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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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I had a hard time finishing Satisfaction: Sensation Seeking, Novelty, and the Science of Finding True Fulfillment. I think the disorganized incoherency of the book is closely aligned with the rambling mess of a title it bears.

Skipping over some specifics, Berns sets out his thesis in the first few pages: human satisfaction is a product of novelty. Each chapter of the book has a certain structure. First the author visits some scientist , and they set out to do something novel like visit an SM club, go to Cuba, or have a nice meal. Then he digresses into some important experiment in neuroscience (sometimes contemporary experiments by the author, sometimes experiments almost a century old). The author then returns to the novel experience and awkwardly tries to weave the two components of the chapter back together.

It felt like I was reading two books by the end. First, there was the story of the author’s novel experiences, which read like a halfway-decent travelogue. Perhaps recognizing his weakness as an author, he keeps these summaries brief and to the point, which ends up working rather well. The second part is then a very high-level survey of the history and current research into the findings and tools related to the study of satisfaction and pleasure. This segment reads like an introductory college textbook.

As odd as it sounds, if I’d read first the textbook segments, and then the “diary” segments, I think the book would have been more enjoyable. As it stands, it felt like I was being beaten back and forth between two styles of writing and discussion, and it was hard for me to stay interested in both; Berns lacks that smooth ability to transition his narrative between science and anecdotes that is seen in many of the more famous science-for-idiots books.