Thinking About Thinking

In this season of resolutions to eat better and work out more, the mind can often get overlooked as a vital place to make important changes. If you're looking to exercise your brain, here's a variety of books that provided me with a steady diet of challenging ideas and new ways of thinking.

  • Thinking Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman :: The title refers to the two systems of our brain which dictate our decision making. The first is fast, impulsive, and emotional. The second is slower and more rational. Although we think we are being rational most of the time, Kahneman contends that our brain in an effort to be more efficient takes shortcuts that lead to poor decisions made in complete confidence of the decision maker. Information and research heavy, but worth the mental workout.
  • We Have Met the Enemy: Self Control in the Age of Excess - Daniel Akst :: I picked this book up mainly for it's cover and was quickly drawn into the history, applied research, and author's wit. The implications for the ability to delay gratification are well documented and far reaching including predicting future income and incarceration rates. This book also reacquainted me with the infamous Stanford marshmallow experiment (see a great TED talk about the topic here).
  • Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain - David Eagleman :: This is a fascinating discussion of neuroscience and the competing functions of the brain told in a very readable way. His discussion of the brain's autonomy was a bit eerie (and made me focus so much on my breathing that I found myself doubting whether it would ever seem normal again). One of the most compelling pieces dealt with culpability and current criminal justice system in regards to brain science. Here's a Fresh Air interview with the author.
  • How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character - Paul Tough :: As a society, we focus a lot on intelligence and typically measure that through standardized testing. Tough, an education reporter, knew that something was missing in our traditional system and its outcomes. Pulling together a wide body of evidence, he identifies what character traits matter, how they can be taught, and success stories. Here is a compelling This American Life episode about his work.
  • Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Creativity - Austin Kleon :: I typically loath pithy books full of aphorisms partially because I'm jealous of their ability to be concise (not my forte as evidenced here) and because their wisdom seems superficial. This book however defied my stereotypes and left me quite inspired with a new sense of freedom to attempt creative pursuits.
Written by Bobby on January 23, 2013


Anonymous on January 23, 2013


I enjoyed "We have met the enemy" very insightful and informative.
It was interesting reading the revisiting of the subject involved in the Marshmallow Study...

ShellyB on January 24, 2013


Watched the TED Talk, very interesting and makes sense, and the kids are adorable!! We do live in a "must have now" society, so I agree with the speaker that being able to wait is great lesson to learn...

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