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Everyday Survival: Why Smart People Do Stupid Things

Overview

“Well-written and fascinating . . . this is the kind of book you want everyone to read.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Curiosity, awareness, attention,” Laurence Gonzales writes. “Those are the tools of our everyday survival. . . . We all must be scientists at heart or be victims of forces that we don’t understand.” In this fascinating account, Gonzales turns his talent for gripping narrative, knowledge of the way our minds and bodies work, and bottomless curiosity about the world to the topic of how we can best use ...
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Everyday Survival: Why Smart People Do Stupid Things

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Overview

“Well-written and fascinating . . . this is the kind of book you want everyone to read.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Curiosity, awareness, attention,” Laurence Gonzales writes. “Those are the tools of our everyday survival. . . . We all must be scientists at heart or be victims of forces that we don’t understand.” In this fascinating account, Gonzales turns his talent for gripping narrative, knowledge of the way our minds and bodies work, and bottomless curiosity about the world to the topic of how we can best use the blessings of evolution to overcome the hazards of everyday life.Everyday Survival will teach you to make the right choices for our complex, dangerous, and quickly changing world—whether you are climbing a mountain or the corporate ladder.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In his 2003 book Deep Survival, Laurence Gonzales examined why in life-threatening situations, 90 percent of people panic or freeze, while only 10 percent take prudent action. In this outstanding stand-alone follow-up, he explores how modern society has made us vulnerable to the hazards and threats of everyday life. Mixing recent scientific findings with compelling anecdotes, he describes how we have turned off or muted the evolutionary sensors that helped save our ancestors from extinction and offers telling glimpses into why we really act and react the ways we do.
Kirkus Reviews
A painter sips turpentine instead of coffee; a pilot lands atop another plane; a climber misses a loop on the rope. Such dumb things happen to people all the time-in part, writes Gonzales (Deep Survival, 2003, etc.), because we're programmed for them. Humans memorize "behavioral scripts" that chart courses for repeated, nearly automatic actions: When someone throws something at you, you duck; when your shoe is untied, you tie it. When a script is more complex-getting a plane up in the air, for instance-any variation in it can cause trouble, as when a pilot leaves out a step on the checklist because of distraction. Much of Gonzales's continuing exploration of the realm of disasters and surviving them is a catalog of missteps, bad decisions and scripting errors. The climber in question stopped to tie her shoes, invoking a script very similar to the one used in tying a rope, which she was midway through-she nearly died in the bargain. There's not much that can be done about these sorts of mistakes, however, since the our genetic hard wiring comes plays such a big role. Gonzales's narrative is a touch disjointed, perhaps because the science is uncertain and because he veers away to touch on other intriguing, but tangential, aspects of the strange makeup of humans. Yes, we're apes with killing technology, given to "killing our own children by sending them to war at this glorious stage of our evolution," but that doesn't have much to do with the point at hand, since we're not confusing that act with sending the kids off to college or summer camp. Set aside the requirement for coherent development, though, and Gonzales's piece has plenty of interesting vignettes, such as his discussion ofwhy some people survived the 2004 Christmas tsunami and others did not. A plea for heightened awareness of our surroundings, and good reading for the how-things-work set. Agent: Gail Hochman/Brandt & Hochman
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393337068
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/5/2009
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 317,141
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Laurence Gonzales is the author of Surviving Survival and the bestseller Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why. He has won two National Magazine Awards and is a fellow of the Santa Fe Institute. His essays are collected in the book House of Pain. He lives in Evanston, Illinois.
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Table of Contents

Preface 11

1 The Untied Knot 19

2 Training Scars 33

3 When Modern People Face Ancient Hazards 46

4 The Sign of the Hand 47

5 Groupness 77

6 The Corporate Emotional System 97

7 The Teachings of Don Juan 114

8 Pleonexia 131

9 "The Earth Is Rotting" 151

10 The Cosmic Cheat Sheet 182

11 The 10,000-Watt Lightbulb 201

12 The Inside-Outside Problem 211

13 Why We Care 220

14 The Climax Shape 233

15 The Guest Star 241

16 Land's End 254

Epilogue 259

Select Bibliography 267

Acknowledgments 271

Index 273

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 17, 2010

    Misleading Title

    The title, or more specifically, the subtitle, of this book is extremely misleading. The cover, both front and back, give the impression that the book will cover daily survival as a sort of psychological phenomenon. Instead, Gonzales quickly diverges from the main topic matter to engage in a seemingly irrelevant discussion of thermodynamics and entropy. Though the material is interesting in it's own right, the book has little flow or coherency throughout making it a disappointing read overall.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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