Sunday, November 20, 2011

Week 47: Cold-Blooded Kindness


Cold-Blooded Kindness: Neuroquirks of a Codependent Killer, or Just Give Me a Shot at Loving You, Dear, and Other Reflections on Helping That Hurts, by Barbara Oakley

This book is 40% true crime story, and 60% neuroscience explained to the layman. Oakley tells the tale of Carole Alden, an eccentric artist and mother of 5 who killed her husband and tried to hide the body. Alden claimed he was abusive and about to kill her. Was it self-defense, or was it a lot more complicated than that?
Oakley uses this story to delve into a wide variety of topics in psychology and neuroscience, including codependency, domestic violence, genetics, animal hoarding, the hemispheres of the brain, the dark side of altruism, and just how little we know about any of it. Her wider point is that for the past 30 years or so, scholars and therapists have done a lot of assuming that men are always the aggressors, and women are always the victims, when in fact it is usually a whole lot more complicated than that. We are going to have to shed those assumptions if we want to truly understand domestic violence and help others.

It's hard to put the book down; Oakley has a good writing style and makes complex topics understandable to the reader. I would like to read her previous book just for the title:
Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother's Boyfriend. Who can resist that?

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