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Publisher's Summary

A leading brain scientist's look at the neurobiology of pleasure - and how pleasures can become addictions. Whether eating, taking drugs, engaging in sex, or doing good deeds, the pursuit of pleasure is a central drive of the human animal. In The Compass of Pleasure Johns Hopkins neuroscientist David J. Linden explains how pleasure affects us at the most fundamental level: in our brain. As he did in his award-winning book, The Accidental Mind, Linden combines cutting-edge science with entertaining anecdotes to illuminate the source of the behaviors that can lead us to ecstasy but that can easily become compulsive. Why are drugs like nicotine and heroin addictive while LSD is not? Why has the search for safe appetite suppressants been such a disappointment? The Compass of Pleasure concludes with a provocative consideration of pleasure in the future, when it may be possible to activate our pleasure circuits at will and in entirely novel patterns.

©2011 David J. Linden (P)2011 Gildan Media Corp

Critic Reviews

“Linden's conversational style, his abundant use of anecdotes, and his successful coupling of wit with insight makes the book a joy to read.” (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall

Holy smokes! This is a clinical journal.

This is a great book if you are looking for a clinical understanding behind the motivation of pleasure. I was looking forward to gaining an understanding of what drives our pleasures. But, this book was not meant for the common reader. It is technical and extremely detailed.

16 of 18 people found this review helpful

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Great technical, mediocre presentation

If you could sum up The Compass of Pleasure in three words, what would they be?

This book discusses the dopamine pleasure circuit in the brain and the differences between how different human behaviors (eating, taking drugs, nicotine, gambling, exercise) manipulate this circuit and can lead to addiction. The discussion was highly technical but delivered at a level where a layman with some scientific background can understand.

What did you like best about this story?

I found the sections on exercise and food cravings very interesting and highly relevant. I always found it amazing that I felt great during and after exercise, but I could never seem to get motivated to do it. Now I understand a little better the underlying biological mechanisms behind this.

Would you listen to another book narrated by Sean Pratt?

Not if I can help it. The delivery of the narrator was not that inspiring and I often found myself realizing 5 minutes later that I had daydreamed and not taken in the content. Needless to say, the rewind button came in very handy.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Although, no one in my family suffers from addiction, the section which discusses addiction makes me much more empathetic with people who are addicted to drugs.

Any additional comments?

I wish they had gone further into the physiology of how food chemistry can affect both flavor and cravings.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

Mechanics of Pleasure & Addiction

Focused on neuroscientific explanation of physiological mechanisms of pleasure, particularly dopamine circuits, and addictions. Though the book is organized into chapters around the topics listed in the subtitle, each topic is just a another way to look at Linden's main underlying theses, and those (e.g. the addiction process) are of primary interest and worth pondering over. The individual topic chapters then vary in quality based on how strongly the underlying idea is presented, and I think the book peaks somewhat in its first half because by then Linden has explained the thrust of his arguments. Still, he chose some great examples to illustrate.

12 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • morton
  • Rego Park, NY, United States
  • 06-29-11

A Pleasure to Listen To!

Witty, insightful and informative, The Compass of Pleasure is a great audio. Scientific concepts are easily explained and interspersed with abundant, entertaining anecdotes, as Linden explains how pleasurable activities can easily become compulsive. I loved listening to this fascinating book and recommend it highly.

12 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Steve
  • Puyallup, WA, United States
  • 03-05-12

Moderately interesting

Would you try another book from David J. Linden and/or Sean Pratt?

The book gives a technical description of the habits we see in ourselves and others. The interesting part showed how genetics and other drugs affect compulsive behavior. I felt that the book could have included more annedotes so there would be more of a story line.

Would you ever listen to anything by David J. Linden again?

Not likely

What three words best describe Sean Pratt’s voice?

inoffensively modulated monotone

Was The Compass of Pleasure worth the listening time?

yes

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Eric
  • Maui, Hawaii, United States
  • 01-15-12

Like a text book

I'm usually the guy that complains that technical aspects of many books are too dumbed down. Not this time. You will hear the names of a jillion neurotransmitters, drugs, parts of the brains, synaptic this, receptor that, and reuptake do-dads. I quickly learned not to go back when I was fuzzy in some neuroscience topic. It'll be repeated anyway. Even the narriator had trouble navigating through the medical terms. The author's humor is unimaginative, and basically just interspersed for shock value and to wake up readers. All said, it was interesting, but not useful, and not a relaxing listen. A similar and much more enjoyable audiobook is The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, by Malcolm Gladwell.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Sorcery! Blew my mind.

There is so much to learn. No really, there is so much to learn from actual studies. It's addictive. You want to know what makes ppl tick? Best presentation yet.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Informative, great listen for a lay audience

I think this book, or Linden's other book "The Accidental Mind" are great introductions to recents developments in neuroscienctific research.
A friend of mine who is finishing his PhD in the subject was surprised that I grasped the more salient topics of current research into oxytocin, which I learned partially thanks to this book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Not bad

I got interested in neuroscience over ten years ago, and it seems the latest trend in books is to put neuroscience or brain in the title and serve up many of the same studies and ideas that you can read in a lot of places and spin it in some way.

All in all this book was fairly good, though again, there was not much here I had not heard about or read somewhere else. I did not like that much the overly familiar or slang language and terms that were sometimes used to make the topic seem more relevant, but it was not excessive and it did fit the topics.

I did not think the book was too technical by far. There was a lot of talk about neurotransmitters and chemistry and brain structures, but the case is made early on that a little bit of that is necessary and in my opinion there was not enough. Enough to make it seem technical, but the processes and ways our brains work is not understood and the descriptions given were not that valuable to me. Of course no diagrams or maps in the audio edition.

I am fascinated by this subject and try to read anything that seems like it will offer some new information of viewpoint ... so I am bound to run into some repetition and mediocre offerings.

6 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Very technical

Great insight to the chemical and physical reasons behind pleasure but not entertaining unless you are a clinician.