From Publishers Weekly
Iyengar's inquiry into choice—why we value it, how we make it, and why it matters—is poorly served by this choppy reading. The cross-cultural study featuring the author's own research emphasizes how crucial is the perception of choice to our mental and physical health, and is filled with the sort of chatty asides to the listener that would recommend it for an audio version. Unfortunately, Orlagh Cassidy reads with a jarring pacing and emphasis, which makes minor points sound portentous, and the pedantic quality and singsong cadence give her the air of a primary school teacher. Her tongue trips on Hindi and Punjabi words (and even on the author's name)—which make the book's many autobiographical sections ring false. A Twelve hardcover (Reviews, Jan. 18). (Mar.)
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Prominent social psychologist Iyengar begins her unique and invigorating study of choice by telling the story of a man who survived for 76 days stranded alone in the middle of the ocean. He chose to live, Iyengar tells us, just as she has chosen not to let her blindness keep her from conducting prodigious research and intrepid experiments. Iyengar exponentially expands our understanding of the central role choice plays in the lives of animals and humans in a rapid-fire, many-faceted, and original inquiry that is at once personable and commanding. She explains our “biological need for choice and control,” the decision process, and the myriad influences that dictate everything from purchasing choices to career moves, voting, medical decisions, and marriage. The daughter of Sikh immigrants from India, Iyengar is particularly astute in her globally significant analysis of the striking differences between how Americans and Asians make decisions. Much of this eye-opening anatomy of choice focuses on consumerism, a lively, revealing arena, but Iyengar’s high-voltage curiosity and penetrating insights are far more valuable when applied to deeper matters of existence. --Donna Seaman