Monthly book roundup – 2016 October

Books finished in October:
(Warning: reviews are unpolished and quickly written.)

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging (2016) by Sebastian Junger. Tribe takes the starting point that humans are adapted to live in small communities, “tribes”, and tries to use that to explain some puzzles of modern life.
-Starts with stories from pre-revolutionary US about people from (white) settlements running off to join Indian tribes. More freedom and life better adapted. Surprising-I had not heard of this before, how common was that really?
-Only in Northern European societies and North America so many children sleep alone. And get intense relationship with stuffed animals…
-More loyalty and less fraud e.g. in tribes.
-Blitz-“psychiatric hospitals saw admissions go down” “long standing patients saw their symptoms subside during the period of intense air raids, voluntary admissions to psychiatric wards noticeably declined, and even epileptics reported having fewer seizures” … “… suggested that some people actually did better during wartime”
-Durkheim: when European societies went to war, suicide rates dropped.
-Psychiatric wards strangely empty in France during wars, and same in civil wars in Spain, Algeria, Lebanon, and Northern Ireland. Depression rates declined in Belfast during the troubles.
-Theory of sociologist Charles Fritz: Disasters create community of sufferers. Therapeutic for mental illness.
-Somewhat controversial: victim status and various benefits like lifelong disability hampers reintegration into normal life for former combatants. Not encouraged or allowed to contribute to society. Society also needs to give these people a way to speak out and relieve themselves of their experiences.
-The book was particularly interesting to me since I have a paper studying increased effort/resilience in the aftermath of a dramatic, violent, high-impact event. Recommended. (Update: But see also this smart, critical review by Joanna Burke at the Guardian.)

The Nix: A novel (2016) by Nathan Hill. The following sentence in the synopsis of “The Nix” piqued my curiosity: “[…] Samuel will have to embark on his own journey, uncovering long-buried secrets about the woman he thought he knew, secrets that stretch across generations and have their origin all the way back in Norway, home of the mysterious Nix.” While it was what role Norway played in a US bestselling novel that made me interested, the rest of the sentence made me somewhat sceptical, so I was pleasantly surprised to encounter some really funny scenes in the beginning, as well as engaging non-sentimental others. However, the last half of the book conforms more to what one might expect from the quoted sentence. Ok.

Ratings and old books are in the library.


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