Six Books We Overlooked in 2012

By Jill Suttie | January 11, 2013 | 1 comment

Good books about the science of meaningful life that we wish we had reviewed in 2012!

We get a lot of books at GGSC, and there are always good books we should have reviewed but just didn’t. For those of you who like to stay on top of the field of psychology or neuroscience, or who enjoy a good how-to book, consider picking up one of these:

Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, by David Eagleman

This book provides a fascinating explanation of how our experience of life is affected by our biology.  Many of us assume that our eyes are like cameras and our ears like tape recorders—perceiving reality as it is. But Eagleman, a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine, explains how most of what we experience through our senses is not “reality,” but a skewed version. Below our conscious awareness, our brains work to process sensory information and interpret it for us, deciding what we become consciously aware of, making predictions, and directing us toward taking action. His examination of how biology affects perception and behavior and what that might mean for culpability for criminals in our legal system, makes for thought-provoking reading.

Wait: The Art and Science of Delay, by Frank Partnoy

This book explains why those who master the art of waiting and allowing for delayed gratification are often more successful in life. Partnoy, a leading expert on market regulation, draws from neuroscience and psychological research to explain how slowing down our response time can help us make better decisions in business, sports, and everyday life.

Though counterintuitive, Partnoy suggests that procrastination can be a good thing, and making evaluations of situations and people based on subconscious, split-second assessments—e.g., seeing an attractive person and assuming they are trustworthy—can lead us astray.

Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back, by Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy

This book looks at how resilience—the ability to bounce back from bad news, disruption, or trauma—plays an important role in how individuals and complex social systems adapt to change. He reveals eight principles of resilience—including adaptation, agility, and cooperation, among others—and shows how practicing these can help us heal and reorganize in the face of adversity. His book is full of examples of people, organizations, and communities that foster resilience in order to survive in our ever-changing world, and he makes suggestions on how to apply their lessons to ourselves.

Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior, by Leonard Mlodinow

Similar to Incognito, this book gives us a picture of how unconscious processes shape our experience, with perhaps more of a focus on the social aspects of behavior than on perception. Mlodinow, a physics professor at the California Institute of Technology, explains why we can create memories of things that never happened, how we read social cues, and how we can become biased against a person because of our propensity to categorize objects and people using superficial input. His explanations of how emotions follow physiological responses and the connections between physical and emotional pain are particularly enlightening.

Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life, by Gretchen Rubin

A follow up to Rubin’s popular book, The Happiness Project, this book chronicles another of Rubin’s experiments (conducted on herself) to increase her happiness quotient. This time, she finds ways to improve her home life—her relationship with her spouse and children, her possessions, how she spends her time, etc.

Happier at Home provides ideas on how to slow down, savor the moment, build on intimacy, and conquer fear in order to bolster wellbeing. The author’s tenaciousness and inventiveness are an inspiration.

Peace in the Heart and Home: A Down-to-Earth Guide to Creating a Better Life for You and Your Loved Ones, by Charlette Mikulka

This is a good self-help book for those who are interested in how to reduce stress and to use mind-body techniques for improving emotional health. Mikulka, a chinical social worker, has written an accessible book for individuals, couples, and families that want to know how to apply the findings from neuroscience and contemplative wisdom to managing the emotional ups and downs of family life.

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About The Author

Jill Suttie, Psy.D., is Greater Good’s book review editor and a frequent contributor to the magazine.


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Thank you for these reviews Jill.  I can’t wait to read
Wait.  I seem to remember that most hiring decisions
are made in the first minute of an interview, and I
know from my own experience that this can be

Lance Reynolds | 11:24 am, January 23, 2013 | Link

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