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review 2017-03-22 14:25
An inspiring book that will make you reconsider what life is about
The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters - Emily Esfahani Smith

Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin Random House UK, Ebury Publishing for providing me with an ARC copy of this book that I voluntarily chose to read and review.

I don’t read many inspirational books so I cannot share a deep analysis of how original the book might be or where it sits in regards to the topic. The book covers a variety of subjects, and it is classed under psychology and health, philosophy and self-help, and I agree it does touch on all those.

I’m a psychiatrist and I must admit I have never studied Positive Psychology as part of my degree but this book doesn’t require an in-depth knowledge of any of the disciplines to benefit from it.

The author opens the book by introducing herself, her background, and questioning the current focus on happiness. Is happiness sufficient to lead a satisfying life? She goes on to discuss many of the studies that show that having a sense of meaning can make a big difference to the outcomes of people at a time of crisis, be it a life-threatening illness or students going through exams, and grounds the readers in the subject. She uses one of the pillars she identifies as important to creating meaning, story-telling, to hook the readers into the topic of the book. If somebody came to you and asked you to give him (her) a reason not to kill him/herself, what would you say? That’s what happened to Will Durant and what set him off asking his colleagues and trying to understand what brings meaning to people’s lives. From there, and using positive psychology, Emily Esfahani Smith, defines the four pillars that bring meaning to people’s lives: belonging, purpose, story-telling and transcendence. The author illustrates each one of these topics with individual stories that help make the points more accessible. We have a young man who was only interested in money, became a drug dealer, and when he went to prison discovered his lifestyle was literally killing him. There he changed his habits and ended up not only becoming fit but also helping others to become healthier. We have a woman who loves animals and finds her purpose in looking after the animals in the zoo, ensuring their lives can be interesting there too. I learned about dream directors who help young people find purpose and meaning; I read about projects that help people in the final stages of life to find a purpose, other projects that help individuals tell their stories and record their experiences, groups that bring people who’ve lost somebody together… The author achieves this and more, all the while providing sources for her findings and reminders of how the issues discussed relate to philosophers and historical figures past and current. We might discover belonging by joining a society that enacts battles or find transcendence walking in nature or attending a special service at church. Ultimately, this is not a prescriptive book, and the process of discovery of meaning is an individual one.

I loved the stories, which go from individual experiences to projects that have grown and become important to many people, and the theoretical reflections that underpin the concepts, which are clearly explained and will also encourage readers new to the topic to explore further. The author succeeds in preserving the unique voices of the people whose experiences she shares and her own writing is seamlessly and beautifully achieved.  The book made me think and rethink life and its priorities and I suspect it will have a similar effect on many people.

A book on an important topic, written in an easily-accessible manner, illuminating and inspiring. Although I read it quickly for the review, this is a book that can be savoured and returned to as needed, and it will provide new discoveries and insights with every new reading.

A final note: Although the book appears quite long, the notes at the end occupy a 33% of the e-book (although they are easily accessible) and it does not feel like a long read.


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review 2017-02-28 04:21
Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight - Travis Langley

So, since I was a kid Batman has always been one of my favorite superheroes. Grew up with the cartoons, Subzero was one of my favorite movies, etc. I also love psychology, thus why I majored in it. So when I learned that there was a book on the psychology of Batman's universe, I knew I had to read it. 


As the title suggests, Batman and Psychology is about the psychology of the Dark Knight and other characters in the universe. Topics discussed are the love interests (Bats and Catwoman 5Ever!),  the different Robins and how their relationship with Bruce reflects him, and whether or not a man running around in a rubber suit is "crazy". 


There isn't actually a lot to say about this book. I liked it. I thought Langley did a wonderful job of explaining psychological theories and applying them to the characters in the universe. In particular, I loved how he operationalized Batman, since that's the first thing we learned in my Quantitative Research Methods class. It was very scientific and covered all different areas of psychology, from personality theory to abnormal psychology to attachment theory. It also gave me new insights into many of my favorite characters, which I believe will make reading the comics (something I plan to actually start doing) more enjoyable. 


It's hard to say how accessible this book is to someone not familiar with psychology and it's theories since I had already studied most of what was discussed. I do think Langley explained things in a simple way without dumbing it down. In some ways that did bug me, since I did already understand them and so would have liked less explanation of the theory itself and more on how it applies. So it's a Catch-22, I think, since I think if he had skipped things then laypeople wouldn't understand. There were also sections that got a little dull, just because of how much explanation there was, though it wasn't too horrible. 


Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars. I might not read it cover to cover again for a while, but I'll definitely be referring to it and rereading specific sections. 

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review 2017-02-27 23:53
Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight - Travis Langley

At long last I am done! At work now so I'll post a more complete review when I get home. Just happy I finally finished.

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text 2017-01-28 04:32
Reading progress update: I've read 70 out of 352 pages.
Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight - Travis Langley

Like the dark knight, this book rises again on my reading list. I've been reading it on my breaks at work. I will get this one done! It's my 2017 goal. 

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review 2017-01-26 15:06
Ten Days in a Mad House by Nellie Bly
Ten Days in a Mad-House - Nellie Bly

I probably would have liked reading Bly’s landmark investigative journalism more if this edition didn’t include a host of similar articles at the end with titles like “Nellie Bly as a White Slave.” A better description would be “Nellie Bly Doesn’t Realize References and Work Experience is Important, Shocked to Discover Entry Jobs Universally Suck.”

The true meat of TEN DAYS IN A MAD-HOUSE isn’t the lackluster reporting Nellie Bly did on factory girls and servant agencies, but her undercover work in one of the toughest mental wards in New York City. It’s not hard to see why Bly’s articles spurned on immense reform after their original publication, as Bly’s experiences with the rampant mistreatment of the 1880s’ medical world feel shocking even to this day. In addition to the truly appalling conditions she and her fellow inmates were forced to endure, the nurses openly tortured and gaslighted their charges to the point that any relatively sane woman swiftly found themselves spiraling into mental breakdowns. The doctors, unaware the “mad” complaints made about their nurses had any factual basis, felt justified in keeping their “delusional” charges locked up forever in consequence.

At the same time, I find myself loathe to side with Bly’s conclusions about her stay and fellow inmates. Either due to her stylistic flair or completely unrealistic expectations, she puts just as much emphasis on like bad tasting tea as she does literal torture—in fact, she spends more time complaining the food than everything else combined. Furthermore, she’s quick to assume everyone around her is completely rational and sane after only a conversation or two, so long as they don’t exhibit anything short of violent or hysterical behavior. Armchair psychology might have been the bee’s knees for a sensations reporter in the nineteenth century, but it reads as wildly ignorant now. Granted, it’s better than the doctor’s “madness measurements” and eye exams, but not by much.

Is the book and Nellie Bly’s journalism worthy of respect and acclaim? Of course. Is it also dated and biased? Yes. It wouldn’t surprise me if Nellie Bly is the reason that ~*Victorian women were committed for anything all the time because they had no rights!*~ garbage is still preached as truth to this day. But it’s an agenda piece about genuine problems, written with a respectable goal in mind and it led to important healthcare reforms afterward. Worth a read if the subject matter interests you.

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