TBR Pile Review: The Gendered Brain, by Gina Rippon

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Hardcover, 448 pages
Published February 28th 2019 by Bodley Head
ISBN:1847924751 (ISBN13: 9781847924759)

Blurb

Do you have a female brain or a male brain?
Or is that the wrong question?


Reading maps or reading emotions? Barbie or Lego? We live in a gendered world where we are bombarded with messages about sex and gender. On a daily basis we face deeply ingrained beliefs that your sex determines your skills and preferences, from toys and colours to career choice and salaries. But what does this constant gendering mean for our thoughts, decisions and behaviour? And what does it mean for our brains?

Drawing on her work as a professor of cognitive neuroimaging, Gina Rippon unpacks the stereotypes that bombard us from our earliest moments and shows how these messages mould our ideas of ourselves and even shape our brains. Taking us back through centuries of sexism, The Gendered Brain reveals how science has been misinterpreted or misused to ask the wrong questions. Instead of challenging the status quo, we are still bound by outdated stereotypes and assumptions. However, by exploring new, cutting-edge neuroscience, Rippon urges us to move beyond a binary view of our brains and instead to see these complex organs as highly individualised, profoundly adaptable, and full of unbounded potential.

Rigorous, timely and liberating, The Gendered Brain has huge repercussions for women and men, for parents and children, and for how we identify ourselves. 

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Audiobook TBR Review: Move! by Caroline Williams

Move! cover art
By: Caroline Williams
Narrated by: Catrin Walker-Booth
Length: 5 hrs and 38 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release date: 15-04-21
Language: English
Publisher: Profile Audio

Summary

Did you know that walking can improve your cognitive skills? That strengthening your muscular core reduces anxiety? That light stretching can combat a whole host of mental and bodily ailments, from stress to inflammation? We all know that exercise changes the way you think and feel. But scientists are just starting to discover exactly how it works.

In Move!, Caroline Williams explores the emerging science of how movement opens up a hotline to our minds. Interviewing researchers and practitioners around the world, she reveals how you can work your body to improve your mind. As lockdown throws us back on our own mental and physical resources, there is no better time to take control of how you think and feel.

©2021 Caroline Williams (P)2021 Hachette Audio UK

My Review

This was a short listen that accompanied me on my walk to and from the pool yesterday and while crocheting today. I heard about it through New Scientist, reading the first paragraph of Williams’ article in this weeks magazine online. I bought the book on the strength of those paragraphs, and I also got this week’s magazine yesterday on the way back from swimming. The magazine article is a much condensed version of the book.

I found that there was very little in this book I didn’t already know or understand on an intellectual basis, although I didn’t know of the researchers and others she interviewed. I probably picked the information up from general reading. What this book does is bring all the information together in one place and provide simple, easy to follow advice to get the best from the research findings. The interviews are fascinating, and I especially like the idea of ‘natmov’, or natural movement training – training where people re-learn how to use their bodies like a human should by playing in nature. I think it’s something children do naturally, but school and time knock it out of us.

My only issue comes when Neurodivergent people are mentioned – dyslexics, ADHDers, Autistics specifically in this book – and people with mental distress. We have long known that researchers tend not to believe us until they ‘discover’ things for themselves. Like the link between neurodivergence and connective tissue disorders. Williams mentions the high incidence of EDS and IBS etc. is ND populations but somehow makes it sound like it’s our fault for not moving enough. She interviews a researcher who has hypermobility and then goes on to say ‘while some people with these conditions don’t like to be called disordered…’ the intonation suggests she thinks we are.

Same with mental illness – we just need to get out and about more. Maybe I’m interpreting it harshly, the author does have a history of mental distress herself, so maybe she’s just passing on the tone of research articles she’s read and the researchers she’s interviewed? She doesn’t consider any of the sociological factors that affect mental health, like increasingly unstable employment, housing difficulties, social fragmentation and loneliness.

I have shared this book with my equally autistic colleague, because the trauma section might come in handy for her mentoring, and our groups, but I warned her the author was ‘a bit neurotypical’. So, it comes with a warning to ND readers for that.

Over all, if you want some encouragement to get up and move a bit more but aren’t sure where to start or why bother, this is a useful book.

TBR Pile Review: Burn, by Herman Pontzer

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Hardcover
Published March 2nd 2021 by Allen Lane
ISBN:0241388422 (ISBN13: 9780241388426)

Blurb

Over the past twenty years, evolutionary biologist Herman Pontzer has conducted ground-breaking studies across a range of settings, including pioneering fieldwork with Hadza hunter-gatherers in northern Tanzania.

This book draws on his eye-opening research to show how, contrary to received wisdom, exercise does not increase our metabolism. Instead, we burn calories within a very narrow range: nearly 3,000 calories per day, no matter our activity level.

By taking a closer look at what happens to the energy we consume, Pontzer explores the ways in which metabolism controls every aspect of our health – from fertility to immune function – and reveals the truth about the dynamic system that sustains us. Filled with facts and memorable anecdotes, Burn will change the way you think about food, exercise and life.

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TBR Pile Review: Laziness Does No Exist, by Devon Price PhD

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Hardcover, 256 pages
Published January 5th 2021 by Atria Books
ISBN:1982140100 (ISBN13: 9781982140106)

From social psychologist Dr. Devon Price, a fascinating and thorough examination of what they call the “laziness lie”—which falsely tells us we are not working or learning hard enough—filled with practical and accessible advice for overcoming society’s pressure to “do more.”

Extra-curricular activities. Honors classes. 60-hour work weeks. Side hustles.

Like many Americans, Dr. Devon Price believed that productivity was the best way to measure self-worth. Price was an overachiever from the start, graduating from both college and graduate school early, but that success came at a cost. After Price was diagnosed with a severe case of anemia and heart complications from overexertion, they were forced to examine the darker side of all this productivity.

Laziness Does Not Exist explores the psychological underpinnings of the “laziness lie,” including its origins from the Puritans and how it has continued to proliferate as digital work tools have blurred the boundaries between work and life. Using in-depth research, Price explains that people today do far more work than nearly any other humans in history yet most of us often still feel we are not doing enough.

Dr. Price offers science-based reassurances that productivity does not determine a person’s worth and suggests that the solution to problems of overwork and stress lie in resisting the pressure to do more and instead learn to embrace doing enough. Featuring interviews with researchers, consultants, and experiences from real people drowning in too much work, Laziness Does Not Exist encourages us to let go of guilt and become more attuned to our own limitations and needs and resist the pressure to meet outdated societal expectations. 

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TBR Pile: Food Isn’t Medicine, by Dr Joshua Wolrich

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Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 15th 2021 by Vermilion
ISBN: 1785043455 (ISBN13: 9781785043451)

Blurb

Losing weight is not your life’s purpose.

Do carbs make you fat?
Could the keto diet cure mental health disorders?
Are eggs as bad for you as smoking?

No, no and absolutely not. It’s all what Dr Joshua Wolrich defines as ‘nutribollocks’ and he is on a mission to set the record straight.

As an NHS doctor with personal experience of how damaging diets can be, he believes every one of us deserves to have a happy, healthy relationship with food and with our bodies. His message is clear: we need to fight weight stigma, call out the lies of diet culture and give ourselves permission to eat all foods.

Food Isn’t Medicine wades through nutritional science (both good and bad) to demystify the common diet myths that many of us believe without questioning. If you have ever wondered whether you should stop eating sugar, try fasting, juicing or ‘alkaline water’, or struggled through diet after diet (none of which seem to work), this book will be a powerful wake-up call. Drawing on the latest research and delivered with a dose of humour, it not only liberates us from the destructive belief that weight defines health but also explains how to spot the misinformation we are bombarded with every day.

Dr Joshua Wolrich will empower you to escape the diet trap and call out the bad health advice for what it really is: complete nutribollocks.

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Pen & Sword Review: The Real World of Victorian Steampunk, by Simon Webb

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Paperback, 168 pages
Published November 13th 2019 by Pen and Sword History
ISBN: 1526732858 (ISBN13: 9781526732859)

In the last few decades, steampunk has blossomed from being a rather obscure and little-known subgenre of science fiction into a striking and distinctive style of fashion, art, design and even music. It is in the written word however that steampunk has its roots and in this book Simon Webb explores and examines the real inventions which underpin the fantasy. In doing so, he reveals a world unknown to most people today.

The Real World of Victorian Steampunk shows the Victorian era to have been a surprising place; one of steam-powered airplanes, fax machines linking Moscow and St Petersburg, steam cars traveling at over 100 mph, electric taxis and wireless telephones. It is, in short, the nineteenth century as you have never before seen it; a steampunk extravaganza of anachronistic technology and unfamiliar gadgets. Imagine Europe spanned by a mechanical internet; a telecommunication system of clattering semaphore towers capable of transmitting information across the continent in a matter of minutes. Consider too, the fact that a steam plane the size of a modern airliner took off in England in 1894.

Drawing entirely on contemporary sources, we see how little-known developments in technology have been used as the basis for so many steampunk narratives. From seminal novels such as The Difference Engine, through to the steampunk fantasy of Terry Pratchett’s later works, this book shows that steampunk is at least as much solid fact as it is whimsical fiction. 

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TBR Pile Review: Bad Psychology, by Robert A. Forde

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Paperback, 304 pages
Published September 1st 2017 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers
ISBN:1785922300 (ISBN13: 9781785922305)

For decades the psychological assessment and treatment of offenders has run on invalid and untested programmes. Robert A. Forde exposes the current ineffectiveness of forensic psychology that has for too long been maintained by individual and commercial vested interests, resulting in dangerous prisoners being released on parole, and low risk prisoners being denied it, wasting enormous amounts of public money. Challenging entrenched ideas about the field of psychology as a whole, and how it should be practised in the criminal justice system, the author shows how effective changes can be made for more just decisions, and the better rehabilitation of offenders into society, while significantly reducing the cost to the taxpayer.


This is a fearless account calling for a return to scientific evidence in the troubled field of forensic psychology. 

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Children’s Book Review: The Pirate and R, by Daniele Forni

Summary:

The Pirate and R is a simple introduction to the statistical software R, specifically aimed at future data scientists.

Got to http://www.thelittledatascientist.co.uk for more codes to use and to stay up to date regarding future publications.

Information about the Book

Title: The Pirate and R

Author: Daniele Forni

Genre: Picture Book

Publication Date: 2nd June 2020

Page Count: 30

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53666365-the-pirate-and-r

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pirate-R-Daniele-Forni/dp/1913340686/

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Review: Explaining Humans, by Dr Camilla Pang

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This book is truly exceptional. Applying science to the problems of human relationships, the perils of perfectionism and the pitfalls of social etiquette, Millie has written a joyous, funny and hugely insightful text for all of us – whether neurotypical or neurodiverse. This ‘outsiders guide to the human race’ is warm, witty and a joy to read.’ Prof Gina Rippon, Cognitive neuroscientist/autism researcher and author of The Gendered Brain.

Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of eight, Camilla Pang struggled to understand the world around her and the way people worked. Desperate for a solution, Camilla asked her mother if there was an instruction manual for humans that she could consult. But, without the blueprint to life she was hoping for, Camilla began to create her own. Now armed with a PhD in biochemistry, Camilla dismantles our obscure social customs and identifies what it really means to be human using her unique expertise and a language she knows best: science.

Through a set of scientific principles, this book examines life’s everyday interactions including:

– Decisions and the route we take to make them;
– Conflict and how we can avoid it;
– Relationships and how we establish them;
– Etiquette and how we conform to it.

Explaining Humans is an original and incisive exploration of human nature and the strangeness of social norms, written from the outside looking in. Camilla’s unique perspective of the world, in turn, tells us so much about ourselves – about who we are and why we do it – and is a fascinating guide on how to lead a more connected, happier life. 

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Review: Health At Every Size, by Linda Bacon Ph.D

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Fat isn’t the problem. Dieting is the problem. A society that rejects anyone whose body shape or size doesn’t match an impossible ideal is the problem. A medical establishment that equates “thin” with “healthy” is the problem.
The solution?

Health at Every Size.

Tune in to your body’s expert guidance. Find the joy in movement. Eat what you want, when you want, choosing pleasurable foods that help you to feel good. You too can feel great in your body right now—and Health at Every Size will show you how.

Health at Every Size has been scientifically proven to boost health and self-esteem. The program was evaluated in a government-funded academic study, its data published in well-respected scientific journals.

Updated with the latest scientific research and even more powerful messages, Health at Every Size is not a diet book, and after reading it, you will be convinced the best way to win the war against fat is to give up the fight. 

Paperback, 374 pages
Published: March 23rd 2010 by BenBella Books
 (first published October 11th 2008)
Original Title
Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth about Your Weight
ISBN:1935618253 
ISBN13: 9781935618256
Edition Language: English
URL:http://www.haesbook.org/

My Review

I bought this book out of interest, having been a fat person for most of my life and tried diets multiple times that worked temporarily. I’d lose a couple of stone then plateau before starting to increase again. And before I knew it I’d be back to my old weight. In the last year I’ve put on 10 kg. The nurse has got grumpy with me, I’ve returned to the Wellbeing Service Health Trainer I was seeing three years ago (at least), and she’s referred me to Thrive. I have to fill in a food diary and track everything. It’s already screwing with my head. I’m trying not to restrict but I’m struggling with it. I want to get fitter, my weight will do what it will.

I read this book with interest. Linda Bacon is a good writer and she makes the science understandable. The first half of the book is about the science, which shows that restrictive dieting may actually trigger the body’s anti-starvation mechanisms, making the dieter obsessed with food and binge. She discusses the social and political pressures around body size and health.

The basic idea is that rather than restricting food and exercising as punishment for eating, people should try to listen to their body, eat when they’re hungry and move in ways that feel good. The book tries to help the reader with that. It’s very easy to read, and full of information. Many will find it challenging because it questions everything we’re told about weight and health.

The book is US-centric and doesn’t discuss disability in respect to health and food. It also assumes the reader is in a stable living situation where they can afford and cook ‘real’ food. At times it comes off as a bit preachy.

If you’re struggling with your weight, sick of feeling a failure because the diets don’t work, try reading this book.