Category Archives: Books For a Better Man

Book Recommendation #3

Love Sick: Love as a Mental Illness

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Finally, A Book on Love That Isn’t Self-Help, Sappy or Full of Stereotypes!

No one likes to admit they read self-help books. I sure don’t. And since I’m a guy, I’m even more reluctant to pick up a book concerning love. But what’s great about this book is its overarching academic tone that makes it much more accessible without feeling that guilt or shame of being a hopeless romantic looking to books for advice.

Have you ever been rejected by someone you really loved? Have you ever had to reject someone that really loved you? Very few escape it all-encompassing wrath. The book describes the experience of being in love akin to a mental illness – obsessive thoughts, erratic mood swings, weird impulses, delusions, the inability to concentrate – and I absolutely agree with his analysis. The  roller coaster ride of ecstasy and despair, rapture and grief encapsulates my experiences with my ex to an uncanny degree. Why do we fall in love? What is love for? Do all cultures see love the same way? If you want to know the answers to these questions, I highly recommend reading this book. On the other hand, if you’re wanting to know how to fall in love or how to deal with people who are in love, you should look elsewhere. If you’re looking for answers to those kinds of questions, you won’t find them here.

Perhaps the most noteworthy part of this book is its last chapter. Psychiatrically speaking, love and its symptoms can be objectively classified as a mental illness. And while many authors tend to embrace a patronizing stance on the matter and prescribe their own “cure” for the “problem,” this kind of pejorative interpretation reflects nothing more than our own socially constructed attitudes. This author instead embraces love as a mental illness wholeheartedly as part of the human condition.  Our extraordinary susceptibility to love suggests that it is somehow an adaptive trait. The author maintains that love, even if it’s categorized in modern times as a mental illness, it is an evolutionary advantage.

Reviews

“Very good book. I can very much recommend this to two groups in particular; Those who love psychology and those in unrequited love. It will be of great interest to one and of great inspiration to the other.” – Graham

“This is a very well-written, thorough exploration of how romantic love has been experienced and regarded throughout history in different cultures. Drawing on an impressive store of knowledge of history, literature and psychology, the author makes a very persuasive case that romantic love is an evolutionary adaptation to encourage pair-bonding of sufficient length for the male of the species to participate in protecting and providing for offspring…” -INTJ

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Book Recommendation #2

A Billion Wicked Thoughts

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Humans Are A Real Pain in the Ass To Study

The best way to study something is through direct observation. But finding people who are willing to have scientists poke and prod at them during sex or disclose their deepest and darkest desires to them are few and far between. Radio waves may be invisible, but they don’t try to deceive curious physicists and they’re incapable of self-deception. Humans are guilty of both.

Enter, The Internet

With a visit to an adult video site like Xtube, you can see more naked bodies in a single minute than what a normal person would see in their entire lifetime in real life. And since we no longer have to interact with anyone to obtain erotica, women who fell too mortified to be seen in an adult video store are finally empowered to explore their erotic interests in privacy and comfort. Gay men who were previously isolated in rural neighborhoods can now pursue a hook-up without leaving their chair. Billions of people around the planet are free to satisfy their most secret erotic desires by thinking, clicking, and typing—all while remaining cloaked by the anonymity of the Internet.

But then how do we observe people’s sexual activities on the Web if they are indeed anonymous? The fact is, our online behavior is rarely untraceable;  we leave behind a trail of digital footprints everywhere we go on the internet. Let’s say, for example, you did a search for Taylor Lautner’s abs in Google Images and then browsed for dress shirts on Express’s online store. Don’t be surprised if Groupon sends you an email telling you of a great round-trip deal to San Francisco. (They know you’re gay. I mean, no heterosexual man would look at another guy half-naked and then nonchalantly go online shopping for clothes) Or, have you recently searched for “ways to reduce smell of weed” after posting on Facebook how stupid the English homework assignment is? Facebook will show you ads of sites promising “Quality Vaporizers with Free Shipping!” (They know you’re probably an underage, spoiled, stoner looking to get high in your parents’ home with your friends without getting caught) The point is that search engines and social media know a lot about us, in fact, maybe a little too much…but that’s great news if you’re a researcher!

The authors of A Billion Wicked Thoughts attempt to analyze this untapped goldmine of information and apply psychological and sociological research to try and answer these questions: What turns us on? How does it differ from your friends or the person living in Japan or Norway? Or does it even differ? Why is what we desire so diverse yet so predictable? A fascinating read for those who are sex geeks like me. It’s a clever, entertaining and informational book worth reading.

Reviews:

“I am 42, married for 16 years and learned more about women and men’s differences by reading this book than I did in 16 years of marriage. I found it fascinating. This book could be a dangerous weapon in the wrong hands!”  – Bernie

“Smart, readable and handles even the most bizarre fetishes with both humor and respect.”  -Salon.com

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Book Recommendation #1

Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights

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Lucid, lyrical, and compelling – a wonderful blend of memoir and legal analysis. This is what legal writing should be. A former English scholar, law student, and now professor at Yale, Kenji Yoshino beautifully articulates the unfortunate phenomena of “covering,” a term used to describe an individual’s attempt at minimizing or hiding a fundamental part of one’s self or identity that others may see as inferior.

The law is clear that protecting peoples’ differences based on race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, and (dis)ability, is a fundamental part of our civil liberties. Despite this, however, we still routinely deny equal treatment to people who refuse to downplay differences along these lines. Racial minorities are pressed to “act white” by changing their names, languages, or cultural practices. A case study he examines is about a black women who worked for American Airlines and fired for defiantly wearing cornrows. She sued arguing that wearing cornrows were an intrinsic part of her race/culture but lost. Women are told to “play like men” in white collar workplaces but simultaneously expected to be feminine and dress sexy. We see this often; a double standard and usually a catch-22. Gays are asked not to engage in public displays of same-sex affection. Yoshino recounts a story of a woman who was offered a job at a law firm but immediately had the offer rescinded after being found out that she was lesbian and planning to marry. She sued and lost because courts deemed that the “flaunting” of her sexuality is not legally discriminatory.

It’s a very fine line. It may be illegal to refuse to hire or fire someone for being gay but it is completely legal to regulate and discriminate against certain behavior. Since the courts do not see behavior (a black woman wearing cornrows or a gay man having overtly effeminate mannerisms) as an immutable aspect of ourselves, they are not protected under equal protection laws. We can be gay, but just not act gay. How asinine. 

Reviews:

“‘Covering’ is essentially a book about Civil Rights, its past, present, and future, and what role the law has played in this epic American struggle. In a stroke of brilliance, Yoshino intertwines his own personal coming-out story in between the pages; in a beautiful and quite amazing blend of memoir and history and jurisprudence.” – James Hiller

“Drawing on actual cases, he persuasively illustrates that the courts fail to protect men and women who refuse to “cover,” mute, or conceal those aspects of their identities that are socially stigmatized (i.e. their gayness, their status as mothers, their racial identities). If this were all the book did, it would be significant enough. But Yoshino combines his legal and historical arguments with a memoir in which he “uncovers” his various selves–his lawyer self, his gay self, his Asian American self, and his poetic self.” – Natasha

“This book should be an absolute must-read book for anyone in the areas of law, ethnic studies, women’s studies, LGBTQ studies, sociology, and human rights. As a minority myself, Yoshino’s articulation of his story resonated greatly with my own life. He is so clear and concise in his description of American laws and recommendations to improve equality for all.” – KP

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