The psychology of pleasure, a financial history of the world, how to analyze expressions to tell if someone's lying, and more
TED is among the highlights of my year and, every time before the big event, I like to prepare by reading or re-reading books by that TED season's roster of speakers. (Previously: Long Beach 2011 in two parts and TED Global 2010.) Last week, TED revealed next month's TED Global speakers and I was delighted to find, as always, some of my favorite thinkers, writers, and doers on the list. Here are five fantastic books by some of them.
1. HOW PLEASURE WORKS
I've previously looked closely at the art and science of happiness, and one of the simplest ways in which we humans grasp after happiness is through the pursuit of pleasure. What is pleasure, exactly, and is it really just a simplistic, false substitute for happiness? That's exactly what Yale psychologist Paul Bloom explores in How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like—a fascinating look at the complex cognitive and sociological elements of what we find pleasurable. Bloom looks at common pleasure sources across the entire spectrum of social conduct—food, sex, art, video games, drugs, saunas, crossword puzzles, reality TV—through a hybrid lens of developmental psychology, evolutionary science, philosophy, neuroscience, behavioral economics, and sociology to examine the mechanisms and ultimate function of pleasure.
Bloom explores the prevalent theory of "essentialism"—the idea that things in the world, including other people, have invisible, distinct essences that make them what they are, and we are born with a predilection for subscribing to this worldview. Bloom uses essentialism to explain the mysterious pleasures of everyday life, from our attachments to objects like celebrity memorabilia to our hunger for art to the pleasures of the imagination to the appeal of science and religion, examining pleasure through both its developmental origin in us as individuals and its evolutionary roots in our species.