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Prisons we choose to live inside Hardcover – 1987

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About the Author

Winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature, Doris Lessing was one of the most celebrated and distinguished writers of our time, the recipient of a host of international awards. She wrote more than thirty books—among them the novels Martha Quest, The Golden Notebook, and The Fifth Child. She died in 2013.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 78 pages
  • Publisher: Harper & Row; 1st U.S. ed edition (1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060390743
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060390747
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 11.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,654,369 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This book was a gift for a friend who is a lover of Doris Lessing writings.
Jill C. Smith
Reading 'Prisons...' will take about an hour of your life but may change it forever.
Diana Poskrop
This is a book that you can read over and over and still find something new.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

76 of 85 people found the following review helpful By bunnyrabbit4 VINE VOICE on August 8, 2005
Format: Paperback
In a time of polarization, Lessings small book shines a much needed light on how we use out-groups and outsiders in general as projection points for the feelings that society and religion tell us are unacceptable. We want to think of ourselves as noble when we identify some evil to correct and go about righteously eradicating it. Unfortunately, the core problem is that we are angry and feel a need to hurt someone or something. That is the real evil that we never look at. How noble were the people in her book who cut down a beautiful and historic tree because it was used to hang someone they liked? Was it the trees fault or did their need to express rage simply find a helpless victim?

The behaviors discussed in this book need to be recognised, not only because we will engage in them without thinking, but because they can be used against us by governments, religions and other social groups who fully understand their power. No group can survive for long if the natural aggressions of its members is not diverted toward some outside source. Every group is going to have something, or someone that they are against.

While she can go on too long in making some points, If you really think about the studies discussed in this book and began to apply them in your life, you will wakeup to some uncomfortable "slights of hand". Currently religion and politics in this country seem to be focused on homosexual marriage and abortion as "the problems". The message is, "spend your time fixing these people and you are part of the good group." You might want to stop for a moment and ask yourself why someone is trying to divert your aggressive feelings toward social groups and issues that there is a 95% likelihood you will never be part of and whose members are unlikely to ever impact your life. When that righteous feeling wells inside you ask yourself...what is this great group I belong to asking me NOT to look at?
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 10, 1997
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A great fiction writer such as Lessing has the tools to describe the causes and consequences of human behavior better than most psychologists or historians. In these beautifully written, brief essays, she describes the phenomenon of Eric Hoffer's "true believer" in the light of her own experiences with war, racism, political movements, and the seductive pleasure of self-righteousness. I have probably personally bought 100 copies of this book to give to friends; it is a great antidote for those times when you are sure you are right, and that you are justified in treating other human beings as the Enemy. Lessing addresses the fact that this kind of moral certitude, which is one of the fueling factors for most war, is equally prevalent among all political belief systems. She ends with hope that it is possible to raise children who are too good at thinking critically and at asking questions to ever get swept up in some vicious madness
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51 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Linda Talisman on October 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book contains a series of 5 lectures given by Doris Lessing, sponsored by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 1985.
Their basic thesis is that groups of human beings behave in certain predictable ways under cetain circumstances, and that those who value liberty and individual thought could make the world better by doing 2 things:
1. Learn about the many studies that have been done about group behaviour, brain-washing, & so on. Governments, advertisers, & others in a position to make use of this knowledge to manipulate us are certainly doing so. We should make use of it to avoid being manipulated.
2. Hold on to cool reflection & individual thought, despite all the pressures to conform, adhere to dogma of various kinds, party lines, & so on.
Many of the ideas presented here are also expressed in Lessing's novels. Better expressed, in my opinion, but it's certainly interesting & instructive to have them all together in one book.
The trouble is, this book is the equivalent of an academic thesis or scholarly study, yet without any of the documentation or foundation which would take it out of the realm of individual reflection or opinion. If one wants to look up any of the studies she mentions, one is on one's own, as there is no bibliography, no citations, no references, etc. Lessing's views are very interesting, but don't mistake these essays for social science.
Doris Lessing is a brilliant thinker & keen social & historical observer. She has been a first-hand witness to or participant in much of what has happened politically in the 20th century. She is superbly self-educated, but she is not a sociologist or a historian. She is not even a high school graduate.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Mardory on June 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
So often one comes across a piece of literature that asks for nothing from the reader, this is not one of those works.

We are all guilty of branding and labeling, the point is that one examine oneself during the process so that we understand the meaning behind those labels. AS humans we have a tendency to use words in ways that make them meaningless or less powerful. Yet the implications are still evident and strong. So often we fall prey to the whimsy of the age we live in, yet Lessing implores us to look deeper. If you enjoy the metaphysical in literature and other Lessing works such as The Golden Notebook, then Prisons we Choose to Live Inside will be a riveting read. Please do not become discouraged by those who say this is a tough read (or scholarly), this book is a MUST read for those of us who are, or would like to become more self aware.
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