Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Nevermore Bookclub: November Nonfiction!

Willpower:  Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister was a popular topic in the Nevermore Bookclub.  The term “willpower” has been thrown around by self-help gurus and diet mavens, mostly in the context of “lack of willpower.”  Psychologist Baumeister’s groundbreaking study on the nature of self-control and willpower explains when and why people give into temptation and how an individual can improve his or her willpower.  He contends you can actually strengthen your resolve by practicing will power.  A surprising number of things affected the ability to exercise self-control: glucose levels and sleep patterns were factors as well as the number of decisions a person was required to make (more decisions wore away resolve).  Using  the “buddy system” was effective in many cases. Nevermore members found Baumeister’s conclusions fascinating, and a good basis for understanding their own behavior, as well as a good basis for planning how to resist temptation.   Willpower is a fascinating book and quite readable for the layperson.
Another new popular science book is Sex on Six Legs: Lessons on Life, Love and Language from the Insect World by Marlene Zuk.  People have varied responses to insects: the little creatures are loved, loathed, studied, and even eaten but rarely given credit for being anything other than a sometimes necessary annoyance.  Zuk’s book takes a look at the way insects interact, communicate, and reproduce.  Did you know some insects seem to have facial recognition?  In one experiment, bees that flew toward a particular photograph of a man were rewarded; some of the bees would return regularly to the photograph even if the face was inverted. They also seemed to remember the photograph for weeks.  This is a book to entertain and inform the curious!
Roger Ebert has been a movie critic for over 40 years, but it’s his life behind the scenes that takes center stage in his memoir, Life Itself.  He does recount some encounters and interviews with celebrities and discuss his sometime tempestuous relationship with his co-star Gene Siskal, but most of the book takes place out of the spotlight.  Many reviewers mention his storybook childhood and his often madcap escapades as he embarked on a career in journalism, but the heart of the book recounts his struggle with alcoholism and with the cancer that robbed him of the ability to speak, eat or drink.   The book is gracefully written and, as the title indicates, is more of a reflection on life than a gossipy tell-all. Our Nevermore member thought it was marvelous!

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