4 Star Books · biology · Book Reviews · non fiction · psychology

The Molecule of More: How a Single Chemical in the Brain Drives Love, Sex and Creativity – – and Will Determine the Fate of the Human Race by Daniel Z. Lieberman, Michael E. Long

 

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The Molecule of More: How a Single Chemical in the Brain Drives Love, Sex and Creativity – – and Will Determine the Fate of the Human Race by Daniel Z. Lieberman, Michael E. Long

Published: August 14, 2018

Publisher: BenBella Books

Pages: 240

Genres: non fiction, biology, psychology

Rating: 4 stars

Recommend to fans of: learning about psychology and biology, figuring out how things work, human behavior

Foodie Vibes: chocolate to light up those dopamine centers in your brain

 

Synopsis: 

Why are we obsessed with the things we want only to be bored when we get them?

Why is addiction perfectly logical to an addict?

Why does love change so quickly from passion to indifference?

Why are some people die-hard liberals and others hardcore conservatives?

Why are we always hopeful for solutions even in the darkest times—and so good at figuring them out?

The answer is found in a single chemical in your brain: dopamine. Dopamine ensured the survival of early man. Thousands of years later, it is the source of our most basic behaviors and cultural ideas—and progress itself.

Dopamine is the chemical of desire that always asks for more—more stuff, more stimulation, and more surprises. In pursuit of these things, it is undeterred by emotion, fear, or morality. Dopamine is the source of our every urge, that little bit of biology that makes an ambitious business professional sacrifice everything in pursuit of success, or that drives a satisfied spouse to risk it all for the thrill of someone new. Simply put, it is why we seek and succeed; it is why we discover and prosper. Yet, at the same time, it’s why we gamble and squander.

From dopamine’s point of view, it’s not the having that matters. It’s getting something—anything—that’s new. From this understanding—the difference between possessing something versus anticipating it—we can understand in a revolutionary new way why we behave as we do in love, business, addiction, politics, religion—and we can even predict those behaviors in ourselves and others.

In The Molecule of More: How a Single Chemical in Your Brain Drives Love, Sex, and Creativity—and will Determine the Fate of the Human Race, George Washington University professor and psychiatrist Daniel Z. Lieberman, MD, and Georgetown University lecturer Michael E. Long present a potentially life-changing proposal: Much of human life has an unconsidered component that explains an array of behaviors previously thought to be unrelated, including why winners cheat, why geniuses often suffer with mental illness, why nearly all diets fail, and why the brains of liberals and conservatives really are different.

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, BenBella Books, Daniel Z. Lieberman and Michael E. Long for an ebook copy for review. As always, an honest review from me.

I learned so much from this book. It was absolutely fascinating!

We’ve all heard about dopamine. It interacts with the reward centers in the brain and explains why we keep seeking more and more. Even when we’re already happy. I learned even more about dopamine and the role it plays in so many more experience than I realized. From solving problems and dreaming, struggles in relationships, political affiliations, and even from an evolutionary standpoint.

The beginning was more an explanation of how dopamine functions and the role in the brain. It was a necessary foundation, but not particularly fascinating. The rest of the chapters were much more interesting. However I didn’t completely agree with everything. Neurotransmitters definitely play a role in human behavior. The studies even prove it. But there is some element of human choice that the book doesn’t discuss. We’re human beings and not just a bunch of chemicals and electrical activity.

Overall, a fascinating look at the role dopamine has on human behavior. Learned a lot and even found myself stopping to read aloud interesting passages to the people around me. 

 

Who else likes to read about psychology?

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4.5 Star Books · biography · Book Reviews · True Crime

The Crate: A Story of War, Murder and Justice by Deborah Vadas Levison

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The Crate: A Story of War, Murder and Justice by Deborah Vadas Levison

Published: May 11, 2018

Publisher: WildBlue Press

Pages: 358

Genres: true crime, biography

Rating: 4.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: true crime, books that honor and tell the stories of Holocaust survivors, justice being done, anyone with a conscience 

Read with food: a homemade Hungarian dish to appreciate the author’s roots . . . which I recently found out that the author has listed on her website! So cool! Hungarian Recipes

 

Synopsis:

After surviving the horrors of the Holocaust – in ghettos, on death marches, and in concentration camps – a young couple seeks refuge in Canada. They settle into a new life, certain that the terrors of their past are behind them. They build themselves a cozy little cottage on a lake in Muskoka, a cottage that becomes emblematic of their victory over the Nazis. The charming retreat is a safe haven, a refuge from haunted memories.

That is, until a single act of unspeakable violence defiles their sanctuary. Poking around the dark crawl space beneath their cottage, they discover a wooden crate, nailed tightly shut and almost hidden from view. Nothing could have prepared them for the horror of the crate’s contents – or how the peace and tranquility of their lives would be shattered.

Now, their daughter, Deborah Vadas Levison, an award-winning journalist, tells the extraordinary account of her parents’ ordeals, both in one of the darkest times in world history and their present-day lives. Written in searing, lyrical prose, THE CRATE: A Story Of War, A Murder, And Justice examines man’s seemingly limitless capacity for evil… but also, his capacity for good.

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, the author and publisher for a copy of the book. As always an honest review.

I cannot say enough wonderful things about the book. I’ve already recommended it to people, even before I had finished reading it. I will try my best to do the book and the people the justice it deserves in my review.

From the beginning I was blown away by the gorgeous poetic writing. I was captivated from beginning to end, as the author tells the story of her parents’ survival of the Holocaust, move to Canada, and eventual discovery of a woman murdered on their cottage property. The Crate is more than just the telling of crimes across history and their impact on people. It’s so impactful it’s almost intangible.

The author shares with us the stories of her childhood growing up in Canada with Jewish Hungarian parents who had survived the Holocaust. Through their stories we get a first hand look at the atrocities committed during the war, the strength of survivors, and effects these experiences had on their lives and their children’s lives. Her appreciation of her parents and their experiences is wonderful. She’s doing them a great justice by putting their stories down on paper. It is absolutely important that these stories, these individual human experiences are shared with the world before they are lost forever.

The book also tells the story of Samantha, the woman who was murdered and body was found hidden under the family’s cottage. The author related Samantha’s life experiences to some of the atrocities her parents experienced. After all, they’re all just human beings. The book honors Samantha’s memory. The chapters about Samantha didn’t pull me in as much as the rest. Possible because while they’re well researched, some aspects are not the author’s personal life experiences.

The book is incredibly insightful and does a great justice by telling the stories of her parents, the other Jewish people in the Holocaust, Samantha, and her family.
It shows humanity at its best and at its worst.
The Crate by Deborah Vadas Levison is on my unofficial must read book list of the year.

 

What books have absolutely impressed you lately?

 

4.5 Star Books · Book Reviews · Humorous Fiction · Realistic Fiction

Book Review: Adequate Yearly Progress by Roxanna Elden

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Adequate Yearly Progress by Roxanna Elden

Published by River Street Books on August 1, 2018

Pages: 319

Genres: realistic fiction, humorous fiction 

Rating: 4.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: workplace settings, socially relevant novels, realistic fiction 

Read with food: cheetos~ the real thing not that baked stuff 

 

Synopsis: 

From the mundane to the insane, Adequate Yearly Progress captures the teaching experience with insight, humor, and heart.

Each year brings familiar educational challenges to Brae Hill Valley, a struggling urban high school in Texas. But the school’s teachers face plenty of challenges of their own. English teacher Lena Wright, a spoken-word poet with a deep love for her roots, can never seem to satisfy her students that she’s for real. Hernan D. Hernandez is confident in front of his biology classes, yet tongue-tied around the woman he most wants to impress: namely, Lena. Down the hall, math teacher Maybelline Galang focuses on the numbers as she blocks out problems whose solutions aren’t so clear, while Coach Ray hustles his football team toward another winning season, at least on the field. Recording it all is idealistic history teacher Kaytee Mahoney, whose blog gains new readers by the day but drifts ever further from her in-class reality.
And this year, a new celebrity superintendent is determined to leave his own mark on the school—even if that means shutting the whole place down. The fallout will shake up the teachers’ lives both inside and outside the classroom.

Review: 

Thank you to NetGalley, the author and publisher for a copy of the book. As always, an honest review. 

Adequate Yearly Progress accurately captures what I would imagine it’s like to work in an inner city high school. The story starts out a few days before the beginning of the school year. There’s a new superintendent who is ready to make some changes. Maybe with the students’ best interests at heart, but definitely with an enormous lack of experience in the school setting. It sets up what’s bound to be an eventful school year. 

The chapters are told from different teachers points of view. This choice keeps the book fresh, interesting, and moving along quickly. The reader also gets a well rounded perspective of all the happenings within the high school. We mainly follow Lena, Hernan, Maybelline and the football coach. I like that the characters are diverse regarding gender, age, race, and life experiences. The story is a discussion about life in and out of the classroom. I really appreciated when the story would show the rich complex inner lives of the teachers. A great combination of serious and funny. I also liked the inclusion of one teacher’s blog posts. I found it fun, modern, and added an additional perspective. 

Most of the book was amazing; there were a few aspects that I didn’t enjoy as much. A few of the teachers bothered me, personality wise. It’s in keeping with a realistic perspective of a school, but they could still really annoy me at times. Also, the ending of the school year seemed a little rushed. However the teachers’ personal lives were well paced. 

Overall I really enjoyed getting to know the teachers in Adequate Yearly Progress. A humorous, realistic perspective of teaching with all of its challenges and wonderful moments.

Definitely give this a read when it’s released! 

 

What are you favorite books about school?

 

What do they get right? What could they do better?

Book Reviews

The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery

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The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery

Published by: Atria Books on May 12, 2015

Pages: 261

Genres: non fiction, science, memoir

Rating: 4.5 stars

 

Synopsis: 

In this astonishing book from the author of the bestselling memoir The Good Good Pig, Sy Montgomery explores the emotional and physical world of the octopus’ surprisingly complex, intelligent, and spirited creature: and the remarkable connections it makes with humans.

Sy Montgomery’s popular 2011 Orion magazine piece, “Deep Intellect”; about her friendship with a sensitive, sweet-natured octopus named Athena and the grief she felt at her death, went viral, indicating the widespread fascination with these mysterious, almost alien-like creatures. Since then Sy has practiced true immersion journalism, from New England aquarium tanks to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, pursuing these wild, solitary shape-shifters. Octopuses have varied personalities and intelligence they show in myriad ways: endless trickery to escape enclosures and get food; jetting water playfully to bounce objects like balls; and evading caretakers by using a scoop net as a trampoline and running around the floor on eight arms. But with a beak like a parrot, venom like a snake, and a tongue covered with teeth, how can such a being know anything? And what sort of thoughts could it think?

The intelligence of dogs, birds, and chimpanzees was only recently accepted by scientists, who now are establishing the intelligence of the octopus, watching them solve problems and deciphering the meaning of their color-changing camouflage techniques. Montgomery chronicles this growing appreciation of the octopus, but also tells a love story. By turns funny, entertaining, touching, and profound, The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us about consciousness and the meeting of two very different minds.

Review: 

The Soul of an Octopus is incredibly fascinating! The author takes us along on her journey as she gets to know several of the octopuses who live at the New England Aquarium. I learned so much about these magnificent, intelligent, and mysterious creatures. Of course the book covers the basics such as the octopus life cycle, habitats, and behaviors.

What sets the book apart from others of the same genre is the passion for these magnificent creatures of the deep. The love for each octopus as an individual is evident as the reader gets to know, appreciate, and care about each octopus. They have individual personalities, not unlike humans and other animals. Through Athena, Octavia, Kali, and Karma the reader is able to experience a world often unknown. I felt extremely privileged to learn about each unique octopus.

The only sections of the book that I didn’t enjoy as much were the pages about scuba diving. These experiences were frustrating for the author, which I definitely picked up on. I’m also more of an animal lover, than a swimmer so that probably affected it too.

Overall, my sentiment for this book is best represented by my initial reaction . . . I found myself stopping within the first 30 pages to keep telling people around me, the new facts I had learned about octopuses.

 

Recommend to fans of: animals, the ocean, science, heartwarming stories, books that remind us of our humanity

Read with food: vegetarian sushi and a hot mug of green tea

Vegetarian sushi is a nice tribute to the sea life without eating our friends.

A hot mug of green tea pairs nicely with the sushi and will warm you up after reading about the cold sea water.