Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior (Leonard Mlodinow)

4.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Well-written, clearly planned and researched book on how our subconscious often has undue influence over what we believe are logically-driven, thought-through decisions. There’s a nice blend of information with anecdote which will be appealing to most readers. Strict scientists will probably occasionally be annoyed by the use of overarching summation instead of strict numbers and statistics, and non-scientists might sometimes wish for a little more to be grounded in friendly anecdotes. Overall, I found this to be a nice blend of science and well-written non-fiction.

Greater Detail:
Mlodinow starts by using a series of anecdotes and past experiments to help ground you in the history of what eventually becomes brain and cognitive science/neuroscience and lays the foundation for quite a bit of marketing madness that has happened over the past couple of decades. We go from some basic definitions (like what does subliminal actually mean) to how the “science” behind this field slowly grew from pseudo-science to a respected, hot-topic field.

A lot of the history shared was interesting, even if you have taken those intro psychology courses — he goes through everything from some of Freud’s less famous early starts to some better-known experiments in the field (everything from Coke vs. Pepsi to reward pathways in our brain and how we often trick ourselves).

I found a lot of the historical asides to be fascinating (especially as they relate to how the field gradually became established) though the beginning sections were more interesting than some of the middle chapters (which I felt meandered a bit).

A very quick, informative, thought-provoking read overall: enough to make you question the validity of this visceral instincts that sometimes guide us (that are perhaps just an unconscious but active processing of subliminal cues) and also make you wonder how much our senses and logic fool us…

Comparison to Other Books:
This is like a far more science-based version of a book like The Power of Habit, and a far less technical version of something like Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow. It’s a really nice blend of science and story-telling, and will definitely make you wonder about just how you’re making your day-to-day decisions.

The Housing Trap: How Buyers Are Captured And Abused And How To Defend Yourself (Patrick Killelea)

1 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
While there are some interesting things in this book, and parts of it are educational (at least to me, since I have never before read things about mortgages, buying houses, various associations of realtors, etc), it is more of a rant than a traditional book. For every piece of interesting information and/or analysis, there are lots and lots of rants about how realtors are basically evil, debt is the new form of slavery, etc, as well as a healthy dose of misogyny… which is a shame, since the interesting parts were actually educational.

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Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success: Building Blocks For a Better Life (John Wooden and Jay Carty)

2.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is half mini-Coach Wooden life lessons, combined with spiritual guidance from a pastor… with space for you, the reader, to journal in between about how you’re going to follow a particular piece of advice: how you’re going to apply the concept of industriousness, what the Bible teaches us about hard work, etc. I found both sections (from both Coach Wooden and Pastor Carty) to just be too brief; nothing really delves beyond the surface, and so it wasn’t really the book for me. (Also, if you’re looking for a more Wooden-centric book, this isn’t really it — it’s more spiritual/Biblical than about Wooden’s system.)

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The Baby Names Almanac 2013 (Emily Larson)

2 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Though it’s a fairly detailed list of names and brief descriptions of their meanings, there isn’t really much else this book offers (though then again, it’s called a baby names almanac, so it really, what I was I expecting?) It’s not a complete list (though again, that would be hard), and can be a good starting point for parents trying to pick a name, but in many ways, I think internet lists or even census lists will be just as informative…

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Would it Kill You to Stop Doing That? A Modern Guide to Manners (Henry Alford)

0.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This meandering, long-winded, only occasionally amusing book sorely tested my patience. Though I normally have a high tolerance for fluff, and find myself interested in and by a variety of genres and writing styles, I found this book truly hard to finish: points that could have been made in one sentence would drag on for pages, and I was so irritated by the end that I was tempted to act out, to go through some of the pet peeves/ examples of poor manners listed in the book just to vent some steam. Ultimately, even if you agree that “Thanks, Henry!” should never be shortened to “thx,” that email has given us a convenient excuse to write more aggressively and gossip more than we would normally, or that there are certain rules of polite society that should be observed, you end up not caring by the end of this book.  I’ve never read a book on etiquette before, and now, I’m not sure if I ever can again…
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