Outstanding Academic Titles 2023: Psychology

Enjoy these five selections from the Choice Reviews 2023 Outstanding Academic Titles list. This week we highlight, Outstanding Academic Titles from the past year pertaining to psychology. A hearty congratulations to the winning authors, editors and publishers!

1. The good-enough life
Alpert, Avram. Princeton, 2022

This is an amazing and deeply inspiring book. Alpert (Princeton Univ.) employs a prose style that is wrought like fine gold jewelry. There is scarcely a page from which this reader does not wish to quote and share Alpert’s wisdom with others. But wait: to respond to the book in this way could be to fall precisely into the mind trap the author critiques, urging readers to examine the effects of the concept of “greatness” in all its manifestations (from self-care how-tos to shaping the fate of the Earth) in their own lives and how its pervasiveness affects other people. To always strive for greatness, Alpert argues, to wish for nothing more than to be at the top of the pyramid of wealth, power, or spiritual attainment, involves leaving billions of others behind. The wealth of those at the top may indeed one day contribute to miraculous changes in the way some people live, but meanwhile such wealth and the achievements it supports obscure the poverty and injustice of most people’s daily experience. View on Amazon


2. The uses of delusion: why it’s not always rational to be rational
Vyse, Stuart A. Oxford, 2022

Behavioral scientist, teacher, and essayist Vyse offers his advice on “why it’s not always rational to be rational.” Evolutionary psychologists point out that nature does not care whether a thought or behavior is rational or not, or makes sense or is patently delusional. Instead, nature only wants to know whether or not that thought or behavior is adaptive, i.e., whether it has survival value. But Vyse finds the sometimes amusing utility in such seemingly “irrational” stances as overconfidence, self-deception, wishful thinking, unjustified optimism, and unconstrainted free will, noting how each can help people meet their personal and social goals, assist societies in enhancing their members’ well-being, and have other positive outcomes. In the course of this narrative Vyse ranges from American pragmatism and collectivist societies to love at first sight and the writings of Joan Didion. Vyse is an articulate and engaging writer, and his argument is illustrated at points by graphic figures and diagrams to assist readers’ comprehension of key concepts, such as rational choice theory. View on Amazon


3. On expertise: cultivating character, goodwill, and practical wisdom
Mehlenbacher, Ashley Rose. Pennsylvania State, 2022

As a professor of English and Canada Research Chair in Science, Health, and Technology Communication, Mehlenbacher (Univ. of Waterloo) offers an incisive historical examination and current assessment of theories of expertise cast in the language and disciplinary sensibility of rhetoric and communication. This well-organized book progresses clearly through the keystone context for understanding expertise vis-à-vis an historical lens, albeit mostly situated in Western contexts and histories. Mehlenbacher’s expansive understanding of the conceptualization, application, and reception of expertise is much needed—even essential—in the present cultural moment. This text offers readers a worthwhile heuristic as related to forging a healthy path toward a society that values intellect and compassion over extreme populism and anti-intellectualism. Mehlenbacher draws from the accounts of 40 interviewed professionals in her critical portrayal of expertise and how it can propel a renaissance of regard for an expert class and its value in society. View on Amazon


4. From the abyss of loneliness to the bliss of solitude: cultural, social and psychoanalytic perspectives
ed. by Aleksandar Dimitrijević and Michael B. Buchholz Phoenix Publishing House, 2022

Dimitrijević (International Psychoanalytic Univ.) and Buchholz (formerly, International Psychoanalytic Univ.) present a work that is both necessary and deeply engaging. Their recurring theme is to draw the distinction between loneliness, which can lead to despair, and solitude, which is essential for creativity, flow, and rejuvenation. Chapter 6, an enlightening discourse on the role of solitude and loneliness in creativity, perhaps best expresses this dichotomy. Chapter 7 points out that solitude is voluntary, sought after, and often positive, whereas loneliness is involuntary and aversive. Yet even the term loneliness is further dissected from various perspectives (e.g., chapters 15, 16). Topics covered include child, adolescent, and adult development; music, art therapy, stress, health, and mortality; and even recent research on isolation during the pandemic. Part 4 presents loneliness from the psychoanalytic perspective, delivering frank and powerful clinical accounts of trauma, loneliness, and isolation that provide valuable insight. Though common themes run throughout and there is much agreement across all chapters and authors, each chapter nevertheless offers a unique contribution to the volume. 
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5Cry, baby: why our tears matter
Perry, Benjamin. Broadleaf Books, 2023

This book provides a compelling explanation of the value of tears as a needed expression of emotion for personal and societal transformation. Community educator, activist, and minister Perry crafts a selective multidisciplinary survey of weeping, woven with his own lived experience of learning to embrace tears as an embodiment of emotion and a fundamental aspect of individual and collective well-being. Depicting himself as an “evangelist for crying,” Perry recounts his decision to learn the art of shedding tears. Opening chapters explore the physiological basis for crying. Perry summarizes key works in chapter 2, beginning with Darwin’s The Emotional Expression of Man and Animals and tracing selected studies through the present. Readers will benefit from the cited science of this chapter, as well as the breadth of disciplines and their treatment of grief covered in subsequent chapters. Considerations of race, gender, class, and sexuality figure strongly in Perry’s exploration. While he cites numerous causes of modern ills that engender tears, and that push some to suppress them, he also includes numerous stories and citations of personal experiences where the expression of tears transformed both the one crying and those observing the crier. “Cry like your tears matter, because they do,” Perry advises, concluding a book that makes the case well.
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