30 Days of Books: Day Eight

Have you ever gotten sick and not noticed it until one day you just had to leave work early and come home and sleep for something like fifteen hours? Yeah. That has been my life this week.

Day 08 – A book everyone should read at least once

I can’t recommend fiction for this, because people’s tastes are so different, and books I love are going to be death to other people. (See Jonathan Strange, above.) But hey, I love a good nonfiction book too.

I think I’m going to go with the book I just finished — Traffic: How We Drive (And What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt. It’s an overview of the state of scientific knowledge about driving, which is, quite frankly, a little scary. We spend huge amounts of time in cars and on the road, and we don’t know a lot about how or why traffic systems work (or, all too frequently, don’t work).

Vanderbilt spends, for instance, a whole chapter on attention. One thing that we do know is that people are very bad at paying attention. Part of this is actually adaptive, because if we paid attention to everything all the time we’d go into overload pretty quickly. Unfortunately, this also makes it easy to zone out when driving — and while most people are pretty sure they would see something unexpected in that state, research indicates that’s not really true.

I think books like this, about the ways we aren’t even necessarily aware of our inherent psychological inadequacies, are really important. Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational is another one, which I read last year, about how people do not often act in the perfectly rational ways that economists and other optimists expect us to. I find these kind of books help me to understand myself and other people, which in turn makes me more sympathetic to my own and others’ flaws, which generally reduces my daily stress level by quite a bit. If that’s not a good reason for a book recommendation, I don’t know what is.

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About Jen Moore

I'm a recent library school graduate in Madison, Wisconsin, looking for a full-time professional job and trying to manage a fulfilling life in the meantime. Oh, and I read. A lot.

Posted on October 16, 2010, in Reviews, The Internet is a Social Movement and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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