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Everyday Survival: Why Smart People Do Stupid Things Hardcover – September 17, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


“A plea for heightened awareness of our surroundings, and good reading for the how-things-work set.” — Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Laurence Gonzales is the author of Surviving Survival and the bestseller Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why. He has won two National Magazine Awards and is a fellow of the Santa Fe Institute. His essays are collected in the book House of Pain. He lives in Evanston, Illinois.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (September 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393058387
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393058383
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,334,185 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Laurence Gonzales has won numerous awards for his books and essays, including two National Magazine Awards, the Carl Sandburg Literary Award, and the Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists.

He is the author of the best-seller "Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why." The sequel to this book, "Surviving Surival: The Art and Science of Resilience," is now available in paperback. His collection of essays from the University of Arkansas Press is entitled "House of Pain."

His latest book is "Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival," a 360-degree reconstruction of the crash of a fully-loaded jumbo jet. Richard Rhodes, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for "The Making of the Atomic Bomb," called this book, "Intense, gripping, alive with knowledge and compassion, Flight 232 is a new masterpiece of calamity and courage."

To see a video of the actual crash, visit the web site here:

You can also read excerpts of his books there and see the video trailer for his novel "Lucy" published by Alfred A. Knopf and available from Vintage paperbacks.

You can connect with Laurence on Facebook, here:

Praise for Flight 232

Praise for Surviving Survival

"Timely, realistic, and accessible self-help book on the potential of growth from suffering. Recommended"-Antoinette Brinkman, Library Journal

"Excellent... An education for those wishing to be of use in a stressful, often frightening world." - Kirkus Reviews, Best Nonfiction Books of 2012

"Gonzales reveals how recovery can be a transforming experience that not only moves us forward but also enriches our lives in ways we never could have imagined." - More Magazine

Praise for Deep Survival

"I tore through Deep Survival like I'd been waiting to read it my whole life. Gonzales's writing is effortless and compelling, and his research is first-rate. I can't imagine a better book on the topic." -Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm

"Far and away the best book on management, leadership and employment I have read this year...Anyone who has ever tried to understand the mind of the entrepreneur should read this book." -Rickard Donkin, Financial Times

"Riveting accounts of avalanches, mountain accidents, sailors lost at sea, and the man-made hell of 9/11." -Stephen Bodio, Sports Illustrated

"This book will help you should you ever find yourself pinned under a rock in a roaring white water river. But it will help you even more if you ever find yourself wondering why your brain works the way it does under the stress of everyday life. A fascinating look into why we are who we are." -Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature and Enough

"Gonzales has masterfully woven together personal survival stories with the study of human perception to reach rock-bottom truths about how to live with risk." -Peter Stark, author of Last Breath: The Limits of Adventure

"[Gonzales's] science is accurate, accessible, up-to-date and insightful. An extremely good book." -Robert Sapolsky, author of Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers

"Deep Survival provides a new lens for looking at survival, risk taking, and life itself. Gonzales takes the reader on a roller-coaster ride that ends with rules of survival we can all stand to learn. Equally important, he answers the question: what is the value of taking risks? I love this book." -Jed Williamson, editor of Accidents in North American Mountaineering

"A fascinating, fast paced, and exciting adventure into survival, (including an excellent survey of the brain basis of fear)." -Joseph LeDoux, professor of neural science at New York University and author of The Emotional Brain and Synaptic Self

"Remarkable, unique, and compulsively readable." -David Roberts, author of Escape from Lucania: An Epic Story of Survival

"Deep Survival is by far the best book on the many insights into epic survival stories I have ever read." -Daryl Miller, chief of mountaineering, Denali National Park & Preserve

"Unique among survival books...stunning...enthralling. Deep Survival makes compelling, and chilling, reading." -Penelope Purdy, Denver Post

Praise for Everyday Survival

"Well-written and fascinating...this is the kind of book you want everyone to read." -Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Part scientific exploration, part poetic meditation, Everyday Survival is a book for everyone who cares about where we have come from, and where we may be going." -Bill Miller, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Santa Fe Institute

"The evidence Gonzales, a natural storyteller, cites is riveting...Each story is tightly told and convincingly deconstructed." -Santa Fe New Mexican

"Mixing psychology, sociology, and anthropology, Everyday Survival provides clear, cautionary lessons on the dangers of the world we live in." -Sacramento Book Review

"A plea for heightened awareness of our surroundings, and good reading for the how-things-work set." -Kirkus Reviews

Praise for Lucy

"[Gonzales has] Crichton's gift for page-turning storytelling, but also a vivid, literary-grade prose style, and a knack for getting inside his characters' heads." --Entertainment Weekly, Grade: A

"Gonzales's Lucy is an improbably delightful young lady. . . . Lucy pulls the reader in because of the sweet girl at its center, but the novel also makes one think about what it means to be human, and how love can be a bridge to understanding and acceptance." --BookPage

"Compelling. . . . Outstanding. . . . [Lucy] is beach reading with bite." --Chicago Tribune

"Timely and provocative. . . . Gonzales injects [his dialogue] with doses of frivolity, wit, and a youthful insight at once frightfully innocent and calculatingly wise to the power of media and technology." --The Boston Globe

"[A] coming-of-age-except-I'm-also-part-bonobo biotech thriller. . . . This is an enjoyable ride that makes you think about what it means to be human." --Outside

"The clever ending Mr. Gonzales has come up with for Lucy marks a complete departure from the Frankenstein template, and it's oddly satisfying on an emotional level." --The New York Times

"Lucy is more than a high-school drama, a fish-out-of-water novel about how a hybrid girl tries to fit in at a suburban Chicago high school. . . . This Lucy is an action-packed politically charged thriller that puts evolution forth as an unassailable fact, and raises ethical and moral questions about biotechnical science, government power and the morality of leadership." --Chicago Tribune

"Laurence Gonzales presents us with a captivating lead character. . . . Part science thriller, part tender novel, Lucy is written with a full awareness of the evil people are capable of. Gonzales, like Mary Shelley before him, shows us on the brink of a terrible knowledge." --The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, VA)

"Harks back to the science fiction of the mid-20th century. . . . Lucy [is] a likeable and thoroughly intriguing character with a unique perspective. . . . Reveals a generous spirit and a flair for suspense." --The Columbus Dispatch

"Love and loss are at the core of this unusual story that analyzes life, relationships and issues of evolution." --Woman's Day

"Gonzales excels at creating universal moments." --The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)

"Shrewd social critique. . . . Gonzales raises profound questions about identity, family, animal and human rights, and genetic engineering without compromising the ever-escalating suspense. Lucy is irresistible, her predicament wrenching, and Gonzales's imaginative, sweet-natured, hard-charging, and deeply inquisitive thriller will be a catalyst for serious thought and debate." --Booklist

"A riveting, moving and informative survival story." --San Antonio Express-News

"Lucy is much more than an 'ape' and this novel is much more than just a summer beach book." --Curled Up With A Good Book

"Gonzales does a great job of keeping the action moving at a fast pace. . . . Gonzales comes back to the question of what it means to be human again and again. . . . Reading Lucy is an interesting way to confront this question and find your own answer." --The Advocate

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Charlie on October 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Pros: First six chapters are interesting and about the main reasons why folks do silly things with good examples provided.

Cons: Last 10 chapters are an odd mix of material on saving the Earth, physics, entropy, natural history, "look who I met when I went here" and biography of Gonzales and his father. Sources not cited, only selected bibliography provided. Poorly edited: Caption of picture on page 22 of the hardcover is incorrect, "dollars" is spelled "dolars" on page 210.
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55 of 61 people found the following review helpful By John M. on December 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The first half of the book gives some solid vignettes about internal scripts and behavioral models that explain why our brains sometimes run on autopilot and get us into trouble. But the final half of the book really has nothing to do with the title. It's a meandering, free-association ramble about whatever the heck happened to be in the author's head the minute his fingers were striking the keys. Once I got to Page 254 where he tries to compare the curve of entropy of the universe since the big bang to the curve of a human emotional response in a crisis, I cut my losses and threw it on the "to sell" pile.

After the success of "Deep Survival", it's almost like this book is just a mechanical attempt to get his next paycheck while his name still has cachet.
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful By BC on October 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Like other reviewers, I have a dog eared, underlined, heavily used copy of Deep Survival. So when I saw that Gonzales had a new book out, I couldn't wait to read it. What disappoints me about this book is not that it is not as good as Deep Survival, but that it starts with some interesting ideas and ends up getting side tracked and derailed.

The first six chapters are excellent. His link between how we make decisions and our impact on the environment are elegant and provocative. He talks about how we walk about in a "vacation state of mind," oblivious to the effects of our actions. I feel like I see this every day in the way people interact with each other. He then applies this "insulation from reality" to a macro view of the earth's systems and how humanity interacts with them.

After chapter six, the book unravels, jumping rapidly from issue to issue, supporting his statements with increasingly dubious science and venturing into New Age territory. One of the major themes of the later chapters is entropy, which is appropriate as there is a general decline into disorder in the later chapters.

I didn't pick up this book expecting a treatise on environmental responsibility and was not disappointed when Gonzales started down that path. I can, however, see how a "rugged individualist" would be shocked to find ideas about ecological stewardship in a book that looks like it is going to be about wilderness adventures. For those people, you've been warned; maybe you should look for a different book. For everyone else, find this book at your library, read the first six chapters and then return it.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I am surprised this book has received so many negative reviews, but I can also understand why some people may not like it. The reason, I believe, is that this book is multi-disciplinary. Gonzales attempts to blend a little information from a lot of fields with the intention of explaining why people make mistakes - this is extremely hard to do! That said, I think he does a fairly modest job of adding another perspective to the growing field of Complexity Theory/ General Systems Theory.

Here are a few sample quotes from the book and additional books that pertain to that quote:
"And one of the most frequently ignored factors in our behavior is the way we form models and scripts and use them rather than information from the world itself in most of what we do." - (Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, Why We Make Mistakes: How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and Are All Pretty Sure We Are Way Above Average & Blind Spots: Why Smart People Do Dumb Things)
"As demonstrated in the Stanford prison experiment, anytime two groups are formed by whatever means, the likelihood is that the interactions between them will become hostile." - (
...Read more ›
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Quinley VINE VOICE on January 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Book Title Oversells & is Misleading

EVERYDAY SURVIVAL starts with an intriguing premise that modern man has become conditioned to a "vacation state of mind," exposing him to various environmental dangers. Author Laurence Gonzales offers as examples people who saw the tides recede just before the big tsunami of 2006 and tourists who flocked to Mt. St. Helens just before it blew a whopping volcano. As a risk management professional, I began the book with interest and optimism.

Sad to report that, not nearly halfway in, EVERYDAY SURVIVAL veers off track and - in my view - never completely regains its footing. Gonzales sprints down the rabbit trails of evolution, the universe's creation, cosmology, his hispanic heritage, mating habits of bonobo monkeys, archaeology and his relationship to his father. What these themes have to do with the book's avowed premise is unclear.

The title oversells and misrepresents the majority of the book's content, much of which seems out of place or holding at best a tenuous connection to the theme of "why smart people do stupid things."

On second thought, maybe such a thematic digression is one example of the book's subtitle.
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