Book Talk: Desperately Seeking Self-Improvement: A Year Inside the Optimization Movement by Carl Ced
The BookWalker's Top Pick titles includes works of bestselling authors and emerging writers. Titles were selected and voted by our staff. Please note: the selection process is heavily biased but fairly influenced by personal preference and the editor's opinions.
"A comically committed exploration of current life-hacking wisdom in areas ranging from athletic and intellectual prowess to spirituality, creativity, wealth, and pleasure." ―The New Yorker
"An absurdist masterpiece." ―The Guardian
"Two crazy people try numerous crazy strategies, all so I don't have to. I call that a result!" ―Lee Child, author
In this culmination of five decades of acclaimed studies in presidential history, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin offers an illuminating exploration of the early development, growth, and exercise of leadership.
This is the story
In these pages, the authors of the widely-acclaimed Wellness Syndrome throw themselves headlong into the techniques of self-optimization, a burgeoning movement that seeks to transcend the limits placed on us as mere humans, whether the feebleness of our bodies or our mental incapacities.
Cederstrom and Spicer, devoted each month of a roller coaster year to a different way of improving themselves: January was Productivity, February their bodies, March their brains. June was for sex and September for money. Perhaps the trickiest was April, a month devoted to relationships, when their feelings for each other came under the microscope, with results that were both hilarious and painful. Carl thought Andre was only “dialing it in,” Andre felt Carl was too controlling.
In fact, both proved themselves willing guinea pigs in an extraordinary (and sometimes downright dangerous) range of techniques and technologies, had hitherto undertaken little by way of self-improvement. They had rarely seen the inside of a gym, let alone utilized apps that deliver electric shocks in pursuit of improved concentration. They wore head-bands designed to optimize sleep, and attempted to boost their memory through learning associative techniques (failing to be admitted to MENSA bit learning pi to 1,000 digits), trained for weightlifting competitions, wrote what they (still) hope might become a bestselling Scandinavian detective story, attended motivational seminars and tantra workshops, went on new-age retreats and man-camps, and experimented with sex toys and productivity drugs. Andre even addressed a London subway car whilst (nearly) naked in an attempt to overcome a negative body image.
Somewhat surprisingly, the two young professors survived this year of rigorous research. Further, they produced a hilarious and eye-opening book based upon it. Written in the form of two parallel diaries, Desperately Seeking Self-Improvement provides a biting analysis of the narcissism and individual competitiveness that increasingly pervades a culture in which social solutions are receding and individual self-improvement is the only option left.
Reviews and What Readers Say
"A good-natured, thoughtful, and often comic joyride."
"When I read their angry, hilarious book, The Wellness Syndrome, I felt like I was being shaken awake from a dream. ”
―Helen Rumbelow, The Times
“Goodwin’s volume deserves much praise — it is insightful, readable, compelling even — but the strongest compliment might be this: Her book arrives just in time.” ―The Boston Globe
“What, no reviews? Here's my good deed for the day: i heartily recommend this book for its curiosity, humor, and common sense. Especially in the first half there seems to be a laugh a line, but they are all revealing, not yocks for yocks' sake. Also the writers are easy-going stylists, and usually anticipate in the next sentence what you wanted to ask them.”
―Early A. Dopter, Amazon Client
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Carl Cederström is Associate Professor at Stockholm Business School, Stockholm University and the co-author or co-editor of five books. His writing has appeared in The Guardian, Washington Post, Al-Jazeera, New Scientist, Harvard Business Review, and 3:AM Magazine. André Spicer is Professor at Cass Business School, at City University London and the co-author or co-editor of five books. His writing has appeared in The Guardian, Financial Times, Times, Independent and CNN.