BOOK REVIEWS

Contents 

(Click on the title to be taken to the review, or on the reviewer's name for biodata, or simply scroll down the page)

The Story of Life  by Richard Southwood - Reviewer Gill Ewing 

The History of Astronomy  by Michael Hoskin.- Reviewer John Ewing

Linguistics  by P.H. Matthews - Reviewer Joe Sinclair

Language Matters  by Donna Jo Napoli - Reviewer Joe Sinclair

The Teacher's Toolkit  by Paul Ginnis - Reviewer Mark Edwards

Globalization by Manfred B. Steger - Reviewer Sylvia Farley

Intercultural Management by Nina Jacob - Reviewer Michael Mallows

Accelerating Performance by Sunny Stout Rostran - Reviewer Rosie Harrison

Schizophrenia by Chris Frith and Eve C. Johnstone - Reviewer Abigail Freeman

 

The Story of Life  by Richard Southwood.  Published January 2003 by Oxford University Press.  (Hardback)
272 pages, numerous, maps figures and line drawings,  ISBN 0-19-852590-7.  Price 19.99.

You may think that a book which purports to tell "The Story of Life" in under 260 pages could not be other than a superficial skimming of 4.5 billion years of Earth history.  Well, you would be mistaken - as Richard Southwood demonstrates in this fascinating little book. 

Here are to be found all the usual topics in a  book of this sort, but you would be wrong to believe that  this is just another account of life from chemistry to man. Here is a book which is not only extremely readable, but gives an amazing amount of carefully chosen detail, filling in many of the gaps left by other writers on the subject. 

I particularly like the fact that the author is not afraid to use graphs and charts to illustrate a point. All are easy to interpret and genuinely contribute to our understanding of the text. A geological time chart on the inside front cover facilitates reference whilst reading the book.

In his introduction, the author describes the story of life as being like a kaleidoscope, where every now and then a shake changes the components and the picture, the "shakes" being environmental changes of various kinds, due to climatic, extra-terrestrial bombardment, plate tectonic-generated catastrophes and so on. With carefully selected images from each kaleidoscopic picture, he gives us a succinct coverage of evolution from primitive microscopic stirrings in primordial seas to the current epitome of primate life: ourselves. 

He does not simply recite an unfolding history of life however, but includes the how and the why involving the entire Earth in the story, with plate tectonics, atmospheric changes, how the various components of the Earth work together to promote this or destroy that how the Earth engine works in fact. He even takes the time to explain the classification of life forms, the new science of cladistics which matches features rather than entire life forms, so that new and interesting insights can be made into our origins. Brief overviews of simple chemistry and biology help us understand how life evolved in different types of habitat and the main life forms of each geological era are discussed in a few words at surprising depth. Illustrations are excellent and I particularly liked the map at the beginning of each new chapter, showing where today's continents lay at the time in question even to a predicted map of the future world given at the end. 

This book goes further than the usual pop science offerings in a history of life, in fewer pages, and with greater skill and readability than many others. If you want to know more about where we came from written in an authoritative, compelling style, then this book is for you. I guarantee you won't be able to put it down.

Gill Ewing 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The History of Astronomy  by Michael Hoskin.  Oxford University Press  (Very Short Introduction series)
123 pp incl. index, glossary and bibliography  ISBN 0-19-280306-9   6.99

Let's start with the bottom line: Michael Hoskins "History of Astronomy" comes out with two small frowns and a big happy grin. Let's get the frowns out of the way first.

The first concerns diagrams.  The book contains about twenty, roughly one for every five pages of text, which seems reasonable.  However, some of the basic concepts, such as the celestial equator and the apparent retrograde motion of planets, are explained without diagrams, and I find myself wondering if any non-astronomer picking up this book would be entirely comfortable with this.  I have been familiar with the terminology for a good forty years, yet at times I could have wished for a diagram or two more to show the relation between what the observers thought and what was really there.  In the later passages, it is true, such phenomena as aberration are well illustrated, but in the early stages, where the reader might need a little enticement, a few more pictures would be a help.

My second frown concerns Artistarchus of Samos. In its review of world systems, the book proceeds from the geocentric theories of Plato and Aristotle to that of Ptolemy, then leaps forward to Copernicus, introducing his heliocentric theory as if he were the first to promulgate the idea: yet every historian of science knows that Aristarchus proposed a heliocentric theory almost one thousand years earlier.  However, I can postulate a reason for the omission: the book follows the ideas that prevailed in humanity's world-view, and Aristarchus's ideas, pooh-poohed by Archimedes, did not prevail.  Furthermore, astronomy is a vast subject, and many people must be omitted from such a short work:  but all the same, I have a soft spot for poor old Aristarchus, who so very nearly hit the nail on the head before the Church got its iniquitous choke-hold on cosmogony, and I would have liked to see at least a nod in his direction.

Having got that off my chest, I can spend the rest of this Very Short Review in saying that I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the book.   It offers a fast ride through the Greats who emerged from the Renaissance - Copernicus, Galileo, Brahe, Kepler, and Newton - but in doing so it never fails to point out the essentials of their work, and how each in turn contributed to the eventual emergence of a correct picture of the Solar System.  It points out, too, the difficulties of observing before telescopes and with instruments that warped as the seasons changed; and it conveys a sense of wonder at how people could work to such wonderfully close tolerances in such conditions.  Fascinatingly, it also shows something of the interaction between Robert Hooke and Newton: reading these passages, I could feel the frustration that must have been building in Hooke's breast as so many of his  proposals were taken up, worked out in detail by Newton, shown to fit the data, and published with only the name of Isaac Newton upon them.

With the Newtonian theory of gravitation the book reaches a climax:  thereafter, it moves on through the steady parade of triumphs that succeeded.  This makes good reading, and Hoskins tells it well: the elation that astronomers must have felt as puzzles were resolved and discovery followed discovery comes through, and is quite contagious.  So for all my initial quibbles, I can say sincerely that this is a grand little book, and well worth the hour or two it will take you to read it. 

So now I'm going to order one of his longer works, and see what he thinks about Aristarchus.

John Ewing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Linguistics  by P.H. Matthews.  Oxford University Press  (Very Short Introduction series)
148 pages.  ISBN 0-19-280148-1.   6.99

 

For a long time in the past it was usual to find Linguistics treated as part of the Arts and Humanities departments of university syllabuses.  Subsequently the subject fell more and more under the tutelage of the Science departments. Matthews makes the very pertinent point that stereotyping students into Arts or Science camps is to do them an injustice.  He believes that Linguistics straddles this institutional rift between science and the humanities, for what is the study of language, he asks, but a science . . . of something that lies at the heart of being human?. 

And with that ending to his first chapter he has laid his cloak over the quagmire into which so many students of linguistics and language find themselves sinking in despair.  Thereafter his joy in his subject transmits itself through every page and every section taking the reader chronologically from the origins of languages as instruments of communication between humans to recent scientific studies of  the physiological aspects of the brain in connection with human language capacity. 

What I found most remarkable was the apparent ease with which Peter Matthews (who, after all, has written some weighty stuff on the subject, including Morphology: Introduction to the Theory of Word Structure, and the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Linguistics) succeeds so admirably to avoid all detailed and complex explanations, but manages to carry his reader along at a brisk if not breathtaking and totally comprehensible pace . 

The more complex issues are readily available for readers who want to proceed further (and who would not, having been so enticed by this book?) via his final chapter on Further Reading, where excellent books covering the sub-linguistical classifications of Morphology, Applied Linguistics, Psycholinguistics, Neurolinguistics, Computational Linguistics, Phonetics, Semantics and Pragmatics are briefly discussed. 

In reviewing books in the OUP Very Short Introductions series, it becomes tedious to continually refer to their accessibility.  After all, what other raison dtre could OUP have for a series containing the words very short in its title.  But Peter Matthews is to be commended for his success in producing a brief work on a complex subject and making it so eminently readable.

[I have one petty quibble with Matthews.  I consider it a pity that a Professor of Linguistics should allow himself to fall into the politically correct (but grammatically imperfect) trap [Page 8] of writing: "between each person and their female parent", when a convenient avoidance would have been to write "between all persons and their female parents" or, more cumbersomely,  "between each person and his/her female parent".  Or even - whisper it! - be damned to political correctness: "each person and his female parent".]

 

Joe Sinclair

 

 

Language Matters, A Guide to Everyday Thinking About Language,  by Donna Jo Napoli.  Oxford University Press  2003, 198 pages.  ISBN 0-19-516048-7.  Paperback  12.99

 

Starting to read this book shortly after having written the review of Linguistics above, and still having my parenthetical minor criticism in mind, I was delighted to read in Donna Jo Napoli's preface, "Linguistics is a field in which reasonable people can and do disagree.  Nevertheless, in this book I am rarely equivocal (I'm a linguist, not a politician)."  I could have hugged Donna Jo.  There was no way I could now fail to enjoy her book.  But I am sure I would have enjoyed it immensely anyway . . . and I have tried to review it impartially.

 

Napoli has divided her book into two parts: Language: the human ability; and Language in society.  The first part may properly be termed linguistics, starting from how language is acquired, how we learn to understand it and to speak it.  But it differs entirely in concept and in treatment from Matthews' Linguistics.  Napoli is here wearing her practical teaching hat rather than providing an academic treatise.  So not only is her text filled with an abundance of examples of how our mother tongue is acquired, but also how we learn other languages and why this is  so much more difficult than learning our original language.

 

Furthermore she is writing in such a lucid, uncomplicated and unsophisticated style that readers might be forgiven for thinking it naive, until it suddenly dawns on them that they have absorbed a surprising insight into both original concepts and a new and unexpected way of re-examining our beliefs and the assumptions we make about language.  "Take something simple" Napoli suggests at one point, " I love you. This can be interpreted one way when a nurturing parent speaks to her child; another way when a parent is inducing guilt in her child; another way when a couple decides to marry; another way when that couple has been married for fifty years; another way when a prostitute says it to a stranger who's paying her to say it; another way when a teenager is trying to manipulate a boyfriend or a girlfriend; another way when a child says it to a parent at the end of a long and wonderful day; and so on."  

 

This is typical of her style in the first part of her book where Napoli continues to examine a variety of provocative and occasionally controversial questions, but always with ease and fluency.  And, in case some questions that spring to the readers' minds remain unanswered (and they will, because the author is as adept at stirring up the readers own questions as she is at answering those she has posed) Napoli has provided a wealth of references at the end of each chapter, both to further reading and also (not unique, but pretty unusual in my experience) to web sites on the internet, all of those checked by me proving to be valuable sources of further information.  Indeed, the website she recommends in her preface: www.uga.edu/lsava/Archive.html providing a series of videos on language set up by the Linguistics Society of America, so fascinated me that my reading of her book was delayed by several hours!

 

The second part of her book may be more arcane, but none the less readable and fascinating.  Here she examines language in society, including the essential differences between dialects and standard language; how women and men speak differently and why this should be of little concern; the age-old question of whether the English spelling system needs overhauling, but addressed in a refreshingly unexpected way; whether offensive language harms children.

 

A wonderful book.  I commend it to you unreservedly.

 

 

Joe Sinclair

The Teachers Toolkit by Paul Ginnis, Crown House Publishing Ltd. 24.99 Paperback

Estelle Morris writes Paul Ginnis in his introductory section to The Teachers Toolkit,  on becoming the UK Education Secretary in 2001, declared We want to give schools more freedom. We want to put the fun and creativity back and we want them to be the innovators for our next round of reforms. Well keep our fingers crossed and see what happens.

Well, of course we now know what happened. Estelle Morris resigned. And now, two years on from when those words were quoted we have the Times Educational Supplement initiating a campaign to put creativity back at the heart of education. Such are the times in which we live; but are they a-changing?

Charles Clarke (Morriss successor), could do worse than take a peek at this book; I found it to be an inspirational work. The first section is perhaps the best exposition that I have read of what has happened to education in the UK in recent years. Ginnis makes it explicit:  recent brain research (upon which the principles of accelerated learning are based) is giving scientific credibility to what humanistic educational theorists such as John Holt and Carl Rogers have always known intuitively. He points out why the Governments obsessional targets-based' approach is failing because the targets are externally imposed and have no real relevance or meaning for the learner. He also points out that the UK education system has been in the grip of Concrete Sequential thinkers (many of whom, it would seem, populate the DofE) for years. Perhaps its time to recognise that others of us think and learn in fundamentally different ways.  

The substantial part of the book contains some disarmingly simple ideas which are nonetheless extremely powerful they must be to elicit a feeling of I cant wait to try that one out! in at least one rather jaded veteran teacher! (Its the one called Mantle of the Expert. Humanistic educators have long known that children learn very effectively by explaining things to others Ginnis adds a lovely touch by suggesting that the teacher gives the child a cloak to wear- in true Harry Potter style-  as he or she explains something to the rest of the class.)

The pragmatic approach of the book (something, incidentally that many accelerated learning trainers and authors could learn from) is emphasised by the How, What and Why? structure to each learning activity. This, plus the lively cartoon illustrations make the book highly accessible to busy teachers weary of yet another new initiative.

Yet it is not, in the words of another old hero of mine, Peter Dixon, just another shallow ideas book. I dont think you can take the suggestions on board without a radical rethink of what teaching and learning is all about. Thats why the book will appeal to the sort of teacher that thinks children should be excited about learning and that it should be meaningful for them. (Child-centred education, I think it was once called, but we only speak those words in hushed tones these days, and certainly not within earshot of Ofsted).  

Ginnis refers several times to his work with Donna Brandes and her influence is apparent in the section on managing groups and group behaviour. Teachers stuck for ideas about what to do in their PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) will find a rich source of ideas here. The final section gives suggestions for finding out pupils learning styles and also highlights the importance of using positive talk in the classroom, with examples.  

Each section of this excellent, pragmatic and insightful book could make a book in itself. One suggestion I would make is that the word creative should be inserted into the title and a copy then delivered to every school in the country. Mr Clarke, the ball is in your court.  

Mark Edwards  

 

 

 

 

 

Globalization  by Manfred B. Steger, a volume in the Very Short Introduction series of Oxford University Press, 168 pages, numerous halftones, maps and figures.  ISBN 0-19-280359-X.  6.99 paperback.

There have been countless books and papers written on globalisation since the late 1990s, most of which have coined their own definition of what is  basically an objective process as old as humanity itself, presented as a new  buzzword, a contested concept of  sometimes contradictory social phenomena comprising a system, a process, a condition, a force and an age. 

Many see  globalisation primarily  as an economic phenomenon, involving the increasing interaction, or integration, of national economic systems through the growth in international trade, investment and capital flows. 

However, one can also point to a rapid increase in cross-border social, cultural and technological exchange as part of the phenomenon of globalisation with its effects on poverty, the environment, gender, culture, and political structure and dynamics. 

Leftist critics of globalisation define the word quite differently, presenting it as a worldwide capitalist drive toward a global economic system dominated by supranational corporate trade and banking institutions that are not accountable to democratic processes or national governments. 

Steger proposes a working hypothesis that globalisation refers to a multi-dimensional set of social processes that create, multiply, stretch, and intensify worldwide social interdependencies and exchanges whilst fostering in people a growing awareness of deepening connections between the local and the distant. 

It is an uneven series of processes operating simultaneously on several levels and in various dimensions , which also involve the subjective plane of human consciousness, gradually changing individual and collective identities and dramatically impacting the way they act in the world. 

It is a new field that cuts across traditional disciplinary boundaries connecting and synthesizing subjects that have previously been studied in isolation from each other and heralding the rehabilitation of the academic generalist. 

The earliest phase of globalisation ended 10,000 years ago when humans took the crucial step of producing their own food. Decentralised egalitarian groups of hunter/gatherers were replaced by centralised and stratified patriarchal social structures supporting new social classes whose members did not participate in food production: craftsmen who produced new technologies and bureaucrats and soldiers who monopolized the means of trade, profit and violence in the hands of a ruling elite. 

The invention of writing and the wheel spurred communication and the co-ordination of large state formations leading to cultural clashes, massive waves of migration and the spread of disease. 

Latterly, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union ended the cold war between the forces of capitalism and socialism with capitalism triumphant. The development of the Internet made possible the organisation of business on a global scale with greater facility than ever before. 

Steger welcomes this progressive transformation of social structures provided that the global flow of ideals and commodities and the rapid development of technology go hand in hand with freedom and equality for all people as well as more effective protection of our global environment in a process in which geographic distance becomes a factor of diminishing importance in the establishment and maintenance of cross border economic, political and socio-cultural relations. 

He is critical of manifestations and tendencies that seem at odds with this noble cosmopolitan vision. 

The global financial supermarket in cyber-space has resulted, not in supplying capital for machinery, raw materials and employees to produce marketable commodities,  but in manipulating currency and securities, making astronomical profits in emerging markets of developing countries and creating artificial boom and bust cycles that endanger the social welfare of entire regions. 

The sales turnover of  transnational corporations (TNCs) such as General Motors and Honda are equivalent to the gross domestic product of countries like Denmark and New Zealand.   142 of the worlds 200 largest TNCs were based in only three countries: Japan, Germany and the USA.  51 of the worlds 100  largest economies are corporations, only 49 are countries. It is easy for these corporations to by-pass trade unions and workers organizations and subcontract production to low-paid workers in Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan and Malaysia to supply a soulless and blandly uniform consumer market. 

In the Infotainment Telesector  1, 483 newspapers are controlled by only 6 companies in a sustained attack on the professional autonomy of journalism and the transformation of news and educational programmes into shallow entertainment.  Small, independent cultural innovators such as theatres, record labels and book publishers have become virtually extinct as they are incapable of competing with media giants.  

English, Chinese, Spanish and French are emerging as the main global languages and some linguists estimate that up to 90% of other languages will have disappeared by the end of the 21st century. 

Not only  social diversity,  but also diversity of plant and animal species are threatened by anthropocentric consumerism that puts human beings at the centre of the universe and encourages the limitless accumulation of material possessions. 

In the long run, the MacDonaldisation of the world leads to the imposition of uniform standards that eclipse human creativity and diversity and  dehumanize social relations. 

Globalisation claims to be about liberalization, about spontaneous, inevitable and irreversible removal of barriers to the flow of free trade which will benefit everyone. Yet inequalities are becoming more pronounced as political power is used in the service of market forces. The bottom 25% of humankind live on less than 100 a year whilst the richest 200 people in the world  earn more than 3 trillion.  The assets of the  worlds top 3 billionaires are more than the gross national product of the six million people in the worlds least developed countries.

My subjective, personal response to the booklet was, Yes, very interesting and a fair presentation of all aspects of the ongoing argument.  But it was not easy to read. Many of the words were so long as to cause severe cognitive overload.  In one typical paragraph of jargon and techno-speak the average word-length was 11 letters, the longest 25 and many of the smaller words were acronyms. 

But once I had ploughed through the booklet a couple of times and assimilated some rather convoluted reasoning, I had to admit that as an introduction to a complex topic it did a sterling job, although I would not choose it  for light reading.

 Sylvia Farley

 

 

Intercultural Management by Nina Jacob.  Kogan Page.  ISBN 0-7494-3582-8.  250pp.  17:99

"Only small companies with a single branch or division, making a single or a few products with the same technology, and from the same raw materials, can ignore the aspect of intercultural management altogether," writes Nina Jacob.

It is a sad reality that many companies, though paying lip-service to equal opportunities and celebrating diversity, ignore altogether the issues of diversity and multiculturalism.  Although this book is primarily for students and teachers of Master of Business Administration (MBA), it should also be of interest and help to anyone who is seriously concerned to address and redress issues of race and culture in the workplace.

The author, whose multicultural exposure and expertise is evident on every page, is currently Professor, Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar, India. She has also been Visiting Professor at IESE Business School, Barcelona, and the KS Graduate Business School, Switzerland, and lived and studied in Japan and Canada.

Intercultural Management is from the Kogan Page MBA Masterclass series, which covers the core subjects on current MBA programmes and business courses. The book is consistent with the overall objective of the series, written by a team of leading international academics, consultants and practitioners, which is to accelerate the MBA, develop knowledge and improve skills.

Intercultural management focuses on effectiveness with groups that comprise variations in ethnicity and nationality as well as gender and generational differences. It is also concerned with variations in corporate culture, and 'the management of paradoxes, of ambivalences and ambiguities', as well as addressing the obstacles and opportunities that ensue from a range of structural and behavioural dimensions.

Jacob explores the connections between Intercultural management and the key themes of: organisational structure; communication, core values, strategy, knowledge management, conflict resolution and expatriate management.
Case studies, relating both personal stories and organisational struggles, include Credit Suisse, Nestle, BMW, IBM and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Some of these are followed by Case Study Discussion Questions or Academic Discussion.


Adding team management, leadership, corporate strategy and human resource management, to the themes listed above, will demonstrate important overlaps between intercultural management and organisation behaviour.

Intercultural Management Activities
Some of the objectives of intercultural management, and, to my mind, effective management in general, would incorporate a learning orientation that starts at the top with managers who pursue excellence and who develop and demonstrate a set of shared values. They would combine cultural empathy with mental flexibility, and have the capacity to learn from other cultures, including culturally different members from every level of the workforce.

Such an organisation, founded on principles that encourage learning from other cultures, will engender an environment in which people take ownership and responsibility and lead by example. Communication will be transparent and there will be commitment to recognise, motivate and empower staff. Jacob's book explores, and gives practical advice on how it has been done and how the readers might encourage more of it.

The clarity and accessibility of her writing style makes this an eminently readable, thoroughly enjoyable and extremely useful book not only for MBA students or managers, but for anyone who wants to be more aware, knowledgeable and effective when working with a diverse workforce.

Intercultural Management offers philosophical and moral perspectives on the significance and relevance of diversity in the global village and the workplace. It also offers insights and practical suggestions on how to ensure that issues of diversity are seen and discussed as positives to be welcomed rather than problems to be solved.
It places these issues in the context of the historical development of intercultural management, which assumed an identity of its own in the mid 1980s. Then it was that Geert Hofstede's seminal book Culture's Consequences  alerted managers to the fact that multinational corporations had to adapt management styles appropriate to the cultural 'norms' of the countries in which they were working.


Nina Jacob's excellent book will be a boon to the many organisations in the UK where, all too often, managers are bullies  whose lack of emotional intelligence, let alone intercultural management skills, precludes the most basic requirements for listening, rapport building and empathising.

I highly recommend this book to managers who wants to increase their own and other people's cultural awareness and sensitivity.

Michael Mallows

 

Accelerating Performance by Sunny Stout Rostran.  Published by Kogan Page.  ISBN 0-7494-3642-5.  248 pages.  19.99.

Accelerating Performance starts with "What's different about this book?  . . . Everything."

This is true if you have not come into contact with Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Goleman's Emotional Intelligence, training icebreakers, and anything to do with how the brain works.

Otherwise, you will recognise many of the exercises as being NLP techniques for things as diverse as value and belief elicitation, fast phobia cure, changing modalities and reframing - most appear with other names including the aptly titled soft shoe shuffle.

The icebreaker section has some interesting ice breakers that I hadn't seen before with the clover leaf looking like a good way of doing introductions, and  I was particularly intrigued by the drama and music sections. Lots of interesting ideas and I could see how some of them would be useful. I love the idea of getting people to compress their problems into verse and sing it.  That should sharpen thinking . . .  you might need to consider soundproofing?

On motivation and creativity there were some really good exercises to promote whole brain thinking. I especially like the one where you get people to write out their business issue and then swap to the other hand to resolve it. Reminds me of the psychology tests I used run on hapless students.

One odd thing - each section has a list of resources; books website addresses and the like. Lots of NLP, Daniel Goleman and Tony Robbins, Tony Buzan but I did not spot any accelerated learning books.

I don't believe that the claims and aims of the book have been met. The back cover promises a step by step guide and the introduction claims it's about learning new ways to deliver, present and structure your workshops. 

I don't recollect anything about structuring your workshop - just lots of ideas, some of them great, for individual sessions.  As for step by step this might be true if you already run or facilitate change and developments workshops  - for the rest of it it will need a lot of hard work and concentrated effort to take these ideas and make them work for our own purposes.

So overall, great on ideas lots of useful overviews and a little short on depth if you are not already familiar with the areas under discussion.

Rosie Harrison

 

 

 

 

 

 

Schizophrenia by Chris Frith and Eve C. Johnstone, a volume in the Very Short Introduction series of Oxford University Press.  ISBN 0-19-280221-6.  144 pages, 15 black and white halftones. Price 6.99

This, apparently the first volume in the Very Short Introduction series to deal with illness, concentrates on the medical model and the biological basis for schizophrenia, giving a concise description of the development of the concept and standard diagnostic criteria,. It describes how schizophrenia affects intellectual functioning, drug treatments, and the search for genetic and biological markers that could point the way to more effective treatments. It discusses the environmental factors that could cause the condition, and the possible mechanisms that could lie behind the symptoms, referring to many studies which have eliminated or clarified possible influences, including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), by advancing understanding of brain functioning in schizophrenia, is expected to answer some of the many questions raised during the next few years.  

The authors indicate that the influence of stressful life events and other environmental factors on the onset of schizophrenia, and their interaction with genetic factors, is still unclear. They firmly state that psychodynamic factors, double-bind theories, and the influence of family environment do not cause the onset of schizophrenia as R.D.Laing's work has been interpreted to mean.   

Kraeplin's division of functional psychotic illnesses into manic-depressive psychosis and schizophrenia remains the basis for diagnostic classification today. I found the omission of schizo-affective disorder confusing; this mixed condition with symptoms of both illnesses is statistically important, although it scarcely warrants more than a couple of paragraphs in most books on psychotic illness. Prof. Tim Crow proposes that treating all these conditions as a unitary psychotic illness would give a better chance of identifying neural markers; this would apply also to identifying how other factors, including family and social environment, might interact with a pre-existing biological vulnerability by affecting the onset or course of the illness positively or adversely.           

Space in the book is necessarily limited and there are, as a consequence, frustrating gaps. There is not nearly enough about patients' experience of using services, experiencing the coercion of the Mental Health Act, and non-drug treatments. Although interventions are evaluated by their effect on symptoms and mental functioning, it should be recognized that psycho-social approaches and other psychological approaches at an appropriate level may be much appreciated and  improve quality of life. Patients can develop strong coping mechanisms with 'incurable' symptoms and may appreciate opportunities to learn from others who have experienced similar things, as the strength of voice hearers' organizations demonstrates. Work in this field was not mentioned or referenced.   

The final chapter on the importance of schizophrenia examines the connection between brain and mind and delves into ethical and philosophical issues associated with madness; for example, observations of the effect of drug treatment on people with delusions indicate that belief and will are the product of processes in the brain. Many people never get round to asking themselves how they can empirically know that what they experience is real, how they developed their beliefs, and how responsible they are for their actions, yet such issues may be a strong factor in public fear and fascination about madness. It is this chapter, rather than the description of symptoms, that brings the experience of psychosis to life. 

In only the second paragraph of the book, the authors begin to address the negative portrayal of schizophrenia in the popular press. In the final chapter they describe the low incidence of violence among people with schizophrenia, the impossibility of predicting accurately who may pose a risk in the future, and the shortage of resources for quality services. This section should be of particular interest to members of the public who wish to be better informed about the issues raised by the proposed reform of mental health legislation.    

The book is well written, concise yet packed with information and references. It is aimed at students and the general public rather than directly at users of mental health services and their relatives, but nevertheless conveys the human dimension of the suffering involved.  I look forward to reading more books from this series.  

Abigail Freeman

 

 

 

Gill Ewing is a technical and scientific translator with a profound interest in natural/earth/environmental/life sciences.  She resides and works in Alsace, France.

John Ewing is a Systems Engineer who has worked in various domains ranging from implantable cardiac devices to the measurement of low-intensity radioactive emissions.  He currently runs his own company in Alsace, France.

Joe Sinclair is a writer, editor, publisher, and non-executive director of a shipping line - amongst other activities - one of which is the publishing of Nurturing Potential.

Mark Edwards was a head teacher, who still teaches part-time but combines this with writing articles, educational consultancy and entertaining people who like to hear badly performed rock, pop and music hall classics.

Sylvia Farley has raised a family in spite of Multiple Sclerosis, and has had a very varied career from researching light in the Arctic to building palaces on the Equator.  She is now a qualified psychologist. 

Rosie Harrison is an ex Systems Analyst, Strategic Risk Manager and trainer, and corporate business manager.   Currently she is working as a life coach and business mentor. She is in the final year of her psychology degree and discovering and writing about Tai Chi.

Michael Mallows is a management consultant, therapist (specialising in adoption), an author, a healer and a workshop facilitator.  He is also, incidentally, a consultant editor of this magazine.

Abigail Freeman is a mental health advocate and author of The Chrysalid Years, a veteran account of manic-depression/schizo-affective disorder.