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Everyday Survival: Why Smart People Do Stupid Things Paperback – Sep 22 2009

2.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: WW Norton; 1 edition (Sept. 22 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393337065
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393337068
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2 x 21.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 9 g
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #636,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


A plea for heightened awareness of our surroundings, and good reading for the how-things-work set. — Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Laurence Gonzales is the author of Surviving Survival, Flight 232 and the bestseller Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why. He has won two National Magazine Awards and is a scholar at the Sante Fe Institute. He divides his time between Evanston, Illinois, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book has great research that is applicable to leadership and a general understanding of why and how things have evolved. Perhaps those who read this will develop a deeper understanding of others and why they do the things they do.
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Format: Hardcover
I listened to Gonzales at a conference and believed his research may be of value to my own professional pursuits. Tell me why smart people do stupid things! Instead, I get a thinly veiled and weakly validated bit of global warming propaganda. I think Larry has spent a few too many evenings sitting around the SFI campfire getting brainwashed by fellow silver spoon liberal elitists. His message is akin to Al Gore's "chicken little" scenario that the carbon sky is falling. Both admonish us on our irresponsible consumptive behavior yet have a carbon footprint larger than Godzilla. The writing style is a little flowery for what one would assume to be a non-fiction project. I wonder; if the SFI was located in Canada instead of New Mexico, would the propaganda message be "global cooling"? I want a refund.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9e41a894) out of 5 stars 52 reviews
63 of 68 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9e44ef84) out of 5 stars The first six chapters are on why people do stupid things. There are 16 chapters. Oct. 13 2008
By Charlie - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Pros: First six chapters are interesting and about the main reasons why folks do silly things with good examples provided.

Cons: Last 10 chapters are an odd mix of material on saving the Earth, physics, entropy, natural history, "look who I met when I went here" and biography of Gonzales and his father. Sources not cited, only selected bibliography provided. Poorly edited: Caption of picture on page 22 of the hardcover is incorrect, "dollars" is spelled "dolars" on page 210.
61 of 67 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9e2750fc) out of 5 stars "Well, I guess I better write another book" Dec 25 2008
By John M. - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The first half of the book gives some solid vignettes about internal scripts and behavioral models that explain why our brains sometimes run on autopilot and get us into trouble. But the final half of the book really has nothing to do with the title. It's a meandering, free-association ramble about whatever the heck happened to be in the author's head the minute his fingers were striking the keys. Once I got to Page 254 where he tries to compare the curve of entropy of the universe since the big bang to the curve of a human emotional response in a crisis, I cut my losses and threw it on the "to sell" pile.

After the success of "Deep Survival", it's almost like this book is just a mechanical attempt to get his next paycheck while his name still has cachet.
45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9e27787c) out of 5 stars Starts strong, then unravels Oct. 12 2008
By BC - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Like other reviewers, I have a dog eared, underlined, heavily used copy of Deep Survival. So when I saw that Gonzales had a new book out, I couldn't wait to read it. What disappoints me about this book is not that it is not as good as Deep Survival, but that it starts with some interesting ideas and ends up getting side tracked and derailed.

The first six chapters are excellent. His link between how we make decisions and our impact on the environment are elegant and provocative. He talks about how we walk about in a "vacation state of mind," oblivious to the effects of our actions. I feel like I see this every day in the way people interact with each other. He then applies this "insulation from reality" to a macro view of the earth's systems and how humanity interacts with them.

After chapter six, the book unravels, jumping rapidly from issue to issue, supporting his statements with increasingly dubious science and venturing into New Age territory. One of the major themes of the later chapters is entropy, which is appropriate as there is a general decline into disorder in the later chapters.

I didn't pick up this book expecting a treatise on environmental responsibility and was not disappointed when Gonzales started down that path. I can, however, see how a "rugged individualist" would be shocked to find ideas about ecological stewardship in a book that looks like it is going to be about wilderness adventures. For those people, you've been warned; maybe you should look for a different book. For everyone else, find this book at your library, read the first six chapters and then return it.
28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9e277c3c) out of 5 stars I am surprised by all the negative reviews; this book IS good. Nov. 16 2009
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I am surprised this book has received so many negative reviews, but I can also understand why some people may not like it. The reason, I believe, is that this book is multi-disciplinary. Gonzales attempts to blend a little information from a lot of fields with the intention of explaining why people make mistakes - this is extremely hard to do! That said, I think he does a fairly modest job of adding another perspective to the growing field of Complexity Theory/ General Systems Theory.

Here are a few sample quotes from the book and additional books that pertain to that quote:
"And one of the most frequently ignored factors in our behavior is the way we form models and scripts and use them rather than information from the world itself in most of what we do." - (Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, Why We Make Mistakes: How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and Are All Pretty Sure We Are Way Above Average & Blind Spots: Why Smart People Do Dumb Things)
"As demonstrated in the Stanford prison experiment, anytime two groups are formed by whatever means, the likelihood is that the interactions between them will become hostile." - (Us and Them: Understanding Your Tribal Mind, Social Dominance: An Intergroup Theory of Social Hierarchy and Oppression & The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom)
"The burning question for our survival as a species is: Can we leave the ape behind and grow up." - Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Living within Limits: Ecology, Economics, and Population Taboos & Living Within Limits: A Scientific Search for Truth)

In the end, Gonzales is attempting to pull off a monumental task in less than 300 pages so I understand why many people don't like this book. I don't believe that makes this a bad book in any way; I recommend it. I consider it a satisfactory introduction to General Systems Theory, even if Gonzales doesn't call it that. If you find the book interesting I would also read General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications and An Introduction to General Systems Thinking (Silver Anniversary Edition). I hope this review helps clear up some issues with the book and gives some additional perspective on the negative reviews.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9e277d20) out of 5 stars Why Smart Authors Write Dumb Things ... Jan. 11 2009
By Kevin Quinley - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Book Title Oversells & is Misleading

EVERYDAY SURVIVAL starts with an intriguing premise that modern man has become conditioned to a "vacation state of mind," exposing him to various environmental dangers. Author Laurence Gonzales offers as examples people who saw the tides recede just before the big tsunami of 2006 and tourists who flocked to Mt. St. Helens just before it blew a whopping volcano. As a risk management professional, I began the book with interest and optimism.

Sad to report that, not nearly halfway in, EVERYDAY SURVIVAL veers off track and - in my view - never completely regains its footing. Gonzales sprints down the rabbit trails of evolution, the universe's creation, cosmology, his hispanic heritage, mating habits of bonobo monkeys, archaeology and his relationship to his father. What these themes have to do with the book's avowed premise is unclear.

The title oversells and misrepresents the majority of the book's content, much of which seems out of place or holding at best a tenuous connection to the theme of "why smart people do stupid things."

On second thought, maybe such a thematic digression is one example of the book's subtitle.