In My Hands Today…

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die – Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Mark Twain once observed, “A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can even get its boots on.” His observation rings true: Urban legends, conspiracy theories, and bogus news stories circulate effortlessly. Meanwhile, people with important ideas–entrepreneurs, teachers, politicians, and journalists–struggle to make them “stick.”

In Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath reveal the anatomy of ideas that stick and explain ways to make ideas stickier, such as applying the human scale principle, using the Velcro Theory of Memory, and creating curiosity gaps. Along the way, we discover that sticky messages of all kinds–from the infamous “kidney theft ring” hoax to a coach’s lessons on sportsmanship to a vision for a new product at Sony–draw their power from the same six traits.

Made to Stick will transform the way you communicate. It’s a fast-paced tour of success stories (and failures): the Nobel Prize-winning scientist who drank a glass of bacteria to prove a point about stomach ulcers; the charities who make use of the Mother Teresa Effect; the elementary-school teacher whose simulation actually prevented racial prejudice.

In My Hands Today…

Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World – Carl T. Bergstrom and Jevin West

Bullshit isn’t what it used to be. Now, two science professors give us the tools to dismantle misinformation and think clearly in a world of fake news and bad data.

It’s increasingly difficult to know what’s true. Misinformation, disinformation, and fake news abound. Our media environment has become hyperpartisan. Science is conducted by press release. Startup culture elevates bullshit to high art. We are fairly well equipped to spot the sort of old-school bullshit that is based in fancy rhetoric and weasel words, but most of us don’t feel qualified to challenge the avalanche of new-school bullshit presented in the language of math, science, or statistics. In Calling Bullshit, Professors Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West give us a set of powerful tools to cut through the most intimidating data.

You don’t need a lot of technical expertise to call out problems with data. Are the numbers or results too good or too dramatic to be true? Is the claim comparing like with like? Is it confirming your personal bias? Drawing on a deep well of expertise in statistics and computational biology, Bergstrom and West exuberantly unpack examples of selection bias and muddled data visualization, distinguish between correlation and causation, and examine the susceptibility of science to modern bullshit.

We have always needed people who call bullshit when necessary, whether within a circle of friends, a community of scholars, or the citizenry of a nation. Now that bullshit has evolved, we need to relearn the art of skepticism.

In My Hands Today…

The Art of Rest: How to Find Respite in the Modern Age – Claudia Hammond

Today busyness has become a badge of honour. We want to say we’re busy, yet at the same time, we feel exhausted. Instead, we should start taking rest seriously as a method of self-care and this book can help us to work out how.

The Art of Rest draws on ground-breaking research Claudia Hammond collaborated on – ‘The Rest Test’ – the largest global survey into rest ever undertaken, which was completed by 18,000 people across 135 different countries. Much of value has been written about sleep, but rest is different; it is how we unwind, calm our minds and recharge our bodies. And, as the survey revealed, how much rest you get is directly linked to your sense of well-being.

Counting down through the top ten activities which people find most restful, Hammond explains why rest matters, examines the science behind the results to establish what really works and offers a roadmap for a new, more restful and balanced life.

In My Hands Today…

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions – Dan Ariely

Why do our headaches persist after taking a one-cent aspirin but disappear when we take a 50-cent aspirin?

Why does recalling the Ten Commandments reduce our tendency to lie, even when we couldn’t possibly be caught?

Why do we splurge on a lavish meal but cut coupons to save twenty-five cents on a can of soup?

Why do we go back for second helpings at the unlimited buffet, even when our stomachs are already full?

And how did we ever start spending $4.15 on a cup of coffee when, just a few years ago, we used to pay less than a dollar?

When it comes to making decisions in our lives, we think we’re in control. We think we’re making smart, rational choices. But are we?

In a series of illuminating, often surprising experiments, MIT behavioral economist Dan Ariely refutes the common assumption that we behave in fundamentally rational ways. Blending everyday experience with groundbreaking research, Ariely explains how expectations, emotions, social norms, and other invisible, seemingly illogical forces skew our reasoning abilities.

Not only do we make astonishingly simple mistakes every day, but we make the same “types” of mistakes, Ariely discovers. We consistently overpay, underestimate, and procrastinate. We fail to understand the profound effects of our emotions on what we want, and we overvalue what we already own. Yet these misguided behaviors are neither random nor senseless. They’re systematic and predictable–making us “predictably” irrational.

From drinking coffee to losing weight, from buying a car to choosing a romantic partner, Ariely explains how to break through these systematic patterns of thought to make better decisions. “Predictably Irrational” will change the way we interact with the world–one small decision at a time.

In My Hands Today…

Wall Disease: The Psychological Toll of Living Up Against a Border – Jessica Wapner

We build border walls to keep danger out. But do we understand the danger posed by walls themselves?

East Germans were the first to give the crisis a name: Mauerkrankheit, or “wall disease.” The afflicted—everyday citizens living on both sides of the Berlin wall—displayed some combination of depression, anxiety, excitability, suicidal ideation, and paranoia. The Berlin Wall is no more, but today there are at least seventy policed borders like it. What are they doing to our minds?

Jessica Wapner investigates, following a trail of psychological harm around the world. In Brownsville, Texas, the hotly contested US-Mexico border wall instils more feelings of fear than of safety. And in eastern Europe, Georgian grandfather pine for his homeland—cut off from his daughters, his baker, and his bank by the arbitrary path of a razor-wire fence built-in 2013. Even in borderlands riven by conflict, the same walls that once offered relief become enduring reminders of trauma and helplessness.

Our brains, Wapner writes, devote “border cells” to where we can and cannot go safely—so, a wall that goes up in our town also goes up in our minds. Weaving together interviews with those living up against walls and expert testimonies from geographers, scientists, psychologists, and other specialists, she explores the growing epidemic of wall disease—and illuminates how neither those “outside” nor “inside” are immune.