Books I got at BEA '12: Nonfiction Edition

This is the second in a series of posts on the books I came home with from Book Expo America in New York.

On Wednesday morning I attended, with maybe 50 other bloggers (I’m sure many more were invited), a blogger breakfast at the Random House headquarters. It was a terrific experience. I met some bloggers, several Random House editors, librarians from NYU and NYPL, and even Random House Executive Vice President Kate Medina, who was quite interested in the whole idea of book blogging. Random House also invited authors such as Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit and syndicated TV host Nate Berkus, who has a book on design coming out. With this event, Random House made it clear in every way, from the way the invites were handled, to the setting, decorations, food, and presence of staff who mingled eagerly with guests, how much bloggers matter.

We were gifted with several hardcovers on our way out, three of which are the following:

The Power of Habit has been a huge bestseller for Duhigg, a reporter for The New York Times. He actually spoke at the breakfast and complimented bloggers, saying his wife is a blogger and he has a good idea of how much work goes into it and also how important bloggers are for writers. I was pretty excited to get this one, as I have been eying it for a while. Click here for more info. Here’s a bit of the blurb:

At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, raising exceptional children, becoming more productive, building revolutionary companies and social movements, and achieving success is understanding how habits work.

Habits aren’t destiny. As Charles Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

Clearly someone at Random House looked into my soul and saw that I needed help with organization and productivity. So here’s a second book they gave me:

The Tools: Transform Your Problems into Courage, Confidence and Creativity was just published in late May. Here’s the blurb:

The Tools offers a solution to the biggest complaint patients have about therapy: the interminable wait for change to begin. The traditional therapeutic model sets its sights on the past, but Phil Stutz and Barry Michels employ an arsenal of techniques—“the tools”—that allow patients to use their problems as levers that access the power of the unconscious and propel them into action. Suddenly, through this transformative approach, obstacles become opportunities—to find courage, embrace discipline, develop self-expression, deepen creativity.

For years, Stutz and Michels taught these techniques to an exclusive patient base, but with The Tools, their revolutionary, empowering practice becomes available to every reader interested in realizing the full range of their potential. The authors’ goal is nothing less than for your life to become exceptional—exceptional in its resiliency, in its experience of real happiness, and in its understanding of the human spirit.

Click here to buy The Tools, or read more about it.

Er… thanks Random House. I guess? Apparently, this guy is known from the TV show, The Biggest Loser. I don’t usually read diet books, but this one, published this May, looks ok. Reviewers are saying it’s not really about getting skinny, but about diet and nutrition. Click here for more info (at Amazon).

The final two non-fiction books on my list are ones I actually stood in line for:

Vagina: A new biography reveals itself in August. It looked interesting, and, despite not being sold on her brand of “new feminism”, or, for that matter, her writing ability, I wanted to meet Naomi Wolf. I had an argument with my historian husband about whether there can be a biography of a body part. Here’s the blurb.

One of our best-selling and most respected cultural critics, Naomi Wolf, acclaimed author of The Beauty Myth and The End of America, brings us an astonishing work of cutting-edge science and cultural history that radically reframes how we understand the vagina—and, consequently, how we understand women. A “New Biography,” Vagina is at once serious, provocative, and immensely entertaining—a radical and endlessly fascinating exploration of the gateway to female consciousness from a remarkable writer and thinker at the forefront of the new feminism.

Click here for more info.

And finally…

As a philosophy professor who works in the area of moral psychology, this one really interested me. Ariely is the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University. Although I approach moral life from a very different perspective than a behavioral economist who develops apps that make decisions for you, he was a delight at the signing, and I am looking forward to reading and reviewing this one. Here’s the blurb:

The New York Times bestselling author of Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality returns with thought-provoking work to challenge our preconceptions about dishonesty and urge us to take an honest look at ourselves.

Does the chance of getting caught affect how likely we are to cheat?
How do companies pave the way for dishonesty?
Does collaboration make us more honest or less so?
Does religion improve our honesty?

Most of us think of ourselves as honest, but, in fact, we all cheat. From Washington to Wall Street, the classroom to the workplace, unethical behavior is everywhere. None of us is immune, whether it’s the white lie to head off trouble or padding our expense reports. In The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, award-winning, bestselling author Dan Ariely turns his unique insight and innovative research to the question of dishonesty.

Generally, we assume that cheating, like most other decisions, is based on a rational cost-benefit analysis. But Ariely argues, and then demonstrates, that it’s actually the irrational forces that we don’t take into account that often determine whether we behave ethically or not. For every Enron or political bribe, there are countless puffed rÉsumÉs, hidden commissions, and knockoff purses. In The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, Ariely shows why some things are easier to lie about; how getting caught matters less than we think; and how business practices pave the way for unethical behavior, both intentionally and unintentionally. Ariely explores how unethical behavior works in the personal, professional, and political worlds, and how it affects all of us, even as we think of ourselves as having high moral standards.

But all is not lost. Ariely also identifies what keeps us honest, pointing the way for achieving higher ethics in our everyday lives. With compelling personal and academic findings, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty will change the way we see ourselves, our actions, and others.

You can click here for more info on this book that just came out this week.

On a final note, I met Amy of Amy Reads at BEA and am so glad I did. Her wonderful book review blog covers nonfiction, literary fiction, and whatever else she’s reading. She even did a whole year of Nigerian fiction! I had a great time at dinner on Tuesday night with Amy, but when I ran into her again by accident in the line for Ariely’s book — which may have been composed, at that moment, of just the two of us — I knew I had found my nonfiction soul mate. Seriously, her blog is made of awesome. Check it out.

6 responses

  1. I’m not entirely sold on Wolf either but her new book sounds really interesting. And aw, I’m so glad you and Amy met! She’s one of my absolute favourite bloggy people 😀


  2. Me three on Wolf, but there’s usually something interesting in her arguments.

    I think the first two books look really interesting, but (and?) my grumpy early morning self is struck by the fact that both blurbs use the word “exceptional.” If you do read them and post on them, I’d be interested in hearing your philosopher’s take on the place of exceptionalism in living a good life. That line about “exceptional children” made me think of Lake Woebegone, where all the children are above average. Is this a particularly American drive, to be exceptional? I’m certainly not immune from the desire.


  3. I’ve read Ariely’s first two books and he’s an entertaining writer. It would be really interesting to hear what you think of it. I do some work on the application of behavioural economics to policy-making, and the moral and ethical issues there are pretty thorny.


  4. @Nymeth: The Wolf was one of the few putatively feminist titles on offer, and the line was short. As is the book. I hope to review it.

    @Liz Mc2: I agree on exceptionalism. Ever since I read D. H. Winnicott in grad school I’ve settled on my parenting goal: raising the “good enough child.”

    @Rosario: Oh, I should have known you would be well versed in his work. Glad to hear you liked them. I’m a sucker for books that write academic stuff for the lay audience, as long as its not my own field.


  5. I suppose if David Friedman can write a cultural history of the penis, Wolf can write a biography of the vagina.



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