CAE Reading and Use of English Part 8
You are going to read reviews of four psychology books. For questions 47-56, choose from the sections of the article (A-D). The sections may be chosen more than once. When more than one answer is required, these may be given in any order.
About which book is each following point made?
47 It is likely to put certain kinds of people off.
48 It has aims which resemble those in other recently published books.
49 It offers unnecessary advice to readers.
50 It makes seemingly original but convincing observations.
51 It avoids obvious answers to an issue which is familiar to many people.
52 It may prompt the publication of other books exploring the same subject matter.
53 It is organised differently from other writing by the same author.
54 It lacks a clear structure.
55 It challenges a modern trend in psychology.
56 It is difficult to understand in places.
Reviews of psychology books
A Missing Out: in Praise of the Unlived Life by Adam Phillips
In Missing Out, a slim volume peppered with insights that may never have been expressed quite like this before but which make you want to scrawl ‘yes’ in the margins on almost every page, the psychoanalyst and writer Adam Phillips asserts that we all ‘learn to live somewhere between the lives we have and the lives we would like’. For ‘modern’ people, ‘the good life is … filled to the full’; we seek complete satisfaction. But what we need, argues Phillips, isn’t satisfaction but frustration. You can’t get instant satisfaction because you can’t control people or the world. You can’t ‘get’ other people because no one can be fully understood and neither, of course, can you. But a capacity for tolerating frustration allows us to develop. Appropriately, given the subject matter, this book can be a frustrating read – sometimes you think you’re just getting to grips with an idea, only for it to slip away. But, as is often true of Phillips’s books, what you do feel when you’ve finished it is that it offers glimpses of the real, messy and never fully knowable human heart.
B Together by Richard Sennett
Together is the second book in a planned trilogy about the skills modern humans need for a happy co-existence. The first addressed the joys of making things with your hands, and the third will be about cities. This one looks at how we can all get along together. Sennett explores the importance of equality and how, in unequal societies, people are less willing to co-operate. He argues that our society is becoming atomised, ‘deskilling people in practising co-operation’. The trouble is it all feels atomised itself. Sennett’s argument seems to bounce from place to place, and he relies on anecdotes and experience more than data. It aims to be a practical, how-to guide for maximising co-operation, but ends up a sort of unsystematic self-help book: listening is as important a skill as the presentation of your own ideas; discussion need not reach agreement but can teach us new things; assertiveness is valuable, but so is politeness and diffidence. All true, but don’t we know it already?
C Teach Us To Sit Still by Tim Parks
A few years ago, a number of writers dealt movingly about what it’s like to have a serious illness. If Teach Us to Sit Still does well, we could be in for a glut of writing by people who don’t have much wrong with them, yet still write about it at length. But if they are anything like as good as this, it might not be such a gloomy prospect. A few years ago, Tim Parks couldn’t sleep and had serious pains in his side. Medical tests all came back negative, but the pain persisted. So, he embarked on a sceptical exploration of the possible causes of and cures for his woes. He tried out an array of theories and therapies. The intensity, of Park’s search makes for a less than relaxing read, and, in all probability, there will be readers who fail to make it past the first couple of chapters. Parks, an innovative and prolific novelist, writes wonderfully however, and despite the subject matter, a layer of wit runs through it Parks eventually achieves some relief through special breathing exercises and meditation, but uncovers no magic formulas.
D The Antidote by Oliver Burkeman
Should we all be striving for happiness? Should we think positively? Should we try to ignore any difficult thoughts, feelings, or situations that arise? Many self-help books these days would shout ‘Yes!’ Oliver Burkeman isn’t so sure. A leading writer in what could be called the ‘antiself-help self-help’ genre – which happily seems to be swelling – Burkeman’s work, as represented in The Antidote, is not about positive thinking, finding partners, and getting promotions at work and doesn’t offer facile instructions for living a happy, easy life. Rather, it uses research to suggest that we reconsider our assumptions and find new ways of thinking and being. Help! How to Become Slightly Happier, his previous book, comprised a series of short sections, each a page or two long, which presented an idea fairly quickly. The Antidote has just eight chapters and each one explores a subject like success and failure in detail. So what are his conclusions? Well, one is that we have to stop searching for firm answers and quick fixes.