectives, but clearly this topic needs to also be explored in the economic arena more deeply. There are many "but why?" moments to economic events that the story encounters but cannot address.
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