February 1, 2012

TLC Book Tour: Book Review of New: Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change

At the get-go, Dear Reader, let me get this business out of the way:  I was given a free copy of Winifred Gallagher's latest book, entitled New: Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change by TLC Book Tours in exchange for my agreement to read and review the book here on Everyday Simplicity.  Disclosure done, here's my opinion:

This is another book coming out of publishing houses these days where journalists attempt to provide perspective, if not answers, to why things are the way they are right now.  Think Malcomb Gladwell.  Think Stephen Dubner.  Maybe Chris Anderson.

Here we have a journalist who has written extensively in the area of behavioral science, Winifred Gallagher, who offers her take on things.  From its publisher (Penguin Press):
[i]n today's fast-paced world, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the mind-boggling number of new things-whether products, ideas, or bits of data-bombarding us daily. But adapting to new circumstance is so crucial to our survival that "love of the new," or neophilia, is hardwired into our brains at the deepest levels. Navigating between our innate love of novelty and the astonishingly new world around us is the task of New: helping us adapt to, learn about, and create new things that matter, while dismissing the rest as distractions. With wit and clarity, acclaimed behavioral science writer Winifred Gallagher takes us to the archaeological sites and neuroscience laboratories exploring our species' special affinity for novelty. ... As individuals, however, we vary in how we balance the sometimes conflicting needs to avoid risk and approach rewards. Some 15 percent of us are die-hard "neophiliacs" who are biologically predisposed to passionately pursue new experiences, and another 15 percent are "neophobes" who adamantly resist change. Most of us fall squarely in the spectrum's roomy middle range. Whether we love change, avoid change, or take the middle path, neophilia plays a crucial role in all of our lives.  No matter where we sit on neophilia's continuum, New shows us how to use it more skillfully to improve our lives.... This big-picture perspective has long been missing, and New will jump-start that discussion by offering the tools we need to control our love of the new-rather than letting it control us.

If you like this sort of thing, then you'll probably like this book.  It's receiving mostly good reviews (if you don't count NPR); moreover, it's got lots of fun facts and delves into all sorts of areas of interest: anthropology, archaeology, psychology, sociology, economics -- you can even find a reference to Charles Dickens here (Bleak House, which was interesting to discover since I'm reading Bleak House now).

Gallagher also provides suggestions on how to do things differently so life is better.  In her lingo, she's giving guidance on how to cope with all this new so that you control it and it doesn't control you.

Again, if you read these kind of books then you'll like this one.   

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