Thursday, January 27, 2011

We Have Met The Enemy by Daniel Akst Book Review

Eating, smoking, drinking, gambling, excess.  It's all legal and it's all readily available to most Americans today.  And a lot of us indulge.

We Have Met the Enemy - Self Control in an Age of Excess by Daniel Akst is not the self-help book I expected it to be.  It's not full of advice and suggestions to making the "smart choices" when it comes to this world of excess that we live in, but rather an often in-depth review of many, many studies and experiments done by scholars, theorists, and philosophers in history.

One of the chapters that really got me thinking was "The Marshmellow Test".  Walter Mischel, a European born and New York raised psychologist began his study in Trinidad and later brought them to the US.  "The Marshmellow" asked children to choose their treat- one now or two if they waited a couple of days.  As you can imagine, most children would choose the candy reward now- immediate indulgence wins out of patience in the case of most children, I think.  What I found interesting, however, is that Mischel's study concluded that the children more likely to choose the immediate rewards were the child less likely to believe that the later reward would ever be given out.  Why risk losing out when you can enjoy now?  It's this general idea that we all bring into adulthood that creates this need for instant gratification.  The question is- if this is ingrained in us from childhood, is there anything we can do about it?  Honestly the book isn't about helping you overcome this.  Instead, it leaves you reflecting the scenarios that are relatable to your own life and makes you think of what you can do to change it, without making unreasonable suggestions as to how.  "Don't Eat The Marshmellow" was put on the t-shirts of a Philadelphia Charter school to encourage the kids- sometimes it's OK to hold out for something better.  Sometimes reflection and encouragement is enough.

In the chapter "Self-Control, Free Will, and Other Oxymorons" the author review studies that asks the question- is there really such a thing as Free Will?  One study showed that students who were put in a room where there was a subtle smell of orange cleaners were more likely to clean up after themselves (after being given a snack) then students who were put in a similar room without the cleaner smell.  When I read and really thought about the idea that I am controlled largely by my surroundings I realized this is, in fact, very very true. At least for me.  When my work space is messy I find that my mind can be scattered and I am more distracted.  When there is organization, however, I find that I am more focused on my work and my productivity increases greatly.  I am a bit of a slob- allowing my surroundings to influence my mood, thoughts, and productivity is a challenge that I deal with every day.  Again, Mr. Akst doesn't get into how to solve this inner dilemma but rather gives the readers the ability to think and analyze for themselves.

Overall I really enjoyed this book.  I was not familiar with most of the people mentioned in the book though I was familiar with a couple of the studies mentioned within.  You don't really need to know who the author is talking about in We Have Met the Enemy in order to understand what it all means.  This is a thinking book and almost requires you to self-analyze in order to get the full message.  Since this is the New Year and eating better and being healthy is a common resolution among Americans this may be a good book to pick up right now.  It may help you realize what your real obstacles are and give you the chance to think for yourself- which, really, is the best beginning to a healthier life!

In a nutshell, this is not a self-help book, it's a self-education and self-thinking book.  Far more effective for a lot of people, I would think!

About the Author
Daniel Akst has written for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Slate, and many other publications.  His previous books include Wonder Boy, which chronicled the wondrous financial fraud he had a hand in exposing, and the novels St. Burt's Obituary and The Webster Chronicle.  He lives with his wife and sons in New York's bucolic Hudson valley, generally a good place to hide from temptations.


I'd like to thank TLC Book Tours for allowing me the opportunity to review this wonderful book!  


BUY IT!

We Have Met the Enemy - Self Control in an Age of Excess by Daniel Akst is available for $17.79 for the hardcover version or $12.99 for the Kindle Edition.


WIN IT!

The publisher is offering a free copy of We Have Met the Enemy by Daniel Akst!  This is a wonderful book, a great start to making yourself really think about how YOU can create a healthier life for yourself.

This is going to be a very easy entry.  Just comment with why you would like to win this book as the mandatory entry.

For additional entries follow my blog publicly via Google Friend Connect and Tweet about this giveaway (1 entry each)

Two additional entries for following TLC Book Tours on Facebook.

This giveaway will end on February 10th at 10PM Mountain Time and is available to my readers in the US and Canada.  Thank you for entering and good luck!

22 comments:

LisaMM said...

Great review!! I love that marshmallow study- but we are all taught a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, right?

Thanks so much for being on the tour. I'm thrilled you enjoyed it!

sheliamoore2 said...

Always on the look out for a book that makes me think about how to make myself and my family better!!

sheliamoore2 said...

Following by GFC and Tweeted Giveaway!!

sheliamoore2 said...

Follow TLC books on Facebook 1

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Team JC said...

I began my transformation into a new me 1 year ago when I quit smoking after 27 years of a pack a day habit. Now I exercise daily and eat very healthy. I would LOVE to read this book! Thanks for the chance!
schaefer7382 at aol dot com

Girdle Girl said...

Self control gets harder and harder with in the increasing amount of things available which are not exactly good for us.Switching off the Tv can help then we aren't exposed to so much advertising.

ladaisi said...

I know what you mean about the "now or never" mindset! It's rough to be patient in this economy - especially when you don't know what next year will look like!

Ladaisi Blog

Carolyn said...

This book sounds really interesting! I was a soc & psych major in college and I've always loved reading "why people do what they do" type books.

Carolyn said...

Following you on GFC!

Nickolay said...

The cover of this book has to be one of my favorite covers ever! It already has my attention. I love that the book is taking a look at all these different foods

jason(at)allworldautomotive(dot)com

Nickolay said...

Google friend

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Tweeted

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Nickolay said...

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Sarah said...

I would like to win this book because I could use some help in controlling my excesses.

Anonymous said...

I love to read non-fiction.

theyyyguy@yahoo.com

Rhonda said...

I think that there might be a few things that I could take away from this book to improve my lifestyle.

I would like to read this
rhondastruthersa tyahoo.ca

Nancy said...

I like to read this to get a healthier mindset towards food.

Nancy
allibrary (at) aol (dot) com

Nancy said...

I follow via GFC: allibrary.

Nancy
allibrary (at) aol (dot) com

Jim said...

I like the cover and i would like to be able to watch what i eat

jim.coyne2@verizon.net

roz said...

So very interesting. I'm a scholar that researches and teaches marketing, where I also teach that greed and over-consumption is a dysfunctional part of our world. I'm not a socialist nor a communist, but rather a capitalist that promotes sustainable development of win-win solutions for business, society and the environment. I'm not exactly sure where you stand on these issues, but we can't live for free or on air.....there has to be revenue generated in a healthy, sustainable way, or we're all going to be in bad straits with a broke, incapable government to pay for our basic needs. Loved t hear some dialogue from you on these issues. Stop on by and open up the chat between us! :-) Ciao. Roz

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