From Publishers Weekly
Can you—can any ordinary person—learn to build on your natural biological endowments to turn yourself into a model of selflessness and service to others? Svoboda's question is straightforward, but the path to an answer winds from evolutionary biology and neuroscience to educational philosophy and psychology via anecdote and personal reflection. But while the journo makes some interesting points, there is nothing particularly new here. She summarizes the basic evolutionary explanation for altruism and describes some of the classic relevant neuroscience work; her two main points are that a selfless attitude can be cultivated through practice, and that learning about evil and kindness can prepare people to act heroically when opportunities present themselves. However, Svoboda presents little hard data to support her position, relying instead on anecdotes, interpretations of past studies, and personal experiences, such as having an MRI scan, attending a Real Life Superheroes gathering in New York City, and handing out small care packages to homeless people in San Francisco. (Purple prose doesn't help, either: Offered a meager gift and a little kindness, people the world had written off as hopeless opened up the way parched blooms do after a few drops of rain.) Agent: Joe Veltre, Gersh Agency. (Aug. 29)
What Makes a Hero? is really about how to become a better person—a subject science has more to say about than you might expect. The world would be a better place if everyone read Elizabeth Svoboda's fun, fascinating, and deeply researched book.
—Joshua Foer, author of Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything
In this readable and engaging volume, Elizabeth Svoboda weaves research, public narratives and personal stories together to demonstrate the counter-intuitive truth of her title: that heroic action can be learned; that heroic inclinations can be nurtured; and that “heroes” can, in fact, be made. We all have it in us, and through rehearsal, practice, self-insight and peer support, we can bring our inner heroes to light.
—Mary C. Gentile, Ph.D., author of Giving Voice To Values: How To Speak Your Mind When You Know What's Right
It's a joy to join the journey of Elizabeth Svoboda, a young writer and researcher, as she brings together personal stories and exciting studies to explain what pushes us to aid others—from daily helping to headlined heroic acts.
—Allan Luks, co-author of The Healing Power of Doing Good
In these trying times involving global political conflict and economic hardship, Elizabeth Svoboda gives us all hope that science can show humanity the right path. Her book artfully describes the psychological and physiological explanations behind altruism and heroism—which just might crack the toughest cynic. But must importantly, she gives us a glimpse into how we all hold it within ourselves to make our immediate communities a little bit better.
—Cyrus Farivar, author of The Internet of Elsewhere and senior business editor of Ars Technica
Kudos to Elizabeth Svoboda for answering the question What Makes a Hero? She examines every facet that contributes to heroic behavior: genes, neurobiology, thoughts and feelings, social forces. She even does her own “experiments” in heroism and shares her results. A must-read for anyone curious about real-life heroism.
—Robin Rosenberg, Ph.D., psychologist and author, Superhero Origins: What Makes Superheroes Tick and Why We Care; editor, What Is a Superhero?
Elizabeth Svoboda's engaging new book explores what makes a hero—and reveals science behind the greatness and generosity possible to any human being.
—Jill Neimark, co-author of Why Good Things Happen to Good People