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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 [Hardcover]

Barbara Oakley , David Sloan Wilson
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

April 26 2011
In this searing exploration of deadly codependency, the author takes the reader on a spellbinding voyage of discovery that examines the questions: Are some people naturally too caring? Is caring sometimes a mask for darker motives? Can science help us understand how our concerns for others can hurt everything we hold dear? This gripping story brings extraordinary insight to our deepest questions. Is kindness always the right answer? Is kindness always what it seems?

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"Riveting and disturbing…."
-Joyce Carol Oates

"…[A] masterpiece."
-Dr. Helen Smith

"… [A] terrific book."
-Steven Pinker

About the Author

Barbara A. Oakley, PhD (Rochester, MI), is the acclaimed author of Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother’s Boyfriend. She has been dubbed a female Indiana Jones—her writing combines worldwide adventure with solid research expertise. Among other adventures, she has worked as a Russian translator on Soviet trawlers in the Bering Sea, served as radio operator at the South Pole Station in Antarctica, and risen from Private to Regular Army Captain in the US Army. Currently an associate professor of engineering at Oakland University in Michigan, Oakley is a recent vice president of the world's largest bioengineering society and holds a doctorate in the integrative discipline of systems engineering.

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When a victim isn't a victim Nov. 28 2011
By Harrison Koehli TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
There really isn't another book like this. Oakley has written on a subject that few, if any, have touched on before, at least not in this level of detail: the pathological manipulator as 'victim'. As she tells in the book, the original intent was to write about 'pathological altruism', a degree of caring that goes overboard, with negative consequences to the giver. But while researching the case of Carole Alden, things started to go in the opposite direction. Alden made headlines as an 'abused wife' who fought back, killing her abuser (with a gunshots through the back and point-blank through the head, mind you). But after analyzing the facts of the case, the police and court records, and interviewing dozens of people connected with Alden and her victim, Oakley saw another picture emerge. Alden turned out to be an expert manipulator, garnering sympathy from others and fostering an image as an empathic person with a deep love for animals, art, and the weak. But behind the facade, a stunning lack of irresponsibility, pathological degree of lying and 'impression management', and possible history of murder made themselves known. Oh, and then there's the S&M angle (just read the book).

If you've read Oakley's previous book, Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother's Boyfriend, you'll know what to expect: engaging narrative interspersed with the latest in cognitive research and neuroscience, with quotes from many of the leading authorities on all the topics involved. So you don't just get a true-crime story, but insights into animal hoarding, brain hemisphere functions, personality disorders, parent/child role reversal, altruism, and more.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  26 reviews
25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AMAZING book!!!! CAN'T PUT IT DOWN! April 21 2011
By Irit Gat - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I could not put down Barbra's newest book Cold-Blooded Kindness. She is an amazing and articulate writer, weaving a true story of murder and "madness" with information about our neurological/biological make-up from scientific studies that makes for a fascinating read. If you are interested in some of the biological drives of human behavior then this is the book for you. I recommend it for professionals (psychologist, sociologist, biologists, neurologists, etc.)as well as anyone who is fascinated by human behavior and some of the "extremes" of what some people are capable of. I hope she writes another one SOON as she is one of the most amazing authors I have ever read (and I read voraciously!).
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When a victim isn't a victim Nov. 28 2011
By Harrison Koehli - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
There really isn't another book like this. Oakley has written on a subject that few, if any, have touched on before, at least not in this level of detail: the pathological manipulator as 'victim'. As she tells in the book, the original intent was to write about 'pathological altruism', a degree of caring that goes overboard, with negative consequences to the giver. But while researching the case of Carole Alden, things started to go in the opposite direction. Alden made headlines as an 'abused wife' who fought back, killing her abuser (with a gunshots through the back and point-blank through the head, mind you). But after analyzing the facts of the case, the police and court records, and interviewing dozens of people connected with Alden and her victim, Oakley saw another picture emerge. Alden turned out to be an expert manipulator, garnering sympathy from others and fostering an image as an empathic person with a deep love for animals, art, and the weak. But behind the facade, a stunning lack of irresponsibility, pathological degree of lying and 'impression management', and possible history of murder made themselves known. Oh, and then there's the S&M angle (just read the book).

If you've read Oakley's previous book, Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother's Boyfriend, you'll know what to expect: engaging narrative interspersed with the latest in cognitive research and neuroscience, with quotes from many of the leading authorities on all the topics involved. So you don't just get a true-crime story, but insights into animal hoarding, brain hemisphere functions, personality disorders, parent/child role reversal, altruism, and more. While there were several portions of Evil Genes I thought were seriously flawed, Oakley has more focus in this volume, and it makes for a more cogent presentation. And I think the study of fake 'victims' has a lot of potential to expand to the macrosocial level (just as she extended psychopathy to that level in EG). We have no shortage of nations 'playing the victim', all the while engaging in deceit, impression management, oppression, and violence of unimaginable depths. The dynamic between Carole and Marty can be seen globally. Just think about the War on Terror, with Martha Stout's excellent book, The Paranoia Switch: How Terror Rewires Our Brains and Reshapes Our Behavior--and How We Can Reclaim Our Courage, in mind.

Unfortunately, as Oakley points out in the final chapter of her book in reference to her own subject matter, this may be just 'too far' for many people to go. Victimhood, like altruism, is sanctified in our minds, and to imagine the depth of evil required for a person or nation to exploit it is a bitter pill to swallow. That's where the very brain mechanisms Oakley discusses come into play, and, like a "stroke patient's left hemisphere deliberately hiding his hand, the better to insist it isn't there", we refuse to acknowledge what is staring us right in the face. In this sense, I think Cold-Blooded Kindness is an important book, because it puts events in our everyday lives, both socially and interpersonally, in perspective. It provides a new way of looking at things that we didn't have before. So, check it out.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Poor editing and thin science June 2 2011
By veronicaherself - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
After reading Barbara Oakley's previous book, Evil Genes, this was a letdown. Though she admits she started with an idea of the book's theme and was forced by her investigation into concluding it 180 degrees out from the original premise, there is no clear delineation of the transition. There is lots of interview material, but not enough analysis to make a coherent set of ideas from which to generalize. Get her first book instead, which is better written and full of clear scientific descriptions of the genetic and neurobiochemical underpinnings of the "successfuly sinister" (psychopathic) mind.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Mesmerizing Read - Evil as Victim May 7 2011
By Book Fanatic - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I read this 300 page book in one sitting - I couldn't put it down. Barbara Oakley has managed to weave compelling narrative of a true crime with insightful analysis of related issues in psychology into a marvelous book. This is a story of an evil woman masquerading as a victim. I love true crime, science, and psychology and this book delivers all three in a masterfully told tale.

This is an account of a creative genius who left a terrible trail of true victims in her wake, most of whom are members of her own family by blood or marriage. Some of her children unfortunately remain under her spell. If you are at all interested in human behavior or true crime you will enjoy this book. It's that compelling. Very highly recommended.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kindness can be evil, too. Dec 3 2013
By Monica Hess - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Amazing book. Barbara Oakley has cracked the code and reading this brought me more insight than years of other "here's why" books. Makes incredible sense! Highly recommended!
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