I apologize for the ongoing spam about my new book. It will not last forever.
Because it is happening in my home town, I consider this event on Sunday, July 10, to be the true book launch. Note the new time, 4:00 pm, designed to allow people to also attend the Stonington Historical Society’s music at the Light House later that evening. For those who attend in person there will be a wine and cheese reception following, and thanks to Bank Square Books, there will be books available for purchase. The talk will also be live-streamed on The Stonington Free Library YouTube page. I hope to see you there!
Recently I had the chance to go on the Seize the Moment Podcast with Leon Garber and Alen Ulman. Both of them read the book and had great questions and comments. We got into some deep stuff and had lots of fun doing it.
That’s all for now. Given the events here in the US last week, it is a bit difficult to feel particularly celebratory this July 4th, but I hope you find some way to enjoy the summer weather and the long weekend.
This has been a relatively busy time for me as my new book, The Uses of Delusion: Why It’s Not Always Ration to Be Rational, has rolled out. I have been fortunate enough to have appeared on several podcasts and to have given some talks, all of which have been recorded and placed on YouTube. If you are not already tired of hearing me talk about the book, you may enjoy these. I can say that I have gone to the effort to give different talks for different audiences, so there should be a minimum of overlap.
In early June I went down to Bethesda, Maryland to give an in-person talk to the National Capital Area Skeptics. It was great to meet this group and hang out in Bethesda. The talk was recorded, and there was a lengthy and quite interesting question-and-answer session. You can find the YouTube video here.
One of the most raucous and fun book conversations so far was with Daniel J. Glenn of the Fascinating Nouns podcast. Daniel is a hilarious and smart interviewer, and we had great fun. The YouTube video can be seen here.
My most recent recording was for Andrew Gold’s UK podcast On The Edge. Andrew is a very smart chap, and this conversation was a great pleasure. He came up with several additional examples of the kinds of behavior I talk about in the book, and we discussed cyborg tennis players and our thoughts on Bernie Sanders, among many other things. I really enjoyed this one, which can be found here.
I am tremendously grateful to all the podcasters and to the National Capital Area Skeptics for inviting me to speak. After working so long in private to write a book, it is a great pleasure to finally go out into the world and discuss it with interested readers. Luckily, I am not done. I have several other podcasts and talks scheduled.
Finally, June 21, 2022, was a very special day for me because I achieved an important life goal. The famous Room Rater Twitter account upgraded my rating to a perfect 10/10. I went to substantial effort to improve my book setup along the lines they suggested in my previous rating, and all the work paid off. I have updated my CV to reflect my new 10/10 status. Such a treat.
May 13th was a busy Friday the 13th for me. I made television appearances on NBCNewsNow show Morning News Now and on the Newsy channel. There is no tape of the Newsy appearance, but you can watch the NBCNewsNow clip in the tweet below.
It’s Friday the 13th, which some believe is an especially unlucky date.
Undoubtedly as a result of my appearance on Michael Shermer’s show, my book rose to #1 on the Amazon list of New Releases in Psychology on May 17, which was quite a thrill. It has bounced around a bit since then, but it was at #4 on May 18 and #2 on May 19. I don’t really know what all this means, but I like the interpretation offered in a tweet by my colleague Chris French below:
It means you can officially and honestly say that your book is an Amazon bestseller! Nice one!
This Friday, May 13th, the Freethought Society is sponsoring their first “Friggatriskaidekaphobia Treatment Center’s International Educational Seminar via Zoom,” and I will be the keynote speaker. The festivities begin at 6:45 PM ET with standup comedian Ian Harris. There are a number of other speakers, and my keynote will be at 8:00 PM ET. The direct link to the zoom event can be found here. No registration is required. Should be fun.
Psychologist Matthew Brodhead from Michigan State University won the First Sighting in the Wild award by spotting the book at Hooked in Lansing, Michigan, which is described as a bookstore, coffee shop, and wine bar. It sounds like a place that specializes in all my favorite things. Thanks to Matt for the photo and to Hooked for carrying my book. I look forward to visiting when I am next in Lansing.
To learn a little about the new book, you can listen to my recent appearance on the Association for Psychological Science’s “Under the Cortex” podcast with Charles Blue. This was my second time on Under the Cortex, and I was very fortunate that my first interview about The Uses of Delusion was on this pod. Charles is an excellent interlocutor, and the podcast is very professionally done. I am very grateful to have had this opportunity.
Finally, despite all this book-related activity, I managed to write my column for Skeptical Inquirer magazine. My latest article, “Is Autism Really a Spectrum?” challenges the current system used to diagnose autism-related disorders. The column includes comments from Amy Lutz, a parent of a young man with severe autism and vice president of the National Council on Severe Autism.
Last Sunday at our local Stonington Free Library, I gave a talk about the history of Stonington’s Steamboat Hotel, co-sponsored by the library and the Stonington Historical Society. It was wonderful to be gathered together for the first time since the beginning of the Pandemic, and thanks to a great combined effort by the two sponsoring organizations, there was a standing-room-only crowd. The event was live-streamed on Facebook and the video is now available on YouTube.
In addition, I can now reveal that there will be a book on the history of the Steamboat Hotel, to be published by The History Press, an imprint of Arcadia Publishing. I will be submitting the final manuscript by the end of the month and with luck, the book will be out by the fall. If so, I will be in the pleasantly awkward position of having two books come out in the same year.The Uses of Delusion will launch on May 2.
Since my last post, the Spanish translation of my book Superstition: A Very Short Introduction was released by Alianza Editorial. A few reviews have come in, including this very nice one in El País. But I was more than delighted to read (with the help of Google translation) this one in FantasyMundo. At the end of a very praising assessment, the author, Fran M. Hidalgo, called Breve historia de la superstición “one of the essential non-fiction books this year.” That one made my day.
I cannot leave without noting how dramatically the world has changed in the last few weeks. The Ukrainian people have demonstrated for all the world what it means to fight for freedom and self-determination. If you are moved to make a donation to help, this Vox article has a pretty good list of options. I will be attending the vigil for Ukraine at the Stonington Free Library on Sunday. It seems important to do whatever we can to support this valiant effort in the face of senseless destruction.
My latest column for Skeptical Inquirer magazine, “Mass Psychogenic Illness: The Unacceptable Diagnosis,” is about Havana Syndrome and other diseases that have psychological rather than physiological origins. When you are suffering from genuine and severe physical symptoms, the psychogenic diagnosis is famously difficult to accept. As I argue, the “it’s all in your head” conclusion is neither helpful nor accurate, but many sufferers might benefit from a better understanding of the mind-body connection.
This is a little different. On Sunday, March 13 @ 5:00 pm ET at the Stonington Free Library, I will give a talk about the remarkable history of the building I live in. I’ve never done local history before, but this was something of a pandemic side gig that became one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve ever undertaken. It was a labor of love and a gift to the village that has been my home for over 20 years. This will be a hybrid event, co-sponsored by The Stonington Free Library and the Stonington Historical Society: in-person at the library and streamed live on the Stonington Historical SocietyFacebook page. If neither of those works for you, the talk will be recorded and posted on the library’s YouTube channel. I will let you know when it goes up.
My latest column for Skeptical Inquirer magazine is “Jumping to Superstitious Conclusions.” A number of recent studies show that people who believe weird things are not very diligent researchers. When asked to investigate a simple problem, they give up more quickly and jump to a conclusion. These studies seem particularly relevant in a period when people are “doing their own research” on vaccines.
Earlier in January, I had a fun conversation with writer Gary Belsky about whether his beloved but beleaguered team, the Arizona Cardinals might be under the sway of a curse. I provided a few pithy quotes at the end of his January 14th article in the New York Times. It was a particular treat to chat with Belsky because I knew him as the co-author, with Cornell University psychologist Thomas Gilovich, of the great 2010 book, Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes and How to Correct Them.
As of today, the Spanish edition of my book Superstition: A Very Short Introduction (Breve Historia de la Superstición) is out from Alianza Editorial. In the United States, it is available in paperback from Amazon and in e-book format from Barnes & Noble.
The cover of the Spanish edition is somewhat unique in avoiding the more common black cat theme in favor of an image of crossed fingers.
That’s all for now. I hope that January 13th is a lucky day for you, too.
This quick missive will undoubtedly be my last of 2021.
Georgiana Houghton, “The Eye of the Lord.” 1870 (Author photo)
In my December column for Skeptical Inquirer, I venture into the realm of art history to discuss the work of two women, Georgiana Houghton and Hilma af Klint, who may deserve credit for the first introduction of abstract art. For decades, Wassily Kandinsky was identified as the first abstract artist, starting in 1910. But these two women were producing many abstract works before that date. I was drawn to this topic because all three artists were inspired by spiritualist beliefs. The article is entitled “Spiritualism and the Birth of Abstract Art.”
My only other item is a happy announcement. I have signed a contract for an audio version of my new book The Uses of Delusion: Why It’s Not Always Rational to be Rational.” So, when the book is released next spring it will be available in both hardcover and audiobook form. Given the popularity of audiobooks, I am delighted to know The Uses of Delusion will be produced for earbuds. At this point, I don’t know who the narrator will be.
That’s it for 2021. Merry Christmas, if you are celebrating that holiday, and Happy New Year to all.