PT Bookshelf

Book reviews on social labels, emotional negotiation, consumer psychology and more.

By PT Staff, published on November 1, 2005 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Us and Them: Understanding Your Tribal Mind

By David Berreby (Little, Brown)

We leap to categorize people, whether as cranky old men, right-wing zealots, Visigoths or nerds. We also pigeonhole ourselves: I'm a Taurus, a survivor, a Texan, a Myers-Briggs ESFJ. Why are we so quick to lump the world into us and them? Berreby, a science writer, uses mind and brain science to investigate why the human tendency to typecast is so powerful -- and apparently so automatic. Dense and scholarly, the book touches on subjects from the neurobiology of moral reasoning to why people voluntarily undergo hazing and other harsh rites of passage.

Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate

By Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro (Viking)

Whether you're hammering out a treaty or a dinner plan, feelings inevitably spill onto the bargaining table. Don't suppress them, say the authors, a psychiatrist and a negotiator at the Harvard Negotiation Project. Instead, figure out how they relate to core concerns and readjust. Jamil Mahaud, former president of Ecuador, recounts a boundary dispute with Peru. The two nations' leaders staged a photograph of themselves, heads together. The P.R. stunt actually increased their own affiliation: They suddenly felt bound to make the spirit of the picture come true.

Broken Windows, Broken Business

By Michael Levine (Warner Books)

Perception, it's said, is everything. Levine, a longtime Los Angeles publicist, explains why attending to the little things matters. His manifesto departs from sociologist James Q. Wilson's legendary "broken windows" theory, which holds that small crimes and obvious neglect create an atmosphere conducive to serious crime. The commercial correlary: Meticulous attention to detail must be a basic business requirement. Brisk and well-written, the book probes the dynamics of consumer psychology, tells the inside story of brand successes such as Starbucks and Google and provides plenty of smart tactical advice.

Drama Kings: The Men Who Drive Strong Women Crazy

By Dalma Heyn (Rodale)

Heyn, a longtime magazine editor and author of The Erotic Silence of the American Wife, probes a new trend: women who value independence and personal fulfillment above domesticity and wifely duty. What was the turning point in their emotional liberation? An early disastrous love affair with an old-school selfish jerk -- a "Drama King." Despite the title, Heyn does not actually focus on men, except as creepy scapegoats for modern relationship woes. Rather, she describes take-charge women's changing expectations of what a relationship should be.

All the Fishes Come Home to Roost: An American Misfit in India

By Rachel Manija Brown (Rodale)

When Brown was only 7, her parents fell under the sway of a famed guru and moved the family from California to an ashram in Ahmednagar, India. In that dusty little town, dysfunctional disciples spend their days preoccupied by political intrigue and bizarre spiritual rituals. Most of the Baba-loving expats are slightly unbalanced; some are downright daft. Brown's sweet and hilarious memoir captures the experiences of a skeptical little girl stranded among zealots. An outsider among outsiders, she watches from the sidelines, amused, horrified, fascinated -- and often very lonely.

Generation Rx:
How Prescription Drugs Are Altering American Lives, Minds and Bodies

By Greg Critser (Houghton Mifflin)

Have you ever wondered how Wilford Brimley went from advertising Quaker Oats to selling diabetes medication? Or how Bob Dole morphed from a presidential candidate to the spokesman for Viagra? In Generation Rx, journalist Greg Critser deftly critiques our pill-popping culture, from the marketing of drugs to the manipulation of doctors. More than half of all Americans take some type of prescription drug every day and the number is climbing. Generation Rx is a testament to how little we know about the medications we hungrily consume.