Quirk: Brain Science Makes Sense Of Your Peculiar Personality by Hannah Holmes

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Quirk: Brain Science Makes Sense Of Your Peculiar Personality

Written by Hannah Holmes

ISBN 978-1-4000-6840-1

 


In addition to writing four full-length books, Hannah Holmes of Portland, ME has provided science commentary for Science Live on the Discovery Channel and written several articles explaining scientific information in a relatable and entertaining manner. Her fourth book, Quirk- Brain Science Makes Sense of your Peculiar Personality, explores the facets of the human personality, which she does by speaking to several scientists dedicated to the study of how personality is formed and visiting the labs in which the scientists perform their research.


Hannah Holmes structures her book using the Five Factor model that many psychology professionals use to research and categorize personality types. This model first divides personality types into five sections, neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness, then breaks these sections down into even more specific categories. She travels to the research facilities of several international specialists in brain chemistry and the development of personality, examining their work in action. She then explains to us what she learns from each of these committed researchers in a clear, conversational manner that provides a well-defined image of both the scientists and their research. She compares the human personality to other mammalian research subjects such as mice, rats, and even voles, then uses real-life examples of humans who act the same way. Her examples are most often centered on the differences between herself and her husband, but she also describes situations involving her father, friends of hers, and incidents with random people on the beach as examples of certain types of behavior.

This is a well-researched and engagingly written book that will help readers to better understand not only their own personalities and those of their friends and neighbors, but also better understand the nature of why each of the personality traits may have evolved in the first place.

Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King

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Eyes of the Dragon

Written by Stephen King

Illustrated by David Palladini

ISBN 978-0-670-81458-9

I read my first Stephen King novel at the tender age of eight years old. I snuck a copy of Firestarter off of my father’s bookshelf, and although the subject matter was a little too heavy for an eight-year-old child, I was enthralled. I’ve read a large portion of his works since then, especially his earlier works, but the book that I come back to again and again is the fantasy story that he wrote for his daughter, Naomi King, titled Eyes of the Dragon.

When I first sat down to do the book review, I realized it had been several years since I had read the story, in fact, the last time I read it was before I had moved from Alaska to Colorado. I pulled the book out of my bookshelf and reread it, cover to cover. I was not disappointed.

King Roland, the king of a country known as Delain, is a good man at heart, if not a particularly wise or strong-minded sort. He was once a great hunter, but by the time the story starts he has succumbed to middle-age and has become easily led by the court magician, a shadowy man by the name of Flagg. (Those who have read King’s other works may note that this dark and sinister villain shares his name with Randall Flagg, an evil being that haunts several of his books, most notably The Stand and The Dark Tower series.) In his fifties Roland chooses for himself a young wife who is kind, intelligent, and most importantly, not easily led. He loves her very much, and her loving influence somewhat shelters him from Flagg’s insidious plans. The royal couple have two sons that the story revolves around. The elder, Peter, takes after his mother and has the benefit of her upbringing, but when Flagg conspires to cause her death during the birth of her younger son, Thomas, who is much more like her husband, he grows up without her compassion and in the shadow of his shining elder brother. Stephen King narrates the story beautifully, allowing the point of view to shift frequently without jolting the reader out of the story, weaving all of the threads together as neatly as a loom weaving threads together. The final product is as riveting as his longer books and comes to an altogether satisfying conclusion that wraps up the story and yet allows our imaginations to wander.

This story is one of the two (the other being The Girl who Loved Tom Gordon) that I recommend both to those who already fans of Stephen King, and to those who are put off by the gore and coarse language that are frequently found in his other works. It showcases his ability to skillfully weave plotlines together and highlights his character development, giving readers a chance to develop an emotional connection with no fewer than ten characters, one of which is a superbly developed sled dog with a colorful sense of smell. While it is clearly Mr. King at work, and a thread of fear and horror is easily observed, this book is still suitable for teens, although it might be a bit too intense for the very young.

 

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

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Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within

30th Anniversary Edition

Natalie Goldberg

ISBN 978-1-61180-308-2

 

This book is one of Natalie Goldberg’s earlier works, first published in 1986 with the 30th anniversary published in 2016. According to her website, the book has been translated into fourteen different languages and has sold more than a million copies worldwide. In Writing Down the Bones, the author brings together principles of Zen with writing and writing practice, outlining ways to help get the creative juices flowing, and emphasizing the importance of writing on a regular basis.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and felt that Goldberg took a complex subject and broke it down into simple but elegant language. Her primary focus is on the art of practice, to always be in a writer’s mind, to focus on the details even during your normal daily life, and then to write. Goldberg advises the writer to resist editing and give themselves permission to be somewhat sloppy during the initial creation process in order to allow the words to flow more naturally from their pen and she provides a number of creative suggestions for writing prompts that can help the writer to dig deeper. Her recommended writing prompts do tend to lean towards memoir-type writing, which makes sense as she typically writes either memoir or instruction books on writing and painting, but it can easily stoke the creative fire for fictional stories and creative non-fiction as well.

In my opinion, Writing Down the Bones, while a touch repetitive, is an excellent resource to encourage the novice writer to develop good writing habits to keep the words flowing as well as practical support to add passion and poignancy to the words of the more experienced author.