Synopses & Reviews
Have you ever met a person who left you wondering, "How could someone be so twisted? So evil?" Prompted by clues in her sisters diary after her mysterious death, author Barbara Oakley takes the reader inside the head of the kinds of malevolent people you know, perhaps all too well, but could never understand. Starting with psychology as a frame of reference, Oakley uses cutting-edge images of the working brain to provide startling support for the idea that "evil" people act the way they do mainly as the result of a dysfunction. In fact, some deceitful, manipulative, and even sadistic behavior appears to be programmed genetically—suggesting that some people really are born to be bad. But there are unexpected fringe benefits to "evil genes." We may not like them—but we literally cant live without them.
Oakley deftly ties together the big picture implications of revolutionary neuroscientific and genetic discoveries, showing the eerily similar behavioral tics of Mao, Stalin, Hitler, and Slobodan Milosevic. The dramatic recent scientific findings presented in Evil Genes shed light not only on dictators far afield, but on politics at home, as well as business, religion, and everyday life. In fact, history itself has been shaped by the strange confluence of genes and environment that science is just now beginning to understand. Oakley links the latest findings of molecular research to a wide array of seemingly unrelated historical and current phenomena, from the harems of the Ottomans and the chummy jokes of "Uncle Joe" Stalin, to the remarkable memory of investor Warren Buffet. Throughout, she never loses sight of the personal cost of evil genes as she unravels the mystery surrounding her sisters enigmatic life—and death. Evil Genes is a tour de force of popular science writing that brilliantly melds scientific research with intriguing family history and puts both a human and a scientific face to evil.
Praise for Evil Genes:
“A fascinating scientific and personal exploration of the roots of evil, filled with human insight and telling detail.”
—Steven Pinker, author The Better Angels of Our Nature and How the Mind Works
Praise for Cold-Blooded Kindness:
"Riveting and disturbing…. Barbara Oakley is to be commended upon looking so hard, and so closely, at the motives, in some, that underlie acts of 'kindness' and 'altruism'—suggesting that things are not always as they appear, and the phrase 'killed with kindness' springs from the absolute bedrock of folk wisdom."
—Joyce Carol Oates, National Book Award winner
Praise for Pathological Altruism:
"What a wonderful book! This is one of the few books in evolutionary biology I've read in the past ten years that taught me something completely new."
—Edward O. Wilson, Pulitzer Prize Winner and Pellegrino University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University
"This unique volume manages the impressive feat of pulling together the best research from psychology, genetics, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and law on well-meaning but ultimately harmful forms of self-sacrifice. It will forever change the way you look at altruism."
—Sharon Begley, Science Editor, Newsweek, and author of Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain
“A good teacher will leave you educated. But a great teacher will leave you curious. Well, Barbara Oakley is a great teacher. Not only does she have a mind for numbers, she has a way with words, and she makes every one of them count.”
—Mike Rowe, creator and host of Discovery Channels "Dirty Jobs" and CEO of mikeroweWORKS
“If you struggled through math and slept through science, theres hope. In A Mind for Numbers, polymath Barbara Oakley reveals how to unlock the analytic powers of our brains so we can learn how to learn. This book should be required reading for students—and for my mother.”
—Adam Grant, New York Times-bestselling author of Give and Take
"Superb not only for those who are struggling or who are expert at math, but for readers who wish to think and comprehend more efficiently."
“An ingeniously accessible introduction to the science of human cognition—along with practical advice on how to think better.”
—James Taranto, The Wall Street Journal
“In my book The Math Instinct, I described how we have known since the early 1990s that all ordinary people can do mathematics, and in The Math Gene, I explained why the capacity for mathematical thinking is both a natural consequence of evolution and yet requires effort to unleash it. What I did not do is show how to tap in to that innate ability. Professor Oakley does just that.”
—Keith Devlin, NPR Weekend Editions “Math Guy”
“A wonderful book! How do you come to love math and science, and how do you come to learn math and science? Read A Mind for Numbers. Barbara Oakley is the magician who will help you do both.”
—Francisco J. Ayala, University Professor and Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences, University of California, Irvine, and former President and Chairman of the Board, American Association for the Advancement of Science
“Being good at science and mathematics isnt just something you are; its something you become. This users guide to the brain unmasks the mystery around achieving success in mathematics and science. I have seen far too many students opt out when they hit a rough patch. But now that learners have a handy guide for ‘knowing better they will also be able to ‘do better.”
—Shirley Malcom, Head of Education and Human Resources Programs, American Association for the Advancement of Science
“A Mind for Numbers is an excellent book about how to approach mathematics, science, or any realm where problem solving plays a prominent role.”
—J. Michael Shaughnessy, Past President of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
“I have not been this excited about a book in a long time. Giving students deep knowledge on how to learn will lead to higher retention and student success in every field. It is a gift that will last them a lifetime.”
—Robert R Gamache, Ph.D., Associate Vice President, Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, and International Relations, University of Massachusetts, Lowell
”A Mind for Numbers helps put students in the drivers seat—empowering them to learn more deeply and easily. This outstanding book is also a useful resource for instructional leaders. Given the urgent need for America to improve its science and math education so it can stay competitive, A Mind for Numbers is a welcome find.”
—Geoffrey Canada, President, Harlem Children's Zone
"It's easy to say 'work smarter, not harder,' but Barbara Oakley actually shows you how to do just that, in a fast-paced and accessible book that collects tips based on experience and sound science. In fact, I'm going to incorporate some of these tips into my own teaching."
—Glenn Harlan Reynolds, Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law, The University of Tennessee
“A Mind for Numbers is a splendid resource for how to approach mathematics learning and in fact learning in any area. Barbara Oakleys authoritative guide is based on the latest research in the cognitive sciences, and provides a clear, concise, and entertaining roadmap for how to get the most out of learning. This is a must-read for anyone who has struggled with mathematics and anyone interested in enhancing their learning experience.”
—David C. Geary, Curators Professor of Psychological Sciences and Interdisciplinary Neuroscience, University of Missouri
“For students afraid of math and science and for those who love the subjects, this engaging book provides guidance in establishing study habits that take advantage of how the brain works.”
—Deborah Schifter, Principal Research Scientist, Science and Mathematics Programs, Education Development Center, Inc.
“A Mind for Numbers explains the process of learning in a fascinating and utterly memorable way. This book is a classic, not only for learners of all ages, but for teachers of all kinds.”
—Frances R. Spielhagen, Ph.D., Director, Center for Adolescent Research and Development, Mount Saint Mary College
Borne out of a quest to understand her sister Carolyn's lifelong sinister behavior, the author sets out on an exploration of malevolent individuals. A tour-de-force of popular science writing that brilliantly melds scientific research with intriguing family history, this work puts both a human and scientific face to evil.
Whether you are a student struggling to fulfill a math or science requirement, or you are embarking on a career change that requires a higher level of math competency, A Mind for Numbers
offers the tools you need to get a better grasp of that intimidating but inescapable field. Engineering professor Barbara Oakley knows firsthand how it feels to struggle with math. She flunked her way through high school math and science courses, before enlisting in the army immediately after graduation. When she saw how her lack of mathematical and technical savvy severely limited her optionsboth to rise in the military and to explore other careersshe returned to school with a newfound determination to re-tool her brain to master the very subjects that had given her so much trouble throughout her entire life.
In A Mind for Numbers, Dr. Oakley lets us in on the secrets to effectively learning math and sciencesecrets that even dedicated and successful students wish theyd known earlier. Contrary to popular belief, math requires creative, as well as analytical, thinking. Most people think that theres only one way to do a problem, when in actuality, there are often a number of different solutionsyou just need the creativity to see them. For example, there are more than three hundred different known proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem. In short, studying a problem in a laser-focused way until you reach a solution is not an effective way to learn math. Rather, it involves taking the time to step away from a problem and allow the more relaxed and creative part of the brain to take over. A Mind for Numbers shows us that we all have what it takes to excel in math, and learning it is not as painful as some might think!
About the Author
Barbara A. Oakley, PhD (Rochester, MI), has been dubbed a female Indiana Jones—her writing combines worldwide adventure with solid research expertise. Among other adventures, she has worked as a Russian translator on Soviet trawlers in the Bering Sea, served as radio operator at the South Pole Station in Antarctica, and risen from Private to Regular Army Captain in the US Army. Currently an associate professor of engineering at Oakland University in Michigan, Oakley is a recent vice president of the world's largest bioengineering society and holds a doctorate in the integrative discipline of systems engineering.