PositiveThe Guardian (UK)... one of Robson’s many strengths as a chronicler of science is to take what might seem familiar and show – to his own evident excitement, as well – just how much deeper the rabbit hole goes. You knew about the placebo effect. But did you know it often works, a little mind-bendingly, even when the patient knows they’re taking a placebo? ... While the book abounds in compelling anecdotes, Robson’s central point is that the expectation effect isn’t an amusing psychological quirk, but a fundamental aspect of our interactions with reality ... Robson is aware of the objection that this might all sound like a paean to positive thinking. He rejects that claim: the expectation effect concerns specific outcomes, not a general effort to feel good ... The result of marinating for a while in this outlook is surprisingly transformative.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review... a warm, profound and cleareyed memoir of a year in [Epstein\'s] consulting room prior to the pandemic...He seeks to uncover the fundamental wisdom both worldviews share, and to show, as a practical matter, how it might help us wriggle free from the places we get stuck on the road to fulfillment ... Much of the appeal of therapists’ memoirs lies, naturally enough, in the opportunity for readers to satisfy their prurient interest in other people’s problems — and in the relief of learning that they’re at least as screwed up as we are. So it’s fitting that Epstein devotes only a relatively short introductory section to setting the stage ... There’s more benefit, for the patients and for the reader, in simply allowing such stories to be told than in attempting to derive generic life lessons from them, and Epstein by and large leaves space for that to happen ... Mercifully, what Epstein means by kindness includes a large component of humor ... The effort to straddle Buddhism and therapy leads Epstein sometimes to lapse into the technical jargon of both...while references to his own spiritual journey have the I-guess-you-had-to-be-there quality that often afflicts such accounts. But this wise and sympathetic book’s lingering effect is as a reminder that a deeper and more companionable way of life lurks behind our self-serious stories.
Jordan B Peterson
MixedThe Guardian (UK)[Peterson] comes across in writing, for instance, as a recognisable kind of self-help sexist, with a tendency to over-interpret the data regarding personality differences between women and men; but there seems little reason to condemn him as a virulent misogynist ... Amid all this discord, it’s jarring to open Beyond Order to be reminded that Peterson isn’t best understood as a debater of politics or culture, but as a sui generis kind of personal trainer for the soul. He is stern, sincere, intolerant of fools, sometimes hectoring, fond of communicating harsh truths by means of Bible stories, ancient mythology, the works of JK Rowling and JRR Tolkien, and lengthy flights of Jungian-tinged abstraction about the Dragon of Chaos, the Benevolent Queen, the Wise King, and assorted other archetypes. Hari Kunzru’s description of reading Peterson’s last book – \'like being shouted at by a rugby coach in a sarong\' – has yet to be surpassed ... sometimes borders on the banal ... Peterson’s biggest failing as a writer is one he shares with many of his loudest critics: the absence of a sense of humour. He takes the agonising human predicament seriously – but boy does he also take it seriously. This is understandable, in light of what he’s endured; but the effect is to deny his readers another essential tool for coping with life. We need courage and love, but it also helps to find a way to laugh at the cosmic joke ... Still, in the end, it’s a good thing that there’s space on the self-help shelves for a book as bracingly pessimistic as this one. Ours is a culture dedicated to a belief in the perfectibility of social institutions, in our limitless capacity to know the world, and to bring it under our control, and in the infallible rightness of present day moral judgments. Peterson offers an invaluable reminder that we’re finite and inherently imperfect; that we can’t control everything, or even very much – and that every generation of humans since the ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia has thought itself morally unimprovable.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)... perhaps this is to say no more than that this fascinating, wide-ranging and heartfelt book does not succeed in dumping cold explanatory water on every last mystery of human existence. And I confess I would be lying if I said I thought that was a bad thing.
PositiveThe Guardian\"Few of Packer\'s characters are easily categorised as Democrats or Republicans, hopeful or despairing, or winners or losers, which helps make their stories absorbing ... Packer subscribes to the American journalistic doctrine that the reporter must never appear in the narrative, and his absence is sometimes distracting ... But it is a testament to Packer\'s talents that The Unwinding is powerful, rather than off-puttingly earnest or just depressing, and that it lingers so long after reading.\
RaveThe GuardianHow to Change Your Mind is Pollan’s sweeping and often thrilling chronicle of the history of psychedelics, their brief modern ascendancy and suppression, their renaissance and possible future, all interwoven with a self-deprecating travelogue of his own cautious but ultimately transformative adventures as a middle-aged psychedelic novice. In other words, this is a serious work of history and science, but also one in which the author, under the influence of a certain Central American toad venom, becomes convinced he’s giving birth to himself. Improbably, the combination largely works. It is to Pollan’s credit that, while he ranks among the best of science writers, he’s willing, when necessary, to abandon that genre’s fixation on materialist explanation as the only path to understanding. One of the book’s important messages is that the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics, for the dying or seriously ill, can’t be separated from the mystical experiences to which they give rise.