The book includes statistics to bolster his arguments, but the most influential material comes from his descriptions of real families trying to get help for desperately ill and misunderstood loved ones. He describes the problems of over-medication, poor insurance coverage and behind-the-scenes incompetence among staff in mental health facilities. The book also focuses on the much-discussed notion of parity in mental health treatment and the loopholes in parity laws that are barriers to treatment.
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-- Shari Roan
Bozo Sapiens: Why to Err Is Human
Michael Kaplan and Ellen Kaplan
Bloomsbury Press, $26
We're so clever, we human beings -- so why do we think and do such stupid things? Dating the boy with the motorbike. Buying lottery tickets when we know we don't have a snowball's chance of winning. Getting goofily sucked in by ads that tell us we must have that pair of jeans, that perfume, that car. Fighting senseless wars.
"We easily spot and gleefully point out the fatuities of our opponents -- and wonder, in lonely midnight hours, whether we ourselves are any less absurd," write this mother-and-son team in the book's opening chapter. No, we are not -- and in this book the Kaplans tell us why, drawing on a melange of evidence: brain scans, experiments on undergraduate students, some real-life examples of accidents or near misses and what lay behind them.
Our brains, for all their complexity, are not logical computers, the authors explain. They are built to process information quickly, relying as much on gut as mind; to favor short-term gains over long-term ones; to divide the world into Us and Them; to savor prestige; to conform to the crowd, and attend to facts that support our underlying prejudices while giving short shrift to ones that don't.
The Kaplans write: "Error is democratic and egalitarian: go scrutinize the opinions of even the best educated, and you will find them still largely a patchwork of hearsay, authority, prejudice, and self-accommodation; basic illogicalities prevail alike in the labs of MIT and in the stands at World Wrestling Entertainment."
Some of the content feels unfresh: Me, I've reached the point where I never again want to be told that we eat to excess because our hunter-gatherer ancestors never faced today's abundance of calories. And I could have wished for more dissection of specific cases of human idiocy. Still, this is an entertaining and edifying read.
-- Rosie Mestel
The Human Body Book: An Ilustrated Guide to Its Structure, Function and Disorders
Dorling Kindersley, $40
Wonder what your innards look like? What diseases those innards could get? If someone you know is this way -- and a sucker, to boot, for gorgeous illustrations -- this book (which comes with an interactive DVD-ROM) could be the ticket. That vertical MRI slice through the brain on Page 13! The inflammatory response explained on Page 160 -- with a rendition of lung airway tissue that looks like a slice of red velvet cake!
Your loved ones may not have realized they could get wrapped up in the process of gas exchange between blood and body tissues, or how nerve cells send signals to other ones at synapses. With more than 200 diseases and disorders to discuss, this book will give them plenty to share with Grandma and Grandpa on the festive day.
-- Rosie Mestel