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Desperately Seeking Self-Improvement: A Year Inside the Optimization Movement
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OR Books 2017
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"A comically committed exploration of current life-hacking wisdom in areas ranging from athletic and intellectual prowess to spirituality, creativity, wealth, and pleasure." —The New Yorker

In these pages, the authors of the widely-acclaimed Wellness Syndrome throw themselves headlong into the techniques of self-optimization, a burgeoning movement that seeks to transcend the limits placed on us as mere humans, whether the feebleness of our bodies or our mental incapacities.

Cederstrom and Spicer, devoted each month of a roller coaster year to a different way of improving themselves: January was Productivity, February their bodies, March their brains. June was for sex and September for money. Perhaps the trickiest was April, a month devoted to relationships, when their feelings for each other came under the microscope, with results that were both hilarious and painful. Carl thought Andre was only "dialing it in," Andre felt Carl was too controlling.

In fact, both proved themselves willing guinea pigs in an extraordinary (and sometimes downright dangerous) range of techniques and technologies, had hitherto undertaken little by way of self-improvement. They had rarely seen the inside of a gym, let alone utilized apps that deliver electric shocks in pursuit of improved concentration. They wore head-bands designed to optimize sleep, and attempted to boost their memory through learning associative techniques (failing to be admitted to MENSA bit learning pi to 1,000 digits), trained for weightlifting competitions, wrote what they (still) hope might become a bestselling Scandinavian detective story, attended motivational seminars and tantra workshops, went on new-age retreats and man-camps, and experimented with sex toys and productivity drugs. Andre even addressed a London subway car whilst (nearly) naked in an attempt to overcome a negative body image.

Somewhat surprisingly, the two young professors survived this year of rigorous research. Further, they produced a hilarious and eye-opening book based upon it. Written in the form of two parallel diaries, Desperately Seeking Self-Improvement provides a biting analysis of the narcissism and individual competitiveness that increasingly pervades a culture in which social solutions are receding and individual self-improvement is the only option left.

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Format:
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Street Date:
10/15/2017
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781944869403
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APA Citation (style guide)

Carl Cederström. (2017). Desperately Seeking Self-Improvement: A Year Inside the Optimization Movement. OR Books.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Carl Cederström. 2017. Desperately Seeking Self-Improvement: A Year Inside the Optimization Movement. OR Books.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Carl Cederström, Desperately Seeking Self-Improvement: A Year Inside the Optimization Movement. OR Books, 2017.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Carl Cederström. Desperately Seeking Self-Improvement: A Year Inside the Optimization Movement. OR Books, 2017.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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shortDescription

In these pages, the authors of the widely-acclaimed Wellness Syndrome throw themselves headlong into the techniques of self-optimization, a burgeoning movement that seeks to transcend the limits placed on us as mere humans, whether the feebleness of our bodies or our mental incapacities.

Cederstrom and Spicer, devoted each month of a roller coaster year to a different way of improving themselves: January was Productivity, February their bodies, March their brains. June was for sex and September for money. Perhaps the trickiest was April, a month devoted to relationships, when their feelings for each other came under the microscope, with results that were both hilarious and painful. Carl thought Andre was only "dialing it in," Andre felt Carl was too controlling.

In fact, both proved themselves willing guinea pigs in an extraordinary (and sometimes downright dangerous) range of techniques and technologies, had hitherto undertaken little by way of...

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title
Desperately Seeking Self-Improvement
fullDescription
"A comically committed exploration of current life-hacking wisdom in areas ranging from athletic and intellectual prowess to spirituality, creativity, wealth, and pleasure." —The New Yorker

In these pages, the authors of the widely-acclaimed Wellness Syndrome throw themselves headlong into the techniques of self-optimization, a burgeoning movement that seeks to transcend the limits placed on us as mere humans, whether the feebleness of our bodies or our mental incapacities.

Cederstrom and Spicer, devoted each month of a roller coaster year to a different way of improving themselves: January was Productivity, February their bodies, March their brains. June was for sex and September for money. Perhaps the trickiest was April, a month devoted to relationships, when their feelings for each other came under the microscope, with results that were both hilarious and painful. Carl thought Andre was only "dialing it in," Andre felt Carl was too controlling.

In fact, both proved themselves willing guinea pigs in an extraordinary (and sometimes downright dangerous) range of techniques and technologies, had hitherto undertaken little by way of self-improvement. They had rarely seen the inside of a gym, let alone utilized apps that deliver electric shocks in pursuit of improved concentration. They wore head-bands designed to optimize sleep, and attempted to boost their memory through learning associative techniques (failing to be admitted to MENSA bit learning pi to 1,000 digits), trained for weightlifting competitions, wrote what they (still) hope might become a bestselling Scandinavian detective story, attended motivational seminars and tantra workshops, went on new-age retreats and man-camps, and experimented with sex toys and productivity drugs. Andre even addressed a London subway car whilst (nearly) naked in an attempt to overcome a negative body image.

Somewhat surprisingly, the two young professors survived this year of rigorous research. Further, they produced a hilarious and eye-opening book based upon it. Written in the form of two parallel diaries, Desperately Seeking Self-Improvement provides a biting analysis of the narcissism and individual competitiveness that increasingly pervades a culture in which social solutions are receding and individual self-improvement is the only option left.

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reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: The New Yorker
      • content: "A comically committed exploration of current life-hacking wisdom in areas ranging from athletic and intellectual prowess to spirituality, creativity, wealth, and pleasure."
      • premium: False
      • source: The Guardian
      • content: "An absurdist masterpiece."
      • premium: False
      • source: Tom McCarthy
      • content: "Beautifully observed and incredibly conceived, this account of a self-imposed ordeal has the chilling quality of a true nightmare. It is the dark side of the moon of Tim Ferriss."
      • premium: False
      • source: Kirkus Reviews
      • content: "A good-natured, thoughtful, and often comic joyride."
      • premium: False
      • source: Steven Poole, The Guardian
      • content: "Carl Cederström and André Spicer's brilliantly sardonic anatomy of this "wellness syndrome "concentrates on the ways in which the pressure to be well operates as a moralising command and obliterates political engagement... These authors would no doubt agree that there is nothing wrong with being well or wanting to be well. But, as their deeply humane and persuasive book shows, being told to be well is a different matter entirely. A society where wellness is obligatory is a sick one. "
      • premium: False
      • source: Helen Rumbelow, The Times
      • content: "When I read their angry, hilarious book, The Wellness Syndrome, I felt like I was being shaken awake from a dream. "
      • premium: False
      • source: Andy Martin, Literary Review
      • content: "Short, brilliant and bracing, The Wellness Syndrome is the Brave New World de nos jours, a mordant satire on our contemporary mores... I pray that the authors will put a lot of life coaches (and celebrity chefs and similar fraudsters) out of business. "
      • premium: False
      • source: Gerald Moore, Radical Philosophy
      • content: "The book's great virtue is its lightness of theoretical touch, which combines Darwin-award style tales of idiocy with punchy commentary to make for the kind of readability conducive to cult status among undergraduates. "
      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        October 15, 2017
        An earnest scholarly effort devolves into a funny, sometimes-sardonic tour of the possibilities of changing your life--or not. Are we immutable? Cederstrom (Stockholm Business School) and Spicer (Cass Business School, City Univ., London) teamed up for a year of month-by-month mutual challenges to improve mind, body, and spirit through endeavors ranging from yoga and raw veganism to tantric sex ("she was the only multi-orgasmic person I knew," writes Cederstrom of one informant). They raced to lose weight, write the greatest number of words each day, and memorize speeches; they used drugs, drank and ate excessively or not at all, smoked cigarettes, self-administered mild electrical shocks, underwent plastic surgery, and visited a succession of oddballs, from a Rasputin-y Russian with a mysterious "God helmet" to a German longhair who urged, "now, imagine you are a wild man! Find your inner wild man! Stand like your wild man!" Grunts, pants, huffs and puffs, and spreadsheet entries ensued. The loser of the month's competition had extra chores: in one instance, Spicer had to stand and talk at the famed Speaker's Corner in London's Hyde Park on the subject of "Why I Am an Asshole." The epithet applies to both authors at times, but there is serious purpose behind the quest, which is often reminiscent of the Steve Coogan/Rob Brydon Trip movie series. It would spoil the fun to give away too much of their concluding argument, but suffice it to say that one of Spicer's takeaways seems just right: "Living like this for a year, I had come to appreciate the comforts of my regular life." Another good point: though self-improvement and self-change invite a world of charlatans to prey on the weak, most of the practitioners they encountered "were genuinely committed to using their expertise to help their clients." A good-natured, thoughtful, and often comic joyride, well worth reading before listing your new year's resolutions.

        COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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