Friday, February 01, 2013

Non-Fiction: Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don't, and How to Make Any Change Stick by Jeremy Dean

Making Habits, Breaking Habits (DaCapo LifeLong) is a much better book than you’re expecting. The title puts one in mind of pop psychology and change for the sake of change -- but really, nothing could be further from the truth.

Author-psychologist Jeremy Dean is interested in the way we process things and why we love the things we love. He’s the founder of the popular PsyBlog, which sees over a million readers each month. Dean launched the blog because he found there just wasn’t enough smart writing for those who liked psychological insight backed up by science with their news. Making Habits, Breaking Habits was born of a question that was perhaps too long to be answered in a single blog posting ... or even a string of them. “This book started with an apparently simple question that seemed to have a simple answer,” Dean writes. “How long does it take to form a new habit?”

There is popular wisdom on the topic, but Dean contends that it’s all wrong. (As is the 21-day answer you’ll get if you Google on the topic, which is what Dean did at first.)

And, of course, since this is a book and not a blog posting, Dean gets the luxury of examining the topic thoroughly, which is where Making Habits, Breaking Habits actually does move into self-help mode, but not with the cloying cheerfulness we’ve come to associate with many books of that ilk. Though Dean is currently working towards a doctorate in psychology, his voice is casual, friendly and smart. More importantly for a book of this nature, he knows how to break his material down and present it in a way that is not only logical, but also stays interesting and connected: quite often not the case with books of this nature.

In the end, Making Habits, Breaking Habits is an entertaining and deeply interesting book. And a huge bonus for some readers: it actually has the potential to totally change your life. ◊

David Middleton is art director and art & culture editor of January Magazine.

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