Irresistible [A Review]

Irresistible, by Adam Atler

   [Image courtesy of Goodreads.com]

 

Nope, this is not some saucy, titillating romance novel with the picture of a half-naked man and a scantily dressed woman in a hot embrace.

Instead, the cover picture shows a lit smartphone. It’s a book about behavioral addiction and how technology can make it worse. It’s also about how contributing elements in behavioral addiction can be used to grow good habits.

Interestingly, the way the book was written (it’s short and to the point; there are lots of stories; it’s well-organized and allows a step-by-step easy, progressive understanding of the points put forth) can be addictive for the reader. At least it was for me. This is despite the fact that many of the points and arguments in the book were not new to me. I’ve seen many articles, columns and papers written on this topic. What Atler has done is put everything into a concise and highly readable piece that tells us the history and psychology of addiction, how businesses and game developers are using a combination of technology and psychology to hook people (for good or bad), and how not to get addicted. There is even a chapter on what parents can do to prevent kids from falling into that trap from young.

Midway through the book, I was so curious about seeing the theory explained in action that I actually logged on to the Apple App Store and downloaded a few top-rated games to try, just to see if they had the psychological hooks designed into them. 

They all had, some more than others.

I like to think that being conscious about those hooks somehow saved me from being sucked into the games.

VERDICT: The book can be an enjoyable read, whether you are into game development, social media marketing, or just concerned about your kids spending too much time online.

The Last Lesson of Mrs De Souza [A Review]

The Last Lesson of Mrs De Souza, by Cyril Wong

Image result for the last lesson of mrs de souza

   [Image courtesy of Epigram Books]

Another local book by Cyril Wong. It’s a novel this time, albeit a short one.

The plot was predictable, but I think credit must be given for the way Wong has crafted the entire tale, from the way Mrs De Souza’s story was drawn out, to the way different strands of emotion were injected into the storytelling. I really like how Wong has so aptly described the way one’s perception and memory of events can be shaped by one’s biases and beliefs, and can therefore end up being highly unreliable. 

Yet, I’m not sure Cyril Wong will ever be one of my favourite local authors, either because of the constant melancholy I feel whenever I read his works, or because of the themes he usually chooses for his stories. I do appreciate good humour and playful jabs at the ironies in life sometimes, and that seems to be missing in Wong’s writings. But I suppose that’s just a matter of style and personal preferences. Wong probably just has something different to say, and that something does not resonate as strongly with me.

VERDICT: If you had tried “Ten Things My Father Never Taught Me” and had liked the short stories, this longer story is written in a similar style and might appeal to you.