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Dr David Hamilton: Why Kindness is Good For You

This was recommended by a Twitter friend, and I was initially a little sceptical. Hamilton's website, together with his identifying as a "motivational speaker" screamed pseudo-science, self-aggrandisement and general fail.

However, the Twitter friend in question has always struck me as sensible, and the central thesis of Hamilton's book - that being kind and compassionate is actively good for the health - is one that I've more or less believed for a while, and is certainly an idea that I'd like to see gain currency. Also, squirrelled away on his website is the information that his PhD is in organic chemistry, that he used to work for the pharmaceutical industry, has taught chemistry and ecology at degree level, and runs a charity that appears to do genuinely good stuff. All of which give him rather more credibility in my eyes for this sort of thing. Apparently what triggered his current career was noting how powerful the placebo effect really is, and wanting to find ways of deliberately using this, rather than pretending it's something else. Which is something I've been hoping someone would do for a while.

So, I got a second hand copy from AbeBooks, and had a read.

And it's lovely... )

So, yes. 3 1/2 out of 5 for Why Kindness is Good For You. I'm very fond of it myself, and glad indeed that it was recommended to me. But too flawed to get a higher mark, I think.
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Bill McKibben: Deep Economy: Economics as if the World Mattered.

(I believe it may have a different subtitle in the US.)

Am too tired to do a proper or even a mini-review, but I this book delighted and enthused and inspired me. I finished it earlier this evening, despite being barely able to hold it at the time. (It's not that heavy but it is a hardback, and my disabilities are playing up!) Am now passing it on to [personal profile] eithin to read.

As with a lot of things I've been reading and encountering over the last six months especially, the emphasis in this book is on the power of communities, of local, friendly action to start gradually usurping an economic doctrine which advocates efficiency at all costs to people and planet. And above all questioning what economics is *for* and working out ways of making it actually do that.

His arguments are frankly best put by himself rather than summarised, so I do suggest taking the time to read it yourself, if you are able to. As it happens the prose style is a joy: clear, easy, frequently entertaining, often moving or funny, but never losing intellectual rigour or the strong arguments. There are one or two points where I could see flaws in what he was saying, but these were on minor matters. I chose this book deliberately as my first full text exploring the new economics, and I'm glad I did so. It was a fine book to start with, and has given me a lot of motivation to go forth and read and learn more. :-)


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Journeys in Kindness/Journeys in Kind

September 2010

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