RaveThe Washington Post... what a fascinating journey and narrative it is, as the fretful neophyte not only masters the intricacies of Texas hold ’em but also gains some profound insights about herself. What starts as a whim is transformed in the process into a provocative and moving spiritual journey, one that will inspire readers as much as it entertains them ... I was all in for Konnikova from the day she first approached Seidel at a New York coffee shop, charmed by her honesty and self-deprecating humor. I found myself cheering even her small victories and feeling the disappointment of her losses. In the end, readers share in her big win, though her winnings are not what we — or she — originally had in mind. The biggest bluff, she comes to understand, is the belief that skill can ever be enough when luck is stacked against us. Yet this hope is what keeps us going, both in the casino and in life. In the end, Konnikova’s winning hand is dealt out not in aces and jacks, straights and flushes, but in self-knowledge, acceptance and serenity.
MixedThe Washington PostDepending on the reader, these connections are either entertaining and insightful or wild and tendentious, even misleading. Talking to Strangers, Gladwell’s exploration of deception and misunderstanding in human communication, is sure to find both types of reader ... Gladwell is impressive in his range of historical conundrums ... Gladwell’s exhaustive analysis of the [Sandra] Bland case is unconvincing and troubling ... Similarly, Gladwell dances around the topic of torture in his chapter on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed ... He explicitly sidesteps the ethics of torture to keep his analysis tidy, yet in the end his case study is too tidy to ring true.
Dean A. Haycock
MixedThe Washington Post...[a] timely, ambitious volume ... Haycock’s goal in Tyrannical Minds is to sort out all of the influences that combine to produce a hateful, immoral despot, and his point here is that it takes a lot more than a terrible childhood to turn someone into a merciless tyrant ... Does President Trump fit in this rogues’ gallery? That’s the underlying question in this historical analysis, and of these contributing factors ... Trump comes across as a poster boy for malignant personality, overshadowing all the other historical dictators, whose profiles seem skimpy by comparison ... Does this unfortunate constellation of traits—lust for power, sadism, narcissism and more—necessarily add up to a diagnosable mental disorder, such as psychosis or legal insanity? Haycock hedges his bets a bit more than many readers will like on this pressing, overarching question, deferring mostly to other psychological profilers and mental health specialists.
PositiveThe Washington Post...ambitious, erudite … Shermer examines the claims of spiritual seekers, who see consciousness as primary, an essence from which all human experience is derived. He tries to take these views seriously … We don’t yet have the science to explain spectacularly unlikely events. But until we do, Shermer says, we don’t have to fill in the explanatory gaps with gods and preternatural forces.