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Neuron

Family father, neuroscientist, and non-fiction audiobook addict.

Sweden | Member Since 2012

53
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 25 reviews
  • 28 ratings
  • 79 titles in library
  • 16 purchased in 2014
FOLLOWING
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FOLLOWERS
5

  • An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Richard Dawkins
    • Narrated By Richard Dawkins, Lalla Ward
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (111)
    Performance
    (103)
    Story
    (104)

    In his first memoir, Richard Dawkins shares a rare view into his early life, his intellectual awakening at Oxford, and his path to writing The Selfish Gene. This is an intimate memoir of the childhood and intellectual development of the evolutionary biologist and world-famous atheist and how he came to write what is widely held to be one of the most important books of the 20th century.

    C. Beaton says: "Only for Dawkins' Fans"
    "A few grains of gold in an ordinary biography"
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    Richard Dawkins is an amazing scientist. I have always thought so and this first part in his autobiography trilogy do reinforce my favorable view on Dawkins. His greatness, in my opinion, primarily lies in his unequaled ability to convey science to the general public using a language which should make him eligible for the Nobel prize in literature (seriously!). His book, the selfish gene is probably the book that have meant the most to me personally, all categories, and reading excerpts from it in this book made me remember what a great book it was, and still is. In fact, reading “An appetite for wonder”, made me decide to re-read Dawkins original best-seller (which I am now doing).

    Yes, Dawkins is a fantastic writer and scientist, but this book, on the whole, did not live up to my admittedly high expectations. Perhaps others will disagree with me but I am not personally very interested in great people’s childhood, unless it is truly extraordinary. Yes Dawkins grew up in Africa and that was probably interesting, however, I would personally have preferred if this section was significantly shorter or left out.

    The book gets more interesting when Richard gets into Balliol college, Oxford. As a University teacher one of my favorite sections of the book was Dawkins description of the education system in Oxford. Their system in which students each week study a new topic by reading up on the scientific literature and try to form hypotheses, and then discuss what they have learnt with tutors who are also leading scientists made me, well… jealous. He claims that students at oxford never asked the question, “will this be on the exam?”, which is a question I get all too frequently…

    Following his description of the education system in Oxford a semi-interesting description of his early years in academia follows. The book, in my opinion reaches its climax towards the end when Dawkins discusses and reads excerpts from the Selfish Gene. I realize it may sound nerdy but just hearing a few lines from that book can increase my pulse significantly, and it was interesting to get to understand how the book came about. I was also pleased to find out that, like myself, the great writer Richard Dawkins does not write his book in one go. Rather, every sentence that he writes have been written and re-written many times. Like the natural selection of biological organisms, this way of writing should lead to evolution of better sentences and in the end a better book. This is certainly the case with the Selfish Gene.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Sum: Tales from the Afterlives

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 42 mins)
    • By David Eagleman
    • Narrated By Gillian Anderson, Emily Blunt, Nick Cave, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (26)
    Performance
    (17)
    Story
    (17)

    In this astounding book, David Eagleman entertains forty fictional possibilities of life beyond death. With wit and humanity he asks the key questions about existence, hope, technology and love. These stories are full of big ideas and bold imagination.This audiobook assembles a stellar cast of readers who bring the scenarios of SUM brilliantly alive.

    Jamie Milton Freestone says: "Astonishing fiction from a brilliant scientist"
    "Thought provoking, imaginative and secular novels"
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    If, before I actually read this book, someone said to me that I was going to read a collection of novels about the afterlife, and that I would like it, I would have laughed. I don’t believe God exists and I don’t believe in an afterlife (at least not the afterlife people usually have in mind). Moreover, I generally don’t read novels. I read books because I want to learn something about the universe, not merely for pleasure.

    So why did I read this book? Well, it was short, and more importantly, it was written by David Eagleman, the neuroscientist who wrote Incognito, which, in my opinion is one of the best popular neuroscience books I have read. Because I had read Incognito I also knew that Eagleman does not have a tendency to express strange beliefs. Rather, like myself, Eagleman at least appears to subscribe to philosophical materialism, i.e. he is not a dualist. In addition, Sum, has received rave reviews, so in the end I thought what the heck, I’ll give it a try… and I am very happy that I did.

    The ambition of this book is not to provide an accurate scientific account of the likely scenarios that will take place when we eventually die, rather it is a collection of entirely hypothetical stories about what could happen in the afterlife. Some of them appear more likely than others, but almost all of them are in some way entertaining and above all, they are very thought provoking. Indeed I might even go as far as to say that it has made me consider the thought of an afterlife. Again I don’t mean the kind of afterlife where the soul escapes the body and travels to a bright peaceful heaven (and I guess that I would more likely end up in hell anyway), but some other form of afterlife. For example, in one novel in this book, you live on in the sense that a computer terminal continues to produce letters from you, answer emails, send happy birthday wishes, to your kin and to others, long after you actually died. This type of afterlife is entirely possible and even with my limited skills I could probably make my own computer act as if I was alive when I am dead (whether one would want this is a different question).

    Another novel that is perhaps less plausible, but not as implausible as the biblical option, is that we actually live twice. The life that everyone live now is the first life which occurs when the universe is expanding. The second life comes when (or if), the universe contracts, causing time to go in the opposite direction. In your second life you are born out of the ground like an old man or woman and everyone will be crying and speaking about everything you are going to do in your life. The relationships in which you engage will often start with a fight and then gradually become more emotional and intense until it ends in an ecstatic sexual encounter, after which you will simply forget your partner and move on… I kind of doubt whether this will happen although according to some models of the universe a contraction phase is a possibility and since time is just a dimension of space it is not inconceivable that time will move in the opposite direction. In any case, just picturing your life in reverse is an interesting thought experiment.

    These are just two examples out of a total of 40 short novels describing different scenarios that play out when we die. Because they were short and thought provoking I rarely lost interest. One of my favorite novels, in this collection, describes a future where you will be able to upload an exact replica of your brain onto a computer. This computer can then run any simulation you choose. Want to live like James Bond, with fast cars, and beautiful women, and frequent near death experiences? Not a problem. You will be able to live in this matrix for as long as the computer will run. Although in this particular scenario, the scientists were wrong about the soul (they just assumed that it would tag along, but it didn’t).

    In short, this is a collection of fantastic, imaginative novels, that will make you giggle and make you think.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Selfish Gene

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Richard Dawkins
    • Narrated By Richard Dawkins, Lalla Ward
    Overall
    (1682)
    Performance
    (1264)
    Story
    (1246)

    Richard Dawkins' brilliant reformulation of the theory of natural selection has the rare distinction of having provoked as much excitement and interest outside the scientific community as within it. His theories have helped change the whole nature of the study of social biology, and have forced thousands to rethink their beliefs about life.

    J. D. May says: "Better than print!"
    "A Masterpiece"
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    I can't remember how but when I was 16 I came across this book and it changed my life. The title of Dawkins biography is "An appetite for wonder", and this appetite is no where more apparent than in this book (I have read most of his books). It is a wonderful introduction to the theory of evolution by natural (and sexual) selection, behavioral ecology, and the wonders of nature. At the same time it serves as a terrific example of first rate scientific reasoning. The writing is clear and fluid and extremely elegant. In his autobiography Dawkins admits that every sentence has been rewritten multiple times. Those that have survived this selection process really deliver. Every sentence seem to fill a purpose and yet, rarely does one feel that information is in some way lacking. This book, when it came out in the late seventies, influenced the general public and academics alike. It changed how academics thought about genes and evolution, and it introduced the meme, which has subsequently entered our dictionaries.

    As I have said elsewhere, this book really is a literary masterpiece. The fact that it also teaches science to the reader is an added benefit that makes this book one of the best and most important ever written.

    The book has a very good structure. At no point does it feel as if new concepts are introduced inappropriately. Dawkins begins by slowly and carefully introducing the replicator concept. In the widest sense a replicator is, as the name implies, something that replicates itself. This can be a mineral shape, a computer virus or a molecule such as RNA or DNA. It is inevitable that a replicator that produce more copies or copies that are more durable will become more prominent in the population. And so it is with our genes. The genes that exist in humans that are alive today are descendents of a very long series of genes that outperformed other genes. To achieve this success the genes have used many different tricks. Primary among these is cooperation with other genes to construct vehicles such as a plant or an animal that can both protect the genes and pass them on. Humans are thus "merely" vehicles created by genes for the benefit of genes (though in another sense we are of course much more than that).

    Dawkins carefully builds from this starting point and reaches startling conclusions about many different aspects of nature and evolution. Why did sex evolve and why do the different sexes differ to a greater or a lesser extent in different species? Why are males in general more aggressive? Why do we cooperate? Does altruism exist? How did sterile ants evolve? Whatever he is discussing, Dawkins always provides illustrative examples from nature and when he use metaphors he is (unlike many others) always careful to translate those metaphors back into the language of replicators. The Selfish Gene also derives some of its fame from the fact that it introduced the meme concept. A meme, Dawkins suggested is like a gene in that it can replicate itself, typically via language or imitation. Successful memes (think viral youtube clips) will spread throughout population of less successful memes in the same way that successful genes spread, however, for memes the sexual reproduction of its host matters little. Rather, the success of a meme is determined by its ability to make its host share the idea with others. The meme concept is now in most dictionaries.

    Throughout the book Dawkins is careful to point out that even though we are products of evolution and as a result have many instincts that are not always very noble, that does not mean that it is in anyway good or moral to follow ones evolutionary inclinations. Indeed if we understand human instincts we may be better able to construct societies that combat our caveman instincts.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Letter to a Christian Nation

    • UNABRIDGED (1 hr and 56 mins)
    • By Sam Harris
    • Narrated By Jordan Bridges
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (877)
    Performance
    (344)
    Story
    (348)

    "Forty-four percent of the American population is convinced that Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead sometime in the next 50 years," writes Sam Harris. "Imagine the consequences if any significant component of the U.S. government actually believed that the world was about to end and that its ending would be glorious. The fact that nearly half of the American population apparently believes this...should be considered a moral and intellectual emergency."

    Keith Howarth says: "Audiobook version - Excellent reader"
    "Short, concise, straight to the point, hard hittin"
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    Letter to a Christian nation, as the title suggests, is written as a letter to a Christian nation i.e. the United States. The reader should not expect to find any original critique. What makes this book special is Sam Harris ability to deliver arguments in an extremely forceful and clear way.

    He begins the book with some important premises which many religious people simply do not think about or have repressed. For instance, either God exists or he doesn't. If the Christian God exists (as he is described in the bible) then the Muslims are wrong and the other way around. Indeed if the Christians and the bible is correct then all Muslims (and Hindu, Buddhists, pagans etc) will go to hell.

    If you believe that the bible is the word of God then you must believe the above and you must also advocate the stoning of people who work on Sundays etc. Ok, you say, but we shouldn't take it literally, fine, but then how do we interpret it, and how do we know which interpretation is the right one? Also if a divine being wrote the Bible is it too much to expect him to reveal a few secrets about the universe, like how to cure cancer or how electricity work or whatever. It seems that whoever wrote the bible did not know more than the average person at the time the bible was written. It would also have been nice if God or Jesus had said that slavery was wrong instead of letting us reach that interpretation two millennia (and many many slaves) later.

    This was just one example out of a dozen or so arguments that Harris brings up suggesting that God does not exist or that if he does he is not a very nice creature. Because it is short, clear and very accessible this ranks among the best books I have read in this category. Highly recommended.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Hard Choices

    • UNABRIDGED (26 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Hillary Rodham Clinton
    • Narrated By Kathleen Chalfant, Hillary Rodham Clinton
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (384)
    Performance
    (332)
    Story
    (333)

    Hillary Rodham Clinton's inside account of the crises, choices, and challenges she faced during her four years as America's 67th Secretary of State, and how those experiences drive her view of the future. In the aftermath of her 2008 presidential run, she expected to return to representing New York in the United States Senate. To her surprise, her former rival for the Democratic Party nomination, newly elected President Barack Obama, asked her to serve in his administration as Secretary of State. This memoir is the story of the four extraordinary and historic years that followed.

    Prairie says: "An Excellent book on Modern History"
    "Predictable"
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    I was, I must admit, relieved when I came to the end of this rather long book. Hillary Clinton is a powerful politician and she is in many ways a role model, given her accomplishments and given that she is a woman in a world where female politicians are rarely taken seriously. Still, it was noticeable that this book was written by a diplomat, a diplomat who is still an active politician and who may try to become president in the next election (she said she did not know whether she would run).

    A central tenet she tries to bring forth is that nations should be able to cooperate on some issues even if they disagree on other issues. Of course to suggest otherwise would be radical. Image that the US cut all ties with China because they do not like their handling of human rights issues. Still, as a reader you want something a bit more juicy (or is it just me). I don’t want to hear that they are slightly about Russia and that they wish communication will improve in the future. I also could not tell you what Hillary really thinks about the conflict in Gaza, even though she spends many pages on this conflict. She certainly thinks it is a bad idea that Israel launches military offensives into Gaza, but at the same time she thinks that every nation have a right to defend themselves when attacked… What would Hillary do about this conflict if she became president? This book will not provide you with an answer (except that she wants a two-state solution).

    What I want from an ex-secretary of state is details about “personal” communications with foreign leaders, and stronger stances on issues. Indeed there is such content in this book, just not enough considering that the book is more than 600 pages long. Still, what did I expect from an active politician who will not want to burn any bridges in case she becomes president?

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Paul Bloom
    • Narrated By Jeremy Johnson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (458)
    Performance
    (131)
    Story
    (130)

    Yale psychologist Paul Bloom presents a striking new vision of the pleasures of everyday life. The thought of sex with a virgin is intensely arousing for many men. The average American spends over four hours a day watching television. Abstract art can sell for millions of dollars. Young children enjoy playing with imaginary friends and can be comforted by security blankets. People slow their cars to look at gory accidents, and go to movies that make them cry.

    Robert says: "Easy to understand, well read."
    "Entertaining but confined account of pleasure"
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    This book is about pleasure, but equally it is about essentialism. I would even argue that this book is more about essentialism than pleasure (guess the title would not have been as catchy). Essentialism refers to our tendency to look beyond appearances and try and see the essence of things. Is that really the cigar that Freud smoked or is it just an “ordinary” cigar? (It really makes a big difference to us). The central tenet of this book is that we derive pleasure from our beliefs about the essence of things. While this is no doubt true I think it confines the book that pleasure is discussed only within this framework. For instance, I cannot see how essentialism can explain why we feel pleasure when taking cocaine (I think).

    To introduce the concept of essentialism, and in extension, pleasure, Paul Bloom sets out with one of the most hilarious anecdotes I’ve heard. Hermann Göring, the commander of Nazi Germany’s air force was not a particularly kind man. One of his better known quotes was “My measures will not be crippled by any bureaucracy. Here I don't have to worry about Justice; my mission is only to destroy and to exterminate; nothing more”. However, apart from destroying and exterminating things Göring was also a passionate arts collector and at one point he bought an expensive Vermeer painting from a dutch painter called Van Megren. After the war Van Megren was accused of selling art to Nazis, but to everyone’s surprise Van Megren showed that the painting was a fake (by drawing another copy). How did Göring react to these news? According to one contemporary account "[Göring] looked as if for the first time he had discovered there was evil in the world.

    What is the point of this story? The point is that though it really should not matter to anyone whether a painting is fake if one cannot tell that it is fake, it does. It matter to us a great deal. How we experience something depends on our beliefs. This holds true not only of art but also of music, water, food, wine, t-shirts etc. fMRI scans show that the brain activity of people when they are eating a certain item, differs depending on what they believe they are eating. This suggest that our beliefs about something really do influence our experience at a basic perceptual level. Our brains can process the same sensory input in different ways depending on beliefs. Indeed when tested in a blind test people are unable to distinguish pate from dog food and white wine from red wine.

    Paul Bloom goes through many different areas in life from where we drive pleasure. These subjects include but are not limited to sex, alcohol, cannibalism, imagination, watching TV, reading etc. Bloom is a master when it comes to finding illustrative and entertaining examples and anecdotes to drive home his point which consistently seem to be that we get pleasure from what we believe is the essence of things.

    As I have already mentioned I would have liked a broader discussion of pleasure. I would also have liked a longer discussion about the concept of pleasure and how it is different from say happiness. This should have been no problem for Bloom because he gives excellent lectures on the topic of happiness at Yale. As I have already hinted at I would also have liked a deeper discussion about the more philosophical aspects surrounding pleasure. Too often Bloom gets lost in admittedly entertaining anecdotes and then forgets to sum up the lessons that can be learned from these anecdotes.

    However, overall “How pleasure works” is a good book that is almost certain to give the reader food for thought as well as a good laugh. Bloom is an entertaining writer and speaker (I do recommend his lectures which can be found on Yale’s homepage), and even though I have a BSc in Psychology I learned many things and I got a thorough introduction to essentialism.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Why Are You Atheists So Angry?: 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs)
    • By Greta Christina
    • Narrated By Greta Christina
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (309)
    Performance
    (275)
    Story
    (274)

    Why are atheists angry? Is it because they're selfish, joyless, lacking in meaning, and alienated from God? Or is it because they have legitimate reasons to be angry - and are ready to do something about it? Armed with passionate outrage, absurdist humor, and calm intelligence, popular blogger Greta Christina makes a powerful case for outspoken atheist activism, and explains the empathy and justice that drive it. This accessible, personal, down-to-earth book speaks not only to atheists, but also to believers who want to understand the so-called new atheism.

    Erik says: "I didn't need to listen to this book"
    "Forgettable book, even though I agree with everyth"
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    This book begins with a collection of 100 reasons why religion, generally speaking, stinks. Almost all reasons given fall into one of the three following categories: 1) Religious people behaving badly (ex systematic child molesting) 2) Religious people receiving special treatment (ex people excused because they've dice something for religious reasons and 3) non religious people being discriminated against (ex can't get elected president). These 100 reasons are presented in a rather haphazard unstructured way. Moreover, because 100 reasons are presented in a short amount of space, don’t expect any depth of analysis. Most reasons are just 1-4 sentences. To take a few examples:

    Atheists are angry because…
    - 53 percent of Americans don’t want an atheist president
    - Because the catholic church protected child rapists from being prosecuted
    - 9/11
    - 40% of Utah homeless people are outcast gays
    - That polite atheists are deemed intolerant
    - Writing about your atheist opinion can [in some countries] result in death

    To be fair to G.Christina, she does acknowledge that her list is unstructured and that there is a lot more to all of the arguments. The list I suppose could be seen more as a starting point for further discussions. It also provides many reminders for atheist readers such as myself about all the things that are wrong with religion.

    Beyond the list, the book provides answers to some frequently asked questions that are typically directed at atheists, such as “isn’t atheism just another religion?”, or “why do you not make a clear distinction between moderate religious practitioners and fundamentalists?”. As such this book can provide interested readers with a somewhat shallow overview explaining why atheists don't like religion. However, compared to The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins (which is probably trumped by other books), this is an inferior book in almost every respect. The God Delusion does everything that this book does, only better, and it is also more well written. The one advantage that this book have is that it is shorter. So, if you have a tight schedule this book might be an alternative. However, even in the short introduction to atheism category, a better alternative is Sam Harris book, letter to a christian nation which drives home the same points in a more powerful and coherent way.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Hampton Sides
    • Narrated By Don Leslie
    Overall
    (392)
    Performance
    (152)
    Story
    (155)

    In the fall of 1846, the venerable Navajo warrior Narbona, greatest of his people's chieftains, looked down upon the small town of Santa Fe, the stronghold of the Mexican settlers he had been fighting his whole long life. He had come to see if the rumors were true, if an army of blue-suited soldiers had swept in from the East and utterly defeated his ancestral enemies.

    russell says: "Unforgettable"
    "Decent, but too long"
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    This book describes what happened in western Mexico (later the United States) between approximately 1845 and 1865. The United States sought to expand their territory so that it would stretch from the Atlantic ocean to the Pacific ocean, but Mexico stood in the way. In the resulting conflict Kit Carson, the protagonist in this book, rose to prominence.

    The title and the setting made me think that this book would be full of exhilarating action. Sure enough there was some action but there was a lot of drawn out stories in between, some of which were superfluous. While Kit Carson is the protagonist the reader will also learn about Narbona, the famous leader of the Navajo, general Kearny who lead the american army against the mexicans, as well as a number of other surrounding characters. The fact that the book is temporally organized means that the books jumps around a lot between the different characters.

    Still despite the hap-hazard feel sometimes associated with this book, there are also some buried gold-grains. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the history of California. It is an astonishing fact that only a 150 years ago it was a sparsely inhabited and dangerous desert. I was also fascinated by the description of the Indians and how they thought and felt when they encountered the modern american military.

    For the reader that seeks an in depth description of the main characters in the Mexican war, including their pre war biographies, this book is a good option. For me, it was too long.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing 'Hoax'

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Philip Plait
    • Narrated By Kevin Scullin
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (528)
    Performance
    (400)
    Story
    (402)

    Dr. Philip C. Plait sets the record straight on many modern hoaxes and myths. Appalled that millions of Americans don't believe in the moon landing, or that an egg stands on its end only on the vernal equinox, Plait hilariously spills the truth and informs us of scientific inaccuracies in our everyday vernacular.

    Steven says: "Answers to the astronomy questions that matter."
    "Learn the basic facts about basic astronomy"
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    Having taken a university course in astronomy and astrophysics I did not expect to learn much from this book. Instead I thought that this would be a good rehearsal of the things I had learned previously. I was therefore surprised, in a good way, that this book taught me many things that I did not know. Even though it only deal with relatively basic concepts in astronomy (the book can really be read by everyone), it goes into a lot of detail and Phil Plait really tries to help the reader grasp the basic concepts.

    For instance while I know that there are tides and that they have something to do with the moon, I did not know that there are two tides per day, and why it is so. I also knew that seasons are linked to the angle with which sunlight hits a particular part of earth, but the full story is, as you will learn if you read this book, more complex than that.

    As Phil Plait writes in this book, many people seem to know things that aren’t true, and astronomy is no exception to this. Journalists and movie directors should take some blame for this given that they promote astrology ahead of astronomy and given that movies all too frequently get the science all wrong. The reader of this book will enhance their bullshit detector when it comes to sci-fi movies, and who doesn’t love the person who points out all the errors in a movie :). Just to take one example, space ships cannot make sounds in space because there is no molecules that sound can propagate through...

    This book is for people who know nothing about astronomy and for those who think they know everything about astronomy.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Susan Cain
    • Narrated By Kathe Mazur
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (4255)
    Performance
    (3674)
    Story
    (3649)

    At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled "quiet," it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society--from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer.

    Teddy says: "Thought provoking and Uplifting.... A++++++++!!!!!"
    "Confidence booster for introverts their parents"
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    I thought long about whether I should give this book 4 or 5 stars because there were certain aspect of the book that I did not like. Some central assertions were based almost entirely on anecdotes. I realize that it is a powerful way to drive home your message, but it can also be disingenuous - appealing to people’s emotion. I was also not very pleased with Cain’s description of the neuroscience. She made it seem as though the almond sized amygdala was all there was in the brain and that whether or not this part of the brain lit up under certain circumstances was all important. Yes, yes, I am a cerebellar scientist and am therefore probably overreacting here, but I would have preferred that the neuroscience was left out instead of receiving this very biased account.

    Ok, enough of the bad stuff. I did after all give this book 5 stars (which is rare for me). The reason for this is that this book is one of few books I have read in my life that really made me see things, especially myself, in a new light. While I consider myself to be a rather social person who gets along with others I also have many introvert traits. During my time at University I really did not like the weekends because I felt that I had to go out and drink and dance not to be considered strange. I have also always been a little bit ashamed that I can be a “coward”. At least that is how I would have described it to myself before reading this book. Now I prefer to use the terms cautious. I am also a highly adaptable person and I can to some extent transform my behavior based on the circumstances. Again, before reading this book I saw this as being a disingenuous person. After all, you should be who you are and stand up for your ideals no matter what the circumstances, right? While I used to think this I do not anymore. It would be absolutely terrible if everyone spoke their mind all the time. The world needs people who can work in different circumstances, people like me. I guess what I am trying to say in this paragraph is that before I read this book I had consciously and unconsciously bought the extrovert ideal that is so prevalent in our society. I had seen all my introvert traits as weaknesses that I had to combat and conceal. This book made me see that these traits can work to my advantage and it helped me find the proper middle ground where I can better assess my own personality, my strengths and my weaknesses. If you are also an introvert or have introvert kids I really really think you should read this book!

    Overall the book is well structures, easy to read and of a good length. Cain starts out by describing the extrovert ideal. To drive this message home (though I think it is a fairly obvious point) she describes a day at a Tony Robbins event where everyone is dancing, speaking with deep confident voices, doing high fives and walking on coal etc. Cain, who is an introvert feels awkward under these circumstances (as would I), and she is not ashamed of it. She states what should be obvious but strangely isn’t, that the world needs people with different qualities. Indeed, under certain circumstances it is better to be more quiet and less assertive. According to studies Cain describes bosses with highly skilled employees are better of if they are introverts, probably because being more quiet allows them to better harvest the qualities and ideas of the employees. Cain also talks about the power of working alone. As one illustrative example, take brainstorming which is normally done in small groups. Actually studies show that you get a better brainstorm if people are allowed to come up with ideas on their own which are later pooled. In certain situations, a group of people can be a constraint rather than a benefit. She also brings up several examples which have been founded by introverts such as Apple, Microsoft, and Google. Though these are huge companies it is hard to tell whether these examples are representative of the overall picture. Nevertheless, there can be little doubt that qualities such as cautiousness, empathy and conscientiousness can be very good qualities to have in some companies. Cain suggests that in some cases introverts can even hold aggressive stances in negotiations because they are less likely to antagonize the other part the way an extrovert outspoken person might.

    In the remainder of the book Cain writes about the nature nurture debate (it bothered me that she seems to presume that free will exists, but I forgive her), and about different examples where temperament mattered (ex Wall street crash). The last three chapters serve as a type of guide to introverts and to parents of introverts. What types of conflicts tend to happen between introverts and extroverts and how should these be solved? What strategies can introverts use to avoid falling off the earth altogether? To what extent do you push your introvert child to do extrovert things such as hold presentations? Cain suggest sensible answers to all of these questions and I think that many people would benefit from reading this, and they are genuinely encouraging to introverts and parents of introvert children. I found it encouraging for instance that introvert children are influenced by their parents more than extrovert children. Thus introvert children will benefit more from good parenting than extrovert children (which is nice to know if you are indeed a good parent).

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