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Hellen

Hellen

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Becoming a Behavioral Science Researcher: A Guide to Producing Research That Matters
Rex B. Kline
Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference
Cordelia Fine
The Craftsman
Richard Sennett
Brave New World
Aldous Huxley
Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide - Kay Redfield Jamison Night Falls Fast is a work of non-fiction about suicide.

Sacrificing correctness of statements for readability is often a trap for this kind of non-fiction, but I thought this book had very little problems with that. I appreciated the quoting of authors who attempted/committed suicide and the mention of the context, simply because I like reading and found this interesting (I didn't know about many of the ones mentioned, such as Ernest Hemingway).

In this time and progress in neuroscience I think it's no problem this book had a big focus on the brain's chemistry under several mental illnesses. Environmental causes weren't ignored at all, but were - as I believe correctly - described as on/off-switches for already present wiring. There's criticism of this strong reductionist approach in other reviews though, for example the lack of a free will in all this tumult that's for example manic depression (because of the author’s own experience extensively and well discussed) and the implications for the mind-body debate. When mentioning such things I believe you're disagreeing with suicide research's current state instead of the author's point of view (which might be the same), because it is where current research's focus is. Rightfully so, if you ask me. The idea that by now (this book was first published in 1999) is more mainstream, namely that mental disorders are similar to other physical diseases and nothing to be ashamed of, also fits this. It's not like people bring up free will when discussing the biology of cancer. You can't decide not to have cancer. It's the same with mental illness.

Jamison presents theories and studies gracefully and well-written. She leaves plenty of room for more personal accounts as well. There's plenty of examples and arguments for suicide as a result of mental illness (as opposed to for example Thomas Szasz, who compares suicide to personal decisions such as smoking tobacco). The chapter on pharmacology I thought was a bit less, but we're 14 years further after all.

I’d love to say "if you’re only to read one non-fiction book about suicide, it must be this one", but I haven’t read many others. But I can say this is a good place to start.
In Cold Blood - Truman Capote Interesting to read what's supposedly "the first work of true crime", based on the 1959 Clutter family murders.
It was well-written, quite comprehensive (not that I know very much about the murder and trial otherwise), but I felt it dragged a little bit and I found it a bit too fantastical at times.

The Dutch I Presume? Icons Of The Netherlands

The Dutch I Presume? Icons Of The Netherlands - Martijn de Rooi, Jurjen Drenth,  et al
"God created the world, but the Dutch created the Netherlands"


Also known as: the perfect book to read when you're a homesick Dutch expat.

I bought this book for my Swedish partner half a year ago. It's a pretty neat book - tons of pictures, witty, lots of subjects and cute little facts (the meaning of the positioning of sails on a windmill, a small overview of different kinds of liquorice). The spelling and grammar ("Dunglish") is sometimes cringe-worthy (look up the book 'I always get my sin').

Ironically, this book quite proudly presents all kinds of Dutch nick-nacks, while I belief the Dutch are quite modest and critical of their own country and excessive pride is not done. And at the same time I'm going to an identity crisis after reading this book: what do you mean clogs are originally from France? What do you mean, windmills based on a Persian prototype? Barrel organs Belgian and German?! Cheese slicer Norwegian?! I've been living a lie! Oh well, at least we still have our Koetjesrepen*.

*Produced in Belgium?!
Anthem   - Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff It's hard to read and rate this book without being affected by the book's author; Ayn Rand. I knew there was some controversy, but I didn't exactly know about what when I started reading this. Halfway through I googled it, disagreed with some of her major points, then continued reading and constantly kept thinking "this isn't so bad... Or is it?" I kept stopping and thinking what things Equality 7-2521 or Prometheus said would mean on a big scale. For me there's a big difference between this story as a work of fiction (3-4 stars) and this story as a vehicle for a philosophy (1-2 stars). So there you go, an average of 2,5 stars.

A History of Psychology: From Antiquity to Modernity

A History of Psychology: From Antiquity to Modernity - Thomas Hardy Leahey Pretty dense material, this book mostly about psychology's philosophical inheritance. Suddenly a lot makes sense (I better not say this out loud in class).
Worth the read, though I'm taking away one star because the book is unnecessarily hard to use for studying, which I'm sure is what it's written for. Some visual overviews and summaries wouldn't hurt.
Divergent  - Veronica Roth This isn't going to be much of a review, more of a reminder to myself: maybe YA isn't for me. Perhaps I should be reading more of this broad, broad genre before making such a sweeping statement, but again the quick, light (as in: not going very in-dept when it comes to emotions and experiences) storytelling isn't grasping me.

I can only say that for me, at my current age, it didn't do much for me. Had I been younger... maybe. It is a very interesting world. But alas, no dice for current me. And that's whose experience I'll have to rate from.

Ontsporing / druk 1

Ontsporing / druk 1 - Diederik Stapel Of je het nu geldklopperij of aandachtzoekerij vindt of niet, moed heb je als mens nodig om alles op papier te zetten zoals Diederik Stapel dat gedaan heeft.
De kritische noot over onderzoek komen overeen met mijn eigen ervaringen (bijv. publicatiedruk), al moeten we niet vergeten wetenschap doen ook met z'n gebreken mooi en belangrijk is.
Ook de karaktermoord zoals Stapel dit beschrijft geeft te denken. Het is afschuwelijk wat hij gedaan heeft, maar als je naar de manieren van omgaan met data kijkt die wel gedoogd worden, klopt dat ook niet helemaal. Al is dat toch iets heel anders dan data verzinnen.

Wat ik niet helemaal oké vond, is de manier waarop achteraf naar aanleidingen en oorzaken gezocht wordt. Er wordt teruggeblikt op kindertijd en jeugd, weliswaar niet oninteressant, maar vanwege de context en de implicaties vind ik het niet allemaal gepast. Alles wordt onder de loep gelegd en geëtiketteerd met x gedrag en y gedrag, doorspekt met intermezzo's over allerlei psychologische fenomenen. Achter alles wordt een aanleiding gezocht voor de latere fraude, tot in het absurde toe. Ook zijn m.n. de stukjes met conclusies over bepaald gedrag wat onzorgvuldig en zwart-wit geformuleerd. Dat vind ik niet gepast voor iemand met zo veel kennis als Stapel.

Wat schrijfstijl betreft is het duidelijk dat Stapel een belezen man is, maar er zit net iets te veel herhaling in het boek, veel van hetzelfde met andere woorden en veel te veel metaforen. Het had allemaal wat eenvoudiger en bondiger gekund.
Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf Will have to reread this, just couldn't focus on it. My thoughts kept wandering off and I rarely ever have that with non-study books. I did have the same with Woolf's Moments of Being, which I abandoned, another thing that I rarely do. Bad signs! Next time I'll lock myself in a quiet room and have a Woolf day, see if that helps. There's some beautiful writing there obviously, but it's a shame when it feels like a chore.
Amsterdam - Ian McEwan Having read Saturday only a month ago, I started this book thinking "oh no, here we go again...". Then it picked up. And then it was enjoyable.

The way composing, the occupation of one of the main characters, was described (well-researched, I presume) was much more enjoyable and believable than the neurosurgery in Saturday. So here you go, 3,5 stars.

I am convinced of Ian McEwan's ability to write and I have to come back to this review to add some quotes that I liked. In the meantime I'll continue my search for McEwan's 4+ star books.

"(...) [H]e removed his shoe and discovered a flattened black mass of chewing gum embedded deep in the zig-zag tread of the sole. Upper lip arched in disgust, he was still picking, cutting and scraping away with a pocket knife as the train began to move. Beneath the patina of grime, the gum was still slightly pink, like flesh, and the smell of peppermint was faint but distinct. How appalling, the intimate contact with the contents of a stranger's mouth, the bottomless vulgarity of people who chewed gum and who let it fall from their lips where they stood."


Subjection of Women

Subjection of Women - John Stuart Mill This is a very interesting and (sadly) still relevant book/essay on the position of women in society. What's interesting about it is that it goes to the core of the dichotomy: why are men and women in the positions they're in nowadays (or well, in 1869)? While evolutionary psychology still gains popularity and pseudo-scientific ideas nestle in the thoughts on gender of many ("(wo)men are simply more suited for this kind of work, because back in the days, when we still lived in caves...") and threatens to bring development in this area to a screeching halt, Mill's ideas remain refreshing.

Mill (and his wife)'s crystal clear: society as we know it, gender roles as we know it, has initially been built on an artificial ideas, not on natural predispositions.

"What is now called the nature of women is an eminently artificial thing — the result of forced repression in some directions, unnatural stimulation in others (...) in the case of women, a hot-house and stove cultivation has always been carried on of some of the capabilities of their nature, for the benefit and pleasure of their masters. Then, because certain products of the general vital force sprout luxuriantly and reach a great development in this heated atmosphere and under this active nurture and watering, while other shoots from the same root, which are left outside in the wintry air, with ice purposely heaped all round them, have a stunted growth, and some are burnt off with fire and disappear; men, with that inability to recognize their own work which distinguishes the unanalytic mind, indolently believe that the tree grows of itself in the way they have made it grow, and that it would die if one half of it were not kept in a vapour bath and the other half in the snow."


A critic one could have is that Mill could be too critical of the male sex and is generalising in his own turn. It also doesn't leave much room for those who aren't interested in becoming "intellectually stimulating spouses".
Nevertheless, considering the age of this essay and the immense value of its core argument, I think it deserves all the credit it's gotten (and a bit more... less than 800 ratings on GoodReads :/ )
Man's Search for Meaning - Viktor E. Frankl I read a lot of books about WWII, mostly non-fiction. I sometimes feel the need to apologise for this to others when we come to that topic, because it may seem perverse. My family isn't Jewish or German and even though my families live so close to the German border that soldiers marched through their streets and fields daily, nobody got killed or imprisoned, even though the fear must have been there.

For me, WWII is humanity and life in a nutshell. There's the oppressor, the oppressed, those that have to choose a side, moral. There's the guard and the prisoner, and naked life - an unhidden fear of dying. Viktor E. Frankl describes in the first half of Man's Search for Meaning the psychology of the prisoner, suffering under the constant fear to die soon. Your family may have already died, you were separated from your husband or wife right at the beginning, next week could be the week your number gets put on the list - how does one keep oneself from committing suicide in such a hopeless situation? Frankl, a Viennese psychiatrist explores this "psyche of the prisoner" in quite an objective manner, considering he was a prisoner himself and lost everything besides his own body. The suicide watch Frankl describes was a whole new realisation for me and is an example of the things he describes. The moment the camp gets freed, he describes this so hauntingly. Instead of happiness there's the realisation one has to learn to be happy and free again.

" 'Freedom' - we repeated to ourselves, and yet we could not grasp it. We had said this word so often during all the years we dreamed about it, that it had lost its meaning. Its reality did not penetrate in our consciousness. We could not grasp the fact that freedom was ours."


In the second half Frankl describes logotherapy, an existential response to Freud's psychoanalysis. He quotes Nietzsche several times: "Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” He helped people in the camp to find a 'why' again (suicides amongst them was punished by the guards) and for himself, perhaps having lost hope of ever seeing his wife again, the idea of rewriting his manuscript about the prisoner's psyche kept him afloat.

This book to me touched the very core of why wars are so important to reflect upon. Besides the politics that lead to it, there's the struggle with our own mortality, something that Frankl, no matter what your beliefs are, gives a very practical response to.
White Teeth - Zadie Smith This book reminded me a lot of The Casual Vacancy, though this book has of course been published much earlier. It only gets 3 stars for the same reason TCV did. Great writing, realistic characters, written dialects, great building up towards the end, and then... Nothing. This book seemed to have much more of an aim and an ending than The Casual Vacancy, but the pace is so slow in the start and the ending so chaotic and rushed...

A real shame, because it's an interesting portrait of life after immigration, amongst others.

“Where I come from," said Archie, "a bloke likes to get to know a girl before he marries her."
"Where you come from it is customary to boil vegetables until they fall apart. This does not mean," said Samad tersely, "that it is a good idea.”
Saturday - Ian McEwan Just saving some quotes:

p. 127
"It was once convenient to think biblically, to believe we're surrounded for our benefit by edible automata on land and sea. Now it turns out that even fish can feel pain. This is the growing complication of the modern condition, the expanding circle of moral sympathy."


p. 278
"(...)[A]fter a certain age, when the remaining years first take on their finite aspect, and you begin to feel for yourself the first chill, you watch a dying man with a closer, more brotherly interest."
Silent Spring - Rachel Carson Very important book, but very... report-like. The writing isn't even bad, it's just the format. Chapter about birds. Birds have been dying here and here and here. Cause turns out to be pesticide. In this case it turned out to be this pesticide, in that case it was that pesticide. Chapter about rivers. Fishes and insects and birds have been dying here and here and here. Cause turns out to be pesticide. In this case it turned out to be this pesticide, in that case it was that pesticide. Chapter about trees. Trees have been dying here and here and here. Cause turns out to be pesticide. In this case it turned out to be this pesticide, in that case it was that pesticide. Etcetera.

It's all very neat and correct, all referenced. It just gets repetitive. I suppose it has been great to refer to because it's so complete, but to read it, it's just too much of the same. I suppose it illustrates how far the pesticide problem reaches, but it's a shame people stop reading halfway with the conclusion still to come. At least the message sticks.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter - Jeff Lindsay Huh, I really liked this one. The thing is, I have seen some episodes of the television show and I have no idea if I would've liked the books less if I hadn't. I really enjoy the TV show, so I may have been influenced by that. And hey, I don't mind, it made it a fun read.

This part has been followed by the television series quite closely, so besides hearing Michael Hall's voice in my head as Dexter, a lot of events evoked mental images originally from the TV series.

I've read that the TV show doesn't follow the book anymore from season two, so I'm curious to see if I'll enjoy book two as much as Darkly Dreaming Dexter.

I det tysta : resor på Europas abortmarknad

I det tysta : resor på Europas abortmarknad - Anna Dahlqvist 3,5 stars.

I det tysta is a very solid book about Europe's abortion market, in particular the countries that currently consider abortion to be illegal and/or only allow it in very specific situations. Ireland, Poland and Malta are the European countries with the most limitations. In this book you'll find out how and why abortion laws in these countries have stagnated as opposed to the rest of Europe. Besides details on politics and society there's personal stories of women who chose to have an abortion (but didn't always actually get to have it) and how they experienced it. It's very clear that the low abortion numbers these countries strive after aren't low because their policies work, but because women go to illegal practises outside the country to have an abortion anyway, with all sorts of risks.

I think I was hoping for a bit more philosphical book about abortion, in that it would be a bit more about why abortion is such a problem to some people, but that's not what this book is about. It is a very strong overview of how restrictive abortion laws are being maintained, how society views them and most importantly, how they affect actual human beings.