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How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like Paperback – June 20, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Bloom (Descartes' Baby), a psychology professor at Yale, explores pleasure from evolutionary and social perspectives, distancing himself from the subject's common association with the senses. By examining studies and anecdotes of pleasure-inducing activities like eating, art, sex, and shopping, Bloom posits that pleasure takes us closer to the essence of a thing, be it animal, vegetable, or mineral. He argues that humans seem to be hard-wired to give, as well as receive, pleasure. A study using mislabeled, cheap bottles of wine, wherein "Forty experts said the wine with the fancy label was worth drinking, while only twelve said this of the cheap label," demonstrates the complicated sociological components behind what we find pleasurable. Bloom even briefly examines positive reactions to very hot food and other "controlled doses of pain." And a study where rhesus monkeys chose pictures of female hindquarters and high-status monkeys over fruit juice allows the author to surmise that "Two major vices-pornography and celebrity worship-are not exclusively human."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“A book that is different from the slew already out there on the general subject of happiness. No advice here about how to become happier by organizing your closest; Bloom is after something deeper than the mere stuff of feeling good.”
- The New York Times Book Review
“Should stoke your neurons into a frenzy and leave you wanting more.”
- Mary Carmichael, Newsweek.com
“Sigmund Freud, Mr. Pleasure Principle himself, would have approved.”
“Scholarly yet spy…. Bloom salts the book with all manner of pungent, apposite points…. A heartening, well-developed argument.”
- Kirkus Reviews
“A gracefully written book and a lot of fun.”
- Peter D. Kramer, Slate
“Drawing on his own research as well as studies in neuroscience, behavioral economics, and philosophy, [Bloom] makes a powerful argument for essentialism at the crux of human pleasure.”
- Maywa Montenegro, Seed Magazine
“In this eloquent and provocative book, Paul Bloom takes us inside the paradoxes of pleasure, exploring everything from cannibalism to Picasso to IKEA furniture. The quirks of delight, it turns out, are a delightful way to learn about the human mind.”
- Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide
“This book is not just a pleasure, but a revelation, by one of psychology’s deepest thinkers and best writers. Lucid and fascinating, you’ll want to read it slowly and savor the experience.”
- Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness
“How Pleasure Works has one of the best discussions I’ve read of why art is pleasurable, why it matters to us, and why it moves us so.”
- Daniel Levitin, author of This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession
“This book is a pearl, a work of great beauty and value, built up around a simple truth: that we are essentialists, tuned in to unseen order.”
- Jonathan Haidt, author of The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom
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This book is written to be readable probably much as this college professor teaches the subject to his college students who have notoriously short attention spans. Every teacher knows these days you have to be half scholar and half entertainer if you are to get your students to tune in to you instead of their smart phones.
I think Bloom does an excellent job of covering a wide spectrum of where we find our pleasures and showing you why. As an author myself I can see that one distraction from the content is the actual book design which includes the font, margins, spacing, chapter headings, paper and cover stock and the cover design. The cover artwork is okay but the paper stock of the cover and interior of the book are decidedly cheap which I think makes you take the content less seriously. Every woman knows "packaging counts" and it is true in book design as well. Even when a big publisher like W.W. Norton agree to publish your work, an author should fight for at least input on the book design.
Despite the cheapy feel of the book in your hand, the content is well worth considering...it may make you think twice before you spurge on that special something you really cannot afford.
I like dangerous books that make you think. Paul Bloom from Yale in his How Pleasure Works has written a such a book. It's a frightful thought to pause, as he suggests, and take in just why one likes what one likes; loves what one loves.
I was intrigued to track here the science of why I am passionate about certain topics or people or ideas and bored with others. Yes, it was fun pondering here why it is that certain thoughts and acts stir me; and why and when the reverse emotions are stirred in me, to; such as disgust or fear or dread. I enjoyed his questions on why it is we love or hate the idea of God. And just what is this thing we call awe?
It's three in the morning and this professor has got me up reading about science. Takes a good writer and strong storyteller to involve the reader like this. His work reads like you're taking in a novel when what you are really doing is reading about basic science on the mind and the human condition of how we think and feel and why.
The good developmental psychologist Dr. Bloom might be an ivory tower professor in some eyes; but for me in this work he was more an observant student of two year olds. I liked how he seemed unashamed as an academic to be listed as one more philosopher awed by mystery in the universe. I liked this book. A science page turner is rare; maybe he's giving Mary Roach a run for her spot as top science writer?
The hedonist in me also loved his focus on pleasure. And I loved how my bone doctor specialist last week paused when I went to see him about my ailing elbow and I watched him grab this paperback from my lap for a quick jacket read--How Pleasure Works--before dealing with my pains.
No shock we are pretty much all pleasure hounds. But perhaps only the brave or geekish might be pulled out from the crowd as those likely to take the time and look under the hood at just why we like what we like. And yet I found his mind fascinating as he worked us though questions like the odd connection with pleasure and pain. Why one guy visits and pays $300 hour in Seattle for a Dominatrix for a simple ass whipping and another man pays $3M for Mark McGuire's 7th home run ball. The success of this title shows a lot of us out here want to muse some over all the chicken and egg questions about how and why pleasure moves us.
I loved his observations on what he calls "essentialism"; how we all seem to gravitate to the Real Deal as opposed to the fake; be it in matters of love or art or sex or theology or anything that revs us up rather than leaves us cold.
Ever been in love and wondered why it was the glance of the brunette and not the blond that yanked you from the sidelines at the party? This book's for you. It got me thinking why I was disturbed once to find that the woman I was falling for had undergone a face lift the year before and even copped to photo shopping the face lift pic before hooking me on Match.com. Which face was real? Which women? Did it matter now that I was hooked? Yes, why do these things matter at all. Or not? Well, ask like that and this is worth your time to read. Or if you just love science and a good time. Or just love asking why? You will love this book.