Posted on Leave a comment

Weekend Reading: Thinking, Fast and Slow

fast slow 2There is a video on Youtube of a tightly-knit group of people passing a ball between them. You are told to watch carefully and count how many passes there are during the clip. In the middle of the clip, a man dressed as a gorilla walks through. There is a very high chance you did not notice the big, hairy ape. This is an experiment familiar to most people (if not, sorry for ruining it for you), but it is, according to Kahneman, author of the phenomenon Thinking, Fast and Slow, only the tip of the iceberg. He states that humans are not as logical and clever as we’d like to think, and that, far from being in control, our unconscious mind governs the vast majority of what we do; he likens our conscious mind to a supporting actor convinced he’s in the lead role.

Khaneman announces that, for the sake of simplicity, we should imagine that our brains contain two systems of thought, named 1 and 2. 1 is impulsive, intuitive and in charge; 2 is slow, thorough and utterly lazy. 1 is used for basic tasks: driving on an empty road, making a cup of tea, walking on a flat path. 2 is used for complex thought processes: solving maths sums, writing an essay, choosing a book to read.

Khaneman then outlines the various ways the two are manipulated. 1 is by far the most gullible, liable as it is to a vast array of biases and tics (to give some technical names: the halo effect, the framing effect, the florida effect, and so on). It can give a razor-sharp retort, save your life in a car accident and tell you immediately that your boss is in a terrible mood and therefore should be avoided, but the speed comes at a price. Decisions made by 1 are fairly likely to be illogical on some level. So why not use 2? Namely because 2 is extremely lazy – try 56 x 17 and see what happens. Khaneman refers to a process called ego depletion, whereby 2 literally gets tired and a little bit rubbish.

In outlining the various ways in which our brains can be tricked and worn out, Khaneman makes them avoidable, like being shown the secret compartment of a magician’s hat.  You could therefore call Thinking, Fast and Slow a self-help book, although to do so would be hopelessly derivative. It is also a leap in understanding of the brain for its own sake, for although there are many books on psychology and neuroscience, few are as comprehensive, irrefutable and well-told as this one. Kahneman rarely relies on brain scans (which are generally accepted to be vague and sometimes contradictory when dealing with psychology) and never drifts into vague, umbrella statements (unlike another psychology bestseller, Quiet). The author instead relies on fascinating studies and tests.

To be frank, the book’s brilliant. Brilliant because it can change the way you think, and brilliant because it does so with such a warm and witty voice that you won’t immediately realise just how much of a game changer the book is.

By Gabriel Smith, Bookseller at Jaffé & Neale.

Posted on Leave a comment

Book Review: Deep

deepEver wondered what it would be like to dive 30 stories down into the ocean without scuba gear? To swim alongside sperm whales, hold your breath for four minutes at a time, and plumb the black depths of the ocean in a makeshift submarine? James Nestor has, and in his wonderful book Deep he attempts to find the answers himself.

He explores free diving in all its slightly insane forms, from the international competitions where underwater blackouts are both regular and expected, to the more practical uses. The latter are extraordinary: meet the researchers who swim with whales the size of buses, and whose lungs shrink to the size of fists under conditions that would kill a scuba diver instantly. These people believe that investigating the sea from a scuba suit is like investigating jungle wildlife from within a land rover with the windows up and music on. And marine life seems to agree with them – animals are far friendlier to free divers. As Nestor shows, more has been learned about whales, sharks and echolocation from free diving than any other method, and what they have learned is fascinating.

But eventually the author’s curiosity goes deeper, beyond what any human can naturally withstand. He enlists the help of a dubious Honduran who has built a makeshift submarine that tends to fizz and buckle when deep. But go deep they do, down to black depths where the pressure for a human would be ‘like balancing the Eiffel Tower on your head.’ Here Nestor witnesses the ‘71% silent majority’ of life on Earth: the strange glowing, pulsing life of the deep ocean. It is hard to decide which part of Nestor’s adventure is the best, but it is a book you won’t want to end.

By Gabriel Smith, Bookseller at Jaffé & Neale.

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Book review: A Wolf in Hindelheim

wolf hindelheimNot a lot happens in Hindelheim, that is until a baby disappears, setting off a course of events that quietly spirals out of control.

Jenny Mayhew’s debut novel is set in the rural South West Germany of 1926. Harsh memories of the Great War are still fresh and although ex-serviceman, Constable Theodore Hildebrandt, bares the physical scars, he is mentally sharp. Despite the remote location and his lowly rank, this policeman is a match for any of his urban peers. He is a stubborn man of honour with a meticulous eye for detail, but often forgets when to keep his mouth shut. This is particularly frustrating for his son, Deputy Constable Klaus, especially in the presence of their superiors.

The leading cast of players is a match for any contemporary television soap. The families of Hindelheim are awash with secret liaisons, affairs and illegitimate births. A Wolf in Hindelheim is a simmering pot that takes its time to develop but reaches boiling point when Elias Frankel escapes from the law and unleashes a manhunt and hysteria in the local population, gaining him the undeserved reputation as the Wolfman. Elias is a Jew and this is at a time in Germany when the unsavoury eugenics-healthy breeding campaign starts to raise its ugly head and we are introduced to The German Peoples League, a forerunner to the Nazis. Perhaps the Wolf in the title is a metaphor for what the future holds – a growing hatred of anything different.

Mayhew’s writing is poetic and engaging. She tells a story with subtle nuances, drawing the reader into a small world with major consequences. In the closing chapters Mayhew writes “hope…is the last organ to die” which speaks volumes.

Order a copy of A Wolf in Hindelheim.

Reviewed by Gerard O’Hare. Gerard previously worked as an actor, appearing in theatre, film, TV, and on the radio. His short screenplay, The Long Walk won funding from the Northern Lights scheme, was screened on the BBC and at film festivals. Gerard is now Client Development Manager at The Bookseller and book reviewer for We Love This Book focusing on new authors

Posted on Leave a comment

The #lovereading project: week four

It’s the final week of our #lovereading project, and we’ve loved hearing everyone’s thoughts on our specially compiled reading list. 28 books in 28 days: you might not read them all, but we’re sure you’ll find something there to tempt you!

To see the full list, click here, but in the meantime, here are the final seven books in the #lovereading project.

22. Down to the Sea in Ships, by Horatio Clare

23. The Encyclopaedia of Early Earth, by Isabel Greenberg

24. Illuminations, by Walter Benjamin

25. The Moustachapillar, by Jonty Lees

26. Rock the Shack, by S Ehmann

27. The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam, by Barbara W Tuchman

28. The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey

 

love reading week 4

If you’d like your own copy of any of the above titles, pop into the shop, or give us a call on 01608 641033.

Posted on Leave a comment

The #lovereading project: week three

Week three of our #lovereading campaign brought seven fabulously different books: there is definitely something in this list for everyone!

To see the rest of our month-long reading list, click here.

15. Vile Bodies, by Evelyn Waugh

16. Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransome

17. European Peasant Cookery, by Elisabeth Luard

18. Patagonia, by Bruce Chatwin

19. Tintin in America, by Herge

20. Canada, by Richard Ford

21. & Sons, by David Gilbert

 

love reading week 3

Posted on Leave a comment

The #lovereading project: week two

Week two of our #lovereading project has been huge fun, with a great list of books to push you out of your comfort zone! For our round-up of week one’s titles, check out last week’s blog post, or follow the #lovereading hashtag on Twitter or Facebook.

Here are week two’s titles:

8. The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith

9. My Age of Anxiety, by Scott Stossel

10. On the Trail of Genghis Khan, by Tim Cope

11. Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson

12. The Many Days: Selected Poems of Norman MacCaig

13. Stoner, by John Williams

14. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

To order a copy of any of the above titles, come into the shop or call 01608 646830.

love reading week 2

Posted on Leave a comment

The #lovereading project: week one

This month we launched our #lovereading project: 28 books in 28 days. You might read one; you might read them all, but we hope you’ll enjoy exploring books outside of your normal genre. Each day we post another book title on Twitter and Facebook, and invite you to tell us what you love reading.

Here’s a round-up of our titles for the first week of February:

1. The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert

2. New and Selected Poems, by Mary Oliver

3. The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion

4. The is the Story of a Happy Marriage, by Ann Patchett

5. A Compendium of Collective Nouns, by Jason Sacher

6. The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

7. Letters of Note, by Shaun Usher

If you’d like your own copy of any of the above titles, pop into the shop, or give us a call on 01608 641033.

Love Reading Week One

Posted on Leave a comment

Book review: The Martian, by Andy Weir

An extra-terrestrial Robinson Crusoe, Andy Weir’s The Martian is a compelling read.  Mark Watley is left for dead on Mars and his supplies will not keep him alive until his support team, on Earth, return for him. He’s a resourceful fellow and it’s a joy to read his death defying battle for survival. Potato growing has never before been this thrilling.

The Martian, by Andy Weir, is published by Del Ray, £9.99. To order a copy, call 01608 641033 or email info@jaffeandneale.co.uk.

See our review, written by Gabriel Smith, featured in the Banbury Guardian http://www.banburyguardian.co.uk/what-s-on/book-reviews-the-martian-and-to-bed-on-thursdays-1-5916476

The Martian, by Andy Weir

Posted on Leave a comment

Book review: Slow Cotswolds, by Caroline Mills

The title says it all: Slow Cotswolds is a methodical, meandering guide through what the author calls “the most beautiful part of the UK.” Caroline Mills is a Cotswolds native, and it shows; you couldn’t ask for a more thorough guide: each town or village gets a brief history, some interesting factoids, a list of local attractions and restaurants, and their contact info. The occasionally wall-to-wall writing could put off the casual reader, but it belies a pleasant and essential guide.

Slow Cotswolds, by Caroline Mills, is published by Bradt Travel Guides, £14.99. To order a copy, call 01608 641033 or email info@jaffeandneale.co.uk.

Slow Cotswolds, Caroline Mills

Posted on Leave a comment

Book review: The Man with his Head in the Clouds, by Richard O. Smith

2014 is, apparently, the year for history-inspired biographies. In The Man with his Head in the Clouds, Richard O. Smith follows the chaotic and brilliant life of James Sadler – pioneer of lighter-than-air flight and mobile steam engines. The book makes you wonder, more than anything, why Sadler is not more of a household name, for his is a life of whimsy, adventure and humour; one that saw the uneducated pastry chef crashing balloons into the Thames and various parts of Yorkshire, sometimes accompanied by a cat, sometimes not.

The author is at once the polar opposite of Sadler and the perfect man to write his story. Smith is a comic writer who contributes to shows such as Radio 4’s The Now Show and Dara O’Briain’s Science Club, and it at first seemed strange that Smith’s story not only competes with Sadler’s, but pulls focus. His attempts to tame his various phobias, from stairs to heights, are surprisingly endearing. Smith aims to complete his trials by attempting a hot air balloon ride that mirrors one of Sadler’s – a neat end to what is otherwise a chaotic and hilarious read.

The Man with his Head in the Clouds, by Richard O. Smith, is published by Signal Books, £14.99. To order a copy, call 01608 641033 or email info@jaffeandneale.co.uk.

The man with his head in the clouds