4 Booklist September 1, 2017 www.booklistreader.com
Philosophy & Psychology
The Fear Factor: How One Emotion
Connects Altruists, Psychopaths, &
Everyone in Between.
By Abigail Marsh.
Oct. 2017. 320p. Basic, $28 (9781541697195). 152.46.
Through her studies with anonymous kidney donors and teen psychopaths, Marsh
proves that a person’s ability to recognize
fearful expressions determines his or her
proclivity towards altruism or psychopathy.
In short, MRI scans of the amygdala show
that altruists are highly sensitive to others’
fear. Meanwhile, psychopaths literally cannot recognize fearful expressions, probably
because they don’t experience fear themselves. If this sounds oversimplified (what
about cultural factors and childhood traumas?), Marsh’s varied examples, tests, and
interviews irrefutably illustrate the link between fear, altruism, and the amygdala. In
affectionate, personal anecdotes, Marsh often refers to the man who saved her on the
expressway as an extreme altruist—by definition, someone who will risk his or her life
to help a stranger with no expected reward.
Supported by her studies, Marsh argues, op-
timistically, that most people genuinely feel
compassion for each other, and that cruelty
is the exception to human nature, not the
norm. Recommend this fascinating text to
readers of pop psychology and true crime
fans who wish to better understand the
minds of potential criminals. —Biz Hyzy
The Secret Lives of Color.
By Kassia St. Clair.
Oct. 2017. 320p. Penguin, $20 (9780143131144). 155.9.
London-based journalist St. Clair sports a
fetishistic love of color—more specifically,
of the way color is described and translated
across linguistic barriers. She first fell in lust
while studying fashion and lifestyle trends
of the eighteenth century. St. Clair found
descriptions of color and hue downright
titillating. In this digestible anthology of
chromatic origin stories, readers have a
chance to join in St. Clair’s obsession. The
collection of informative essays is organized
by color family. For example, readers will
learn about the vast differences between saf-
fron, amber, and ginger in quick succession.
Visual artists will relish the scientific ex-
ploration of pigments and stains, but every
reader will enjoy the ample supply of answers
to some of life’s biggest questions, such as:
Which orange came first, the color or the
fruit? (The fruit.) Why do we call it “pitch”
black? (Complete darkness tends to throw us
off balance.) Including an index and suggest-
ed further reading, The Secret Lives of Color
holds surprise and satisfaction at every stria-
tion of the rainbow. —Courtney Eathorne
Church of the Small Things: The Million
Little Pieces That Make up a Life.
By Melanie Shankle.
Oct. 2017. 224p. Zondervan, $22.99 (9780310348870).
Some women strive (or pretend) to be
perfect. Others accept their limitations and
celebrate anyway. Shankle (Nobody’s Cuter
Than You, 2015) unashamedly opts for the
latter stance and offers a book of short essays
in which she discusses bangs as a misbegotten hairstyle, autocorrect as a scourge to
communication, and rescue dogs who, in
gratitude, seem to live forever. She doesn’t
break new ground so much as invite readers to chuckle at her (and their) foibles. Her
husband, daughter, and friend, Gulley, all
appear throughout. All is not fun and games,
however, as she shares how she and her father discuss her parents’ divorce and how his
integrity continues to inspire her. The essays range from some that offer little or no
mention of a religious viewpoint to others
that are distinctly Christian. Aptly titled,
Shankle’s book does an admirable job of
showing how small moments really do make
up a life. This breezy read is suitable for a
book club, at the beach, and on a nightstand
for bedtime reflection. —Joan Curbow
Martin Luther: The Man Who
Rediscovered God and Changed
By Eric Metaxas.
Oct. 2017. 496p. Viking, $30 (9781101980019).
Asked on his deathbed if he still affirmed
the religious doctrines with which he had
transformed Europe, the expiring Martin Luther—in his last recorded utterance—loudly
declared, “Ja!” In recounting the life culminating in that final affirmation, Metaxas unfolds
a story of a personal transformation that triggered a cultural transformation. Readers will
indeed marvel at how much
of what now defines the
Western world emerged as a
young monk obsessed with
his own guilt and desperate to earn forgiveness from
a wrathful God metamorphosed into an incandescent
preacher of faith in a beneficent God who redeems sinful and broken
souls through unearned grace. In the way that
that remarkable monk dared to pit his own
conscience-driven reading of scripture against
that of established Church authority, Metaxas
discerns the decisive transition to the new Protestant understanding of the priesthood of all
believers. Though Metaxas focuses chiefly on
the religious impact of that understanding—as
Look for reviews of these forthcoming high-demand titles, which include a poignant political memoir and new fiction from some big-time favorites, in future issues of
Booklist. —Annie Bostrom
Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose. By Joe Biden. Flatiron, $27
Former vice president Biden’s memoir will focus in particular on 2015, the year his son
Beau died from brain cancer.
Promise Not to Tell. By Jayne Ann Krentz. Berkley, $27 (9780399585272). Jan. 2018.
A Seattle gallery owner is tormented by her traumatic childhood and an artist’s apparent
suicide in the next novel of romantic suspense from the author of the smash hit When All
the Girls Have Gone (2016).
Sunburn. By Laura Lippman. Morrow, $26.99 (9780062389923). Feb. 2018.
A sizzling summer affair is interrupted by a mysterious death in Lippman’s next suspenseful tale.
Surprise Me. By Sophie Kinsella. Dial, $28 (9780399592881). Feb. 2018.
In this stand-alone novel from the Shopaholic series star, a married couple—after a doctor projects they will live 68 more years—crafts a plan to keep things interesting—with
some unexpected results.
The Whispering Room. By Dean Koontz. Bantam, $28 (9780345546807). Nov.
Koontz’s second Jane Hawk thriller, following The Silent Corner (2017), finds the FBI agent
investigating a shocking murder-suicide that’s covering up something even more sinister.
You Think It, I’ll Say It. By Curtis Sittenfeld. Random, $27 (9780399592867). Apr. 2018.
Fans of Sittenfeld’s perennially popular novels will be delighted to read the author’s first
collection of short fiction.