Review: Seth Stephens-Davidowitz – Don’t Trust Your Gut (S)

Don’t Trust Your Gut
Using Data to Get What You Really Want in Life
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

“Big decisions are hard. We consult friends and family, make sense of confusing “expert” advice online, maybe we read a self-help book to guide us. In the end, we usually just do what feels right, pursuing high stakes self-improvement—such as who we marry, how to date, where to live, what makes us happy—based solely on what our gut instinct tells us. But what if our gut is wrong? Biased, unpredictable, and misinformed, our gut, it turns out, is not all that reliable. And data can prove this. In Don’t Trust Your Gut, economist, former Google data scientist, and New York Times bestselling author Seth Stephens-Davidowitz reveals just how wrong we really are when it comes to improving our own lives.”

This is not a business type book that I normally read, but it was really interesting! The introduction is a little long and slow – mostly because it has a lot of sports which I’m not interested in. Once the book starts and gets into it though, the data is really interesting. It’s so hard to trust any data that’s on the internet, so it’s nice to have it in a book and a well presented format that is really accessible for everyone (and hopefully reliable!).

The author is a really good storyteller and uses the data in a presentable format. Although it’s a really interesting book, it doesn’t have anything to really take away and apply to life decisions, despite the cover saying you will “make better choices”. Yes there is data on what makes people happy, but I believe that this is going to change depending on the person.

It’s not a self help book with key takeaways to use everyday but the book is a fascinating and entertaining read. I recommend it – 4 stars from me.

Bloomsbury | 5 July 2022 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: David McRaney – How Minds Change (S)

How Minds Change
Making People Listen in an Argumentative World
David McRaney

“Genes create brains, brains create beliefs, beliefs create attitudes, attitudes create group-identities, group identities create norms, norms create values, and values create cultures. The most effective persuasion techniques work backwards. Ideas sweep across cultures in waves, beginning with early adopters who reduce uncertainty for the rest of the population. It’s rarely because the innovation is amazing in and of itself, but because early adopters signal to the group that it’s safe to think again. This book explains how minds change – and how to change them – not over hundreds of years, but in less than a generation, in less than a decade, or sometimes in a single conversation.”

The book I reviewed is the new version that includes references to COVID-19 and the thinking of some people around that (so this cover isn’t quite right).

This book wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. It started out with a very long introduction with the author asking the question: “How do minds change?” Then, I realised that the book was just going to be that. For most of it, the reader was just following along with the author’s journey of asking how minds change. The problem with this was that there were never exactly any specific answers.

There is a bit of what I would call WHY minds change, in examples that it has happened to some people. There wasn’t anything specific however such as helpful sentence starters or persuasion techniques or what actually happened. It just said that the person’s values and beliefs had changed… but not how that happened. I also expected it to be a little more scientifically proven. There was a small section about getting one of the techniques scientifically proven but it was a lot of his journey on doing so and not results or explanations.

There is a step by step method on street epistemology towards the end. This is a particular method and for a particular reason. It’s specific and something that could be used in everyday persuasion conversations. Some parts of it are more basic techniques as well which I have heard of before, but the author didn’t go into any details. The author also said at some point that when someone changes their mind, then the effects tend to last. I don’t see how this could happen though and the person’s mind stays “flipped”. Really how long do the effects last for? Especially when you see a lot of controversial topics and a lot of people changing their mind. Or is everyone always being “flipped” one way and then back now?

There were definitely some parts where I was interested in the little sub story, but it really took a while to get into and wasn’t as detailed and informative as I was expecting. It just seemed to be lacking so overall I give it 3 stars. I recommend Never Split the Difference instead, as it has a lot more handy tips and tricks. I do want to read more about cults now! So I’ll read Do As I Say next.

Oneworld | 21 June 2022 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Jeni Haynes & George Blair-West – The Girl in the Green Dress

The Girl in the Green Dress
Jeni Haynes & George Blair-West

“An unforgettable memoir from a woman who refused to be silenced. Jeni Haynes is an inspiration and her bravery and determination to live shows how MPD or DID saved her life. It is a powerful reminder of the resilience of the human spirit. ‘I didn’t know that you’re only supposed to have one personality. I didn’t realise that having lots of voices in your head was abnormal. But you are protecting yourself. You are protecting your soul, and that’s what I did.‘”

Normally I think of myself as being quite iron-stomached. This book though proved that there’s some things that I simply can’t read. I appreciated the authors’ foresight and use of stars to tell me where I could skip a section if I wasn’t feeling strong enough. I also needed to put the book down at times and reassure myself that I wasn’t in that situation and that Jeni has made it largely to the other side.

What the true horror of this situation explores is a system that doesn’t teach children how to verbalise abuse, and a system where victim blaming is common. It makes me so angry against the Church and other organisations that just cover up sexual abuse (as partially exposed in Do as I Say). We need to do better. I don’t know how, but one way I’m going to do my part is to telling people to read this book.

We fostercare and sometimes host children who display ‘sexualised behaviours’. We’re told how to provide trauma based care, but I’ve never really understood what that practically meant. Having reading this book, I feel even more strongly that it’s so important to not be surprised or judgemental. These kids don’t necessarily have the words to express how they have been abused, but it’s so important for them to talk to someone who cares. I particulately liked that Dr George gave a list of resources for people who have Dissociative Identity Disorder / Multiple Personality Disorder. These come about as a result of horrific childhood abuse – and you need specialist training to help them.

It’s not just about surviving – Jeni’s mind made it possible to do that. The problem is actually thriving after abuse, and that’s where the treatment by a professional comes in. I had heard of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) before this, but didn’t really have an understanding of how useful it could be. Dr Blair-West teachs us in the medical interludes how this can be used to process traumatic memories.

This book is not easy reading, but I think that it’s essential reading. It gives insight into sexual, domestic and emotional abuse in children and the deficits in the justice system in Australia. We still have a long way to go before the system is better – very recently the Grace Tame #metoo movement happened. The laws are still protecting predators and putting the emphasis on victims being the problem – they have to prove that they are telling the truth. It’s disgusting, and it needs to change.

Hachette | 31 August 2022 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Review: Adam Kay – Undoctored

Undoctored
The Story of a Medic Who Ran Out of Patients
Adam Kay

“Now, Adam Kay returns and will once again have you in stitches in his painfully funny and startlingly powerful follow-up, Undoctored: The Story of a Medic Who Ran Out of Patients. In his most honest and incisive book yet, he reflects on what’s happened since hanging up his scrubs and examines a life inextricably bound up with medicine. Battered and bruised from his time on the NHS frontline, Kay looks back, moves forwards and opens up some old wounds.”

The title of this book is misleading. It suggests that Dr Kay literally ran out of patients, and mislead me into believing that this book was going to tell me how it happened! Instead, it’s a chronocle of sorts about his life after leaving medicine with a few bits of past-medical scenarios thrown in. I found it unsurprising that the medical system in the UK is just as broken for training doctors as Australia!

I read this book in a little under 3 hours – there wasn’t too much there that took me time to digest and contemplate. I felt that the humour felt crude to me and I wouldn’t read his other books for that reason. I think it is a loss to medicine that he gave up medicine – all those years of training and money put into it. I confess that I just don’t find a comedian to be as personally valuable to me as a doctor.

I’m not saying that Dr Kay’s experience should be overlooked or isn’t as valid as someone else’s trauma. However I didn’t find the book particularly funny or insightful. I’ve been blessed by some excellent non-fiction lately in this genre, and this book in comparison felt a bit cheap and left me undewhelmed. I definitely felt that I’d wasted my time and not gotten anything out of it.

This book is going to be best for someone with a British sense of humour and who has read the past books by Dr Kay. It’s not for me, and I think that Australians have far better sources of medical memiors at home.

Hachette | 13 September 2022 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Reviews: Unfinished Novels #5

I have a series of novels that I have never finished reading and in some cases, couldn’t face reading at all. In the interests of freeing up space on my bookshelves, and letting other people have a chance to read them, I have released these novels into the wild – either by giving them to people who might enjoy them, or attempting to sell them on eBay.

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

I was so theoretically excited for this novel! I saw in when in a physical bookstore and I found both the cover and the context interesting. When I was looking for an audiobook, I saw it! So I downloaded it and was ready to settle in for some engrossing reading. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. The reader sounded in pain, and the perspective of the “aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell” sounded self-absorbed and boring. I tried to listen to it on two separate occasions but I just couldn’t bare it. Maybe it would have been better if I had read it myself? Anyway, there are a lot more great novels out there waiting for me, so I’ll be passing on this one.

Believe – Sam Frost

Ugh, is there such a thing as too much positivity? I’m all about thinking in a positive way about negative environments and people, but at the same time, I’m not sure I need that much of it poured into a book. I picked this up and found myself rolling my eyes at the over-the-top nature of the book from the very first page. I also read out some snippets mockingly. Rather than continuing to read, I just returned it to the shelf and haven’t had any desire to pick it back up again. Give me a medical memoir any day.

Hachette | 30 March 2022 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Angel Mage – Garth Nix

I can hardly believe that I’m putting a Nix book in a DNF post. However, this book is really average. I picked it as a talking book for the whole family because I know Sanderson isn’t to everyone’s taste (takes too long to get into, too many characters etc). It was just so boring! Only one of the four young people is of interest, and she sounds so dopey I couldn’t enjoy it. I didn’t even hang around long enough to learn about the ending. I was vaguely interested in how Lilith was going to get the guy, but in the end I didn’t care enough to finish listening.

Review: Robert Iger – The Ride of a Lifetime (S)

The Ride of a Lifetime
Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company
Robert Iger

“In 2005, Robert Iger became CEO of The Walt Disney Company during a difficult time. Morale had deteriorated, competition was more intense, and technology was changing faster than at any time in the company’s history. “I knew there was nothing to be gained from arguing over the past,” Iger writes. “The only thing that mattered was the future, and I believed I had a clear idea of the direction Disney needed to go.” It came down to three clear ideas: 1) Create the highest quality content Disney could produce. 2) Embrace and adopt technology instead of fighting it. And 3) Think bigger–think global–and turn Disney into a stronger brand in international markets.”

I picked up this book as an audiobook to listen to in the car. I didn’t get to it for a while as I had some other books to listen to first. By the time I got up to it I didn’t remember the synopsis of what it was about and had no expectations. As soon as I started listening, I loved it straight away and couldn’t stop listening! The whole book is structured like a memoir of the story of the authors life. I don’t normally like memoirs but this book was amazing. The story was told really well and kept you listening for more.

I’m glad I didn’t have any expectations going into the book as that would have given away a lot of the story. The insights and knowledge gained from this book was through the one long story. It’s not a theory based book, it just lists all the theories and little stories here and there. The business lessons and journey were fascinating and had me wanting more.

I’d recommend it to anyone who wants some detailed insights of the journey of being a CEO or just to leave you inspired. Overall, this book is amazing! I might even read it again! 5 Stars.

Review: Chip Heath & Dan Heath – Made to Stick (S)

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

“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.”

For a book on how to make ideas stick, and be remembered, I don’t think I remember much at all. It probably didn’t help that I listened to it on and off in the car over a period of time. In saying that, there were only 1 or 2 times when I really just wanted to keep listening to it, so clearly it didn’t hook me in much either.

It wasn’t too bad, there were good pointers, tips and points throughout. Unfortunately, I think nothing is exceptionally great either. The core idea is that: in order for a message to be ‘sticky’ it has to combine these 6 characteristics:

  1. Simple
  2. Unexpected
  3. Credibe
  4. Concrete
  5. Emotional
  6. Story

There were some really great in depth sub story case studies in it which I loved. Sadly, not all of them were great and I don’t think they linked well to the overall messages. The message ended up being repetitive but also lost in what the point was. I’m still unsure on who the target market is. Maybe professionals in marketing/advertising?

I don’t think it had a lasting impact for me. A lot of things mentioned here are common sense and repeated in other books. I don’t think there is any extra knowledge in this book that sticks. 3 stars.

Review: Terry Memory – The Smart Veggie Patch

The Smart Veggie Patch
Terry Memory

“Terry Memory built his veggie patch for his family of eight after surviving the Black Saturday bushfires. Determined to become more self-reliant in this era of unpredictable weather events and worsening health caused by highly processed food, he designed a system that combines ancient agrarian traditions with the latest in science and technology to deliver massively increased yields while radically reducing workload. Terry’s overview of the deteriorating state of our food supply will inspire you to take a step towards self-reliance, while his practical tips and how to’s offer the tools you need to get going.”

I was really excited for this book because we have just installed nine raised gardenbeds in our front yard instead of lawn! They all have dirt in them, and are just waiting for compost to be created and summer to come. I thought that the Smart Veggie Patch would tell me how to best plant them. It does, sort of, but I guess I expected more growing guides rather than infrastructure.

I think this book is supposed to make gardening seem accessible to everyone, but I found it to do the opposite. I felt demoralised that I’d already filled my beds with dirt. Then, I felt a bit ashamed that I hadn’t immediately built them a cover or any sort of inbuilt and responsible watering system. I hadn’t planned! I hadn’t put enough effort in! I’d never get fantastic crops!

I am determined to continue gardening because I like the thought of growing my own produce. I think I need to be realistic however, and the garden I create will take years to get to a point where I only need to check it for 2 hours a week. You need to be extremely handy or have funds to set up the garden in the way Terry suggests. The step-by-step process seems foolproof… as long as you don’t have anything done yet.

This is a potentially great book for people who have no idea how to garden, but have the room to grow one. It could be the great starter for people who have just moved into a home with a lawn and want to turn it into something good! Unfortunately, more and more land is being turned into townhomes and apartments, so I don’t know how many people this book will suit. I remain hopeful however that everyone will be just a little bit more conscious of their food waste after reading.

Pan Macmillan | 26 July 2022 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Donald Miller – Building a StoryBrand (S)

Building a StoryBrand
Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen
Donald Miller

“Donald Miller’s StoryBrand process is a proven solution to the struggle business leaders face when talking about their businesses… Building a StoryBrand does this by teaching readers the seven universal story points all humans respond to; the real reason customers make purchases; how to simplify a brand message so people understand it; and how to create the most effective messaging for websites, brochures, and social media. Whether you are the marketing director of a multibillion dollar company, the owner of a small business, a politician running for office, or the lead singer of a rock band, Building a StoryBrand will forever transform the way you talk about who you are, what you do, and the unique value you bring to your customers.”

I listened to this book as an audio book. It seemed to take quite a while to get into it. For a book on building a story and getting you hooked into it, it really didn’t at all! It took a bit over an hour before it started picking up. Lucky for it, I was in the car on a long trip so I kept listening to it. The rest of the book was pretty good. There were a few slow points but overall it was really great.

It’s good to take a step back and look at your business and the story you are in with your clients. It helps define roles, where you are the guide and your clients are the heros. It does annoy me though when authors quote their website and market themselves within the book, which he does. This also goes against his own advice, of not making the reader the hero and flogging himself.

Looking beyond this though, the author does have some good points that you can take away and use for your business. It’s nice and short and didn’t drag on too much either. I recommend it to anyone who deals with customers/clients or is in business. 4 stars.

Review: Dan Pronk – The Combat Doctor

The Combat Doctor
Dan Pronk

“Dr Dan Pronk served on over 100 combat missions in Afghanistan as a frontline special forces combat doctor, where the casualties he treated were his fellow SAS soldiers and commandos, local civilians and even the enemy. The thrill of adventure and the challenges of battlefield medicine brought out the very best in Dan; he discovered a sense of purpose in pushing his medical skills and courage to the limits. But there was a cost. The Combat Doctor is an extraordinary story of resilience and growth, and a tribute to the doctors and medics working behind the scenes in conflict around the world.”

How can someone so bright, be so dumb? If you are smart enough to get into medical school, surely you are smart enough to realise that military retaliation isn’t actually a bright idea most of the time. I understand the incredible and exciting challenge that you need to undertake to get into the special forces, but at the same time uh, isn’t creating long term medical problems like a bung knee a problem? It seems like a bit of a boys’ club, and that was always going to put my back up.

I find it extraordinary and rather depressing that millions of dollars are pumped into the military. If we are looking at the number of lives saved by an intervention, surely something like the medical problems described in Frontline Midwife would be a better use of funding. The more I think about it, the more upset I feel.

Oh dear. I saw that Hamish Blake had read and given a review and I was seriously worried about the book from then onwards. I guess I was hoping that this would have juicy details on how combat medicine actually works in terms of common injuries or treatments. What I got was a fresh face on the deaths that have occurred in the Australian military in quite recent history. It’s pointless! We live in Australia, I’m pretty sure that noone wants to invade here. The worst threat we’ve had are fires that needed the Navy to evacuate people.

I wouldn’t recommend this as reading. However, if someone else is super keen on the military and you want them to read SOMETHING then perhaps this is a good pick. It’s not badly written, it’s quite a good read, I guess I just disagree with the need for it.

Pan Macmillan | 30 August 2022 | AU$36.99 | paperback