I saw this book over on medieval bookworm‘s site (with a way better title and cover!) and thought it would make a perfect audiobook — non-fiction and and interesting topic! And, indeed, I found it on .mp3 CD at a local library and so promptly requested it. I must say, having one .mp3 CD is far more delightful than the eight or nine regular CDs that would have made up this book. So much easier to keep track of!
But this is a book review, not a CD format review (but it’s awesome!), and the book itself was a bit of a letdown. The topic is good. How do people make decisions? What parts of our brains do the heavy lifting? Why do people sometimes make really bad decisions, like buying crappy jam (no, really)? But there are only so many times I can hear the phrase “pre-frontal cortex” or the words “rational” and “emotional” before I start to go a little crazy! Lehrer clearly knows what he’s talking about, but seems to think you don’t think he knows what he’s talking about, so he throws out, like, a million examples of situations in which decisions need to be made, and how they were made. And if they were all different, that would be good, but a lot of the examples just repeat the same lessons as the ones that came before them.
At least the situations are interesting. We hear about smoke jumpers, pilots, jam purchasers, contestants on Deal or No Deal, wine connoiseurs, Parkinson’s sufferers who become slot machine addicts… it’s a good time. And now that I’ve heard all of these examples, I’ve been annoying Scott by pointing out similar situations in everyday life. I think he might smack me if he hears the word “dopamine” again!
If you’re going to read this, I’d probably advise against the audiobook — read it in book form instead, so that you can just read a chapter every once in a while and not get overloaded by the terms. But you should read it, so that you don’t buy the wrong house next time you move.
Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.