recommended reading

Sunday, November 19th, 2006

what I’m reading right now

On Being Certain
by Robert A. Burton, MD
(St. Martin’s Press, 2008)
“Why are people so sure of themselves despite overwhelming evidence that they are often wrong?

By presenting a broad set of findings, ranging from the disciplines of neurobiology to social psychology, Burton argues that the feeling that we know something is most likely a biologically-based, involuntary, and unconscious process that cannot be trusted as a reliable marker that we are right.

Burton provides a compelling and thought-provoking case that we should be a bit more skeptical about our beliefs. He guides the reader toward a healthy suspicion about any claim that is framed in absolute terms. Indeed, this seems to be one of his primary objectives, viewing an attitude of absolute certainty as the root of many societal ills.”

 – Posted on Burton’s website as excerpts from Doubt Thyself, Seed Magazine, January-February 2008, by David Pizarro, professor of psychology at Cornell University.

books I’ve read and recommend

Emotional Intelligence
by Daniel Goleman

(Bantom, 1995)
“New York Times science writer Goleman argues that our emotions play a much greater role in thought, decision making and individual success than is commonly acknowledged. He defines “emotional intelligence” — a trait not measured by IQ tests — as a set of skills, including control of one’s impulses, self-motivation, empathy and social competence in interpersonal relationships. Although his highly accessible survey of research into cognitive and emotional development may not convince readers that this grab bag of faculties comprise a clearly recognizable, well-defined aptitude, his report is nevertheless an intriguing and practical guide to emotional mastery. In marriage, emotional intelligence means listening well and being able to calm down. In the workplace, it manifests when bosses give subordinates constructive feedback regarding their performance. Goleman also looks at pilot programs in schools from New York City to Oakland, Calif., where kids are taught conflict resolution, impulse control and social skills.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.”

Choice Theory
by William Glasser, MD

(HarperCollins, 1998)
“Southern California psychiatrist William Glasser believes that almost all human misery is caused by people trying to control others. In fact, he says, the only behavior we can control is our own; by the same token, no one can make us do anything we don’t want to. It’s only when we give up spending our energy trying to force others to conform to our ideas or to keep them from doing the same to us that we are able to live the way we want to.” –

Choice Theory (and the Seven Caring Habits) is offered to replace external control psychology (and the Seven Deadly Habits), the present psychology of almost all the people in the world. Unfortunately, this forcing, punishing psychology is destructive to relationships. When used in a relationship it will always destroy the ability of one or both to find satisfaction in that relationship, and will result in people becoming disconnected from those with whom they want to be connected. Disconnectedness is the source of almost all human problems, such as what is called mental illness, drug addiction, violence, crime, school failure, spousal and child abuse, to mention a few.” –

Tipping Point
by Malcolm Gladwell
(Little Brown and Company, 2000)
“It’s a book about change. In particular, it’s a book that presents a new way of understanding why change so often happens as quickly and as unexpectedly as it does. For example, why did crime drop so dramatically in New York City in the mid-1990′s? How does a novel written by an unknown author end up as national bestseller? Why do teens smoke in greater and greater numbers, when every single person in the country knows that cigarettes kill? Why is word-of-mouth so powerful? What makes TV shows like Sesame Street so good at teaching kids how to read? I think the answer to all those questions is the same. It’s that ideas and behavior and messages and products sometimes behave just like outbreaks of infectious disease. They are social epidemics. The Tipping Point is an examination of the social epidemics that surround us.”

by Malcolm Gladwell
(Little Brown and Company, 2005)
“It’s a book about rapid cognition, about the kind of thinking that happens in a blink of an eye. When you meet someone for the first time, or walk into a house you are thinking of buying, or read the first few sentences of a book, your mind takes about two seconds to jump to a series of conclusions. Well, “Blink” is a book about those two seconds, because I think those instant conclusions that we reach are really powerful and really important and, occasionally, really good.

“In “Blink” I’m trying to understand those two seconds. What is going on inside our heads when we engage in rapid cognition? When are snap judgments good and when are they not? What kinds of things can we do to make our powers of rapid cognition better?”

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
by Jared Diamond
(New York: Viking, 2005)
“The broad premise of Diamond’s book is that it deals with “societal collapses involving an environmental component, and in some cases also contributions of climate change, hostile neighbors, and trade partners, plus questions of societal responses”. In writing the book Diamond intended that its readers should learn from history.”

Urban Design Compendium
(English Partnerships in partnership with The Housing Corporation, 2000)
“Published in partnership with The Housing Corporation, the Compendium examines the factors that make neighbourhoods stimulating and active places in which residents feel comfortable and safe. It aims to provide accessible advice to developers, funding agencies and partners on the achievement and assessment of the quality of urban design for the development and regeneration of urban areas. It is designed to provide a source of best practice to all those involved in the regeneration and development industries.”

Great Streets
by Allan B. Jacobs
(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995)
“Jacobs has observed what makes a street and its intersections great – or not. In Great Streets, he analyzes the qualities and quantities that characterize great streets around the world: buildings of similar height, interesting facades, trees, windows that invite viewing, intersections, beginnings and endings, stopping places and space for leisurely walking. By studying great streets in extreme detail, he has identified these factors as necessary to transform streets into better public realms. At the same time, Jacobs warns that even with these features, great streets are ultimately shaped through the ‘magic of design.’

“If we can develop and design streets so that they are wonderful, fulfilling places to be – community-building places, attractive for all people – then we will have successfully designed about one-third of the city directly and will have had an immense impact on the rest.”

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community
by Robert D. Putnam
(New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000)
“In a groundbreaking book based on vast new data, Putnam shows how we have become increasingly disconnected from family, friends, neighbors, and our democratic structures– and how we may reconnect.

“Putnam warns that our stock of social capital – the very fabric of our connections with each other, has plummeted, impoverishing our lives and communities. Putnam draws on evidence including nearly 500,000 interviews over the last quarter century to show that we sign fewer petitions, belong to fewer organizations that meet, know our neighbors less, meet with friends less frequently, and even socialize with our families less often. We’re even bowling alone. More Americans are bowling than ever before, but they are not bowling in leagues. Putnam shows how changes in work, family structure, age, suburban life, television, computers, women’s roles and other factors have contributed to this decline.”

How to Argue and Win Every Time
by Gerry Spence
(St. Martin’s Press, N.Y. 1995)
“How to Argue and Win Every Time is a book that teaches you how to argue in everyday life—at home, in the bedroom, with the boss, with teachers, and with your kids. But it is also a book with sweeping implications for American society, for at its heart, it proposes a new philosophy—that winning is not what you think it is and that your enemy’s loss may be your loss as well.”

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