This Year's Juicy Books on Thinking, Persuasion and Language
Great reads from 2011
Posted Dec 30, 2011
I've done it again, and you probably have too. During the holidays, I've succumbed to the temptations of that extra bit of gravy and just one more of those delicious cookies. Now it's getting to be that time again of girding the resolve to cut back on food and drink (OK, maybe after New Year's Eve)—and I've found that there's no better distraction from food than keeping the mind well-feasted. Luckily, this past year has on offer a slew of smart new books that provide some deep and fascinating insights about what it means to be a thinking, speaking, influencing and influenceable human being. If you're looking to enhance your mind while you reduce your waistline, here are just a few of my favorites:
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
It's been almost seven years since Malcolm Gladwell published his bestselling book Blink in which he regaled readers with riveting stories of intuition gone very right (an antiquities expert has a "gut feeling" that a Greek sculpture is a fake, and turns out to be right thereby saving the Getty Museum $10 million) and intuition gone very wrong (the NYPD shooting of immigrant Amadou Diallo as the result of a tragically incorrect snap decision). But Kahneman's book finally does what Gladwell's failed to do back then: offer some solid way of discerning when we should respect our gut feelings, and when we should be deeply suspicious of them. Kahneman, who won a Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002, has produced what will undoubtedly be the general reader's bible on the science of intuition versus deliberation. The book is not exactly written in the easy, breeze style of Gladwell, but the prose is crystal-clear if not decorative, and will be easily understandable to anyone willing to think a bit about thinking. It should be required reading for anyone charged with making important decisions, or anyone voting for those who do.
You are What You Speak: Grammar Grouches, Language Laws and the Politics of Identity by Robert Lane Greene
What Language Is (And What It Isn't and What It Could Be) by John McWhorter
I'm the lead author of Sold on Language: How Advertisers Talk to You And What This Says About You, and you can follow me on Twitter.