Posts Tagged ‘books’

Psychology textbooks

Thursday, June 7th, 2018 | Books

I’ve spent the last year of my life reading a lot of psychology textbooks. In this post, I’m going to briefly discuss a few of them to help sort out the ones I liked from the ones I liked less.

An Introduction to Child Language Development

This is a short book by Susan Foster-Cohen. It has exercises and summaries thrown in but is otherwise just text. I didn’t find the summaries of each chapter very useful.

An Introduction to Developmental Psychology

Second edition edited by Alan Slater and Gavin Bremner. This is laid out in life sequences. However, the sequences are so broad that topics such as cognitive and language development are self-contained sub-chapters in themselves. It provides a good overview.

An Introduction to Stress & Health

This book by Hymie Anisman is a bit wall-to-wall text. However, it does provide a comprehensive discussion of the issues surrounding stress and health, including the concepts of appraisal and coping mechanisms.

Biological Psychology

Book by Marc Breedlove and Mark Rosenzweig. I did not get on with this one. It’s just walls of text.

Biological Psychology (12E)

This book by James Kalat is my favourite textbook on biological psychology. It is sometimes a little light on detail but covers all of the material and has lots of useful diagrams.

Cambridge Handbook of Child Language

This edited book by Edith Bavin has a large list of contributors. I only read the section on the usage-based theory of language by Michael Tomasello. It’s very wall-of-text but sufficiently concise that I managed to get through it while acquiring an understanding of Tomasello’s ideas.

Child Development

Useful because it goes through stages, but otherwise not that fun.

Handbook of Child Psychology

These books are huge and multilayered. The whole thing is edited by William Damon, but I only read volume two, edited by Deanna Kuhn and Robert Siegler. Specifically, I read the chapter grammar by Michael Maratsos. It’s heavy going, and a lot of text, but broken down into reasonable sections. It’s only worth reading if you really want to get into the detail.

This is an edited book by William Damon

Introduction to Biopsychology

This book by Pinel & Barness was the standard textbook used in our course. For good reason: it is well laid out and covers the main topics effectively.

Language Development: The Essential Readings

Edited book by Michael Tomasello and Elizabeth Bates. It’s a collection of papers compiled together. Most are laid out with roughly the same headings you would expect in a paper (method, results, development), but not always and the headings could be more clear. That apart, the papers are interesting and relevant. There is some author bias, though.

Lifespan Development

Sixth edition by Denise Boyd and Helen Bee. This book wasn’t ideal for our course because it is laid out in life stages, whereas we focused on topic areas. However, different topic areas were mostly in one chunk, such as cognitive development, so, in the end, it provided a concise overview. It’s quite well laid out for a textbook with good summaries and highlighted boxes.

Making Sense of Data and Statistics in Psychology

I think this was the first book I checked out of the library. It is by Brian Greer and Gerry Mulhern and appealed to me because it was relatively concise. However, it attempts to avoid teaching you the concepts straight up and instead uses lots of dialogues and round-about ways in the hope this will be more engaging. I couldn’t really get on board with it.

The Process of Research in Psychology

Nice introduction to research methods by Dawn McBride. I was able to read it all. It certainly doesn’t have the detail of books like Coolican’s, but it does give you a manageable amount.

Research Methods and Statistics in Psychology

Very good book by Hugh Coolican on conducting research, methodology, statistics and writing up. It’s reasonably light on the maths and instructions on using SPSS, but points you in the right direction. There are sample write-ups to follow, too.

Stress, Appraisal, and Coping

The original work by Lazarus & Folkman. It’s quite accessible for a classic piece of literature.

Stress, Cognition and Health

This book by Tony Cassidy provides a short and concise introduction to some of the theories behind stress and their impact on health. If you’re not too picky you can read through it in an hour or two and the topics are well organised.

Why Restaurants Fail released today

Monday, January 23rd, 2017 | Books, News

My new book, Why Restaurants Fail – And What To Do About It, is now available. Here is the blurb:

Why do most restaurants close within three years? What secrets do the successful chains know, that the independent eateries do not?

The answer has almost nothing to do with how good the food is. In this book you will:

  • Learn the big 10 predictable and avoidable mistakes restaurateurs make
  • Discover the real reasons consumers choose one restaurant over another
  • Find proven strategies for increasing diner satisfaction, and revenue

For restaurant owners and managers, this could be the most important investment you make all year. For everyone else, it will be a fun read.

You will not get bored. At 52 pages, including the appendix and glossary, this books contains only good stuff; no filler. You will love this book. If not, use your retailer’s return policy to obtain a full refund.

It started appearing in stores late yesterday, and should be out everywhere by the end of today. It is available in paperback from Amazon and in eBook format from Amazon and Apple iBooks.

The 8 books that changed my world in 2016

Monday, January 9th, 2017 | Books, Thoughts

I read a bunch of brilliant books in 2016. Too many to list here, though you can find them by browsing the Books category of my blog. Really good stuff like The Hard Thing About Hard Things and Zero to One have not made this list. The River Cottage Fish Book reminded me of my love of fish. Amazing fiction like The End of Eternity is missing too. But these books, have changed the way I look at the world.

Predictably Irrational

I kind of knew what this would be about before I opened it. But Dan Ariely provides a series of useful and real-world examples of irrationality in everyday life that you cannot help but see it in your own life. If anything, this book really deserves a second read so I can take it all in, measure my life against it and make improvements.

TED Talks: The Official TEDGuide to Public Speaking

I already consider myself quite a good public speaker and this book covered no new ground for me. However, it did change my opinion on one thing: speed of delivery. At Toastmasters, I am constantly telling people to slow down. When you slow down, your speech is easier to understand, the audience has better comprehension it forces you to say less and therefore makes the speech more effective. However, Anderson points out that you only need this enhanced comprehension at complicated parts of the speech: the rest of the time people can comprehend words faster than you can say them. So, if you have good enough content, speak a little faster.

The Paradox of Choice

More choice makes people less happy. I see this everywhere in my own life. I need new trainers. Sports Direct’s 4-story mega shop in Leeds city centre has around 1,000 different options. Yet I cannot find the perfect pair. Why? Too much choice! It raises my expectations of finding the perfect pair, which I never do. The same with restaurants: selecting from a huge menu is irritating and tiring. Give people a sensible amount of choice.

Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids

We know from Steven Pinker that parenting only makes up a small part of a child’s nurture-based personality. The rest is external environment. Bryan Caplan points out that this means you do not need to be crazy-obsessive-parent. In fact, if you relax, you will enjoy parenting a lot more and your child will enjoy their childhood at lot more.

The Village Effect

Social connections are the biggest indicator of longevity. Literally, not having a strong social network will kill you. It will take years off your life. Community is worth fighting for because it makes us happier and healthier.


I completed the entire programme from A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world before moving on to Headspace. I have not stuck with either because I find it really boring. However, it has convinced me that I need to spend more time focusing on enjoying now in whatever form that might be.

The Happiness Hypothesis

Jonathan Haidt’s book is worth reading for the central analogy alone: that we are made up of an elephant and a rider. The intelligent, rational rider can direct the body as much as it wants. But, when the elephant gets spooked, there is very little the rider can do to calm it down.

Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes

Gary Belsky and Thomas Gilovich list of a bunch of ways that we fall victim to our own biases. Chief among them for me was “mental accounting”. There is no such thing as bonus money: a pound is a pound. Every purchase has to be considered in the rational light of day, even if I have just won some money.

Reasons to read fiction

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016 | Thoughts


If you are a massive over-thinker like I am, you may well spend a lot of time thinking about extracting the maximum utility out of your reading time. If I invest the 10+ hours in a book, I want to know what measurable outcomes I will get out of it.

On the face of it, fiction does not seem to stack up. If I read a non-fiction book I will learn things and become smarter. With fiction, the path is less clear. However, if you too feel this way, there are some good reasons to get stuck in to a good story.

It’s fun

Books can be a bit of a slog. I like starting and finishing a book, but the middle can sometimes be a bit of a drag. This can occur with any book, but on the whole I think good fiction books drag less often. Instead of considering every book for its knowledge, you could just read because it is enjoyable. Time well wasted.

Stories are memorable

Good fiction often has a take-home message, and a moral. Non-fiction does too, but it can be hard to remember plain facts and figures. Stories on the other hand, are very memorable. Humans seem to be wired to sharing stories and we remember them much better than we remember stats. Non-fiction may have more knowledge on paper, but once you have forgotten most of it the gap is a lot smaller.

Part of the reason could be that fiction is often more emotional. A textbook on the Great Depression is unlikely to teach me more than John Steinbeck did in The Grapes of Wrath because he really makes you feel the pain and frustration of those travelling west, chasing the hollow dream they had been sold.

It can explore ideas

In fiction, you can explore ideas that you cannot explore in non-fiction. You can also take ideas further and come up with contrived scenarios. George Orwell explored the dark side of communism through Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm. Star Trek explored the ethics of AI through Commander Data in a far more involving way than a simple thought experiment ever could.

You get references

In Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century Thomas Piketty discusses theories of economics using analogies from the writing of Jane Austen. It was a great way to explain the point, but if you hadn’t read Jane Austen it may have been totally lost on you. I wrote about this last year in a post entitled The Benefits of Austen.

They pop up in all sorts of places. There is a Gary Jules song named Umbilical Town in which he sings about Dostoevsky’s Crime & Punishment. It is a beautiful song anyway, but understanding the background only makes it better.

Smart people have read classics

Are you so shallow that you want to be seen as well-educated among your peer group? I certainly am. How about seeming clever in front of your children? Again, yes. Why not read some Russian literature and be ready to spring into conversation with “that wasn’t my interpretation of Tolstoy!”

Reading list complete

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016 | Life, Thoughts


A little under three years ago I formally compiled myself a reading list of all the books that I had been recommended or thought I really should read. I came up with a hundred or so, and began the challenge.

Along the way I picked up a hundred or so more. New books were recommended to be, often by the bookings that I was reading. A times my list actually grew faster than I should shrink it. I reviewed or commented on almost all of them on my blog.

Now though, I’m done! After 33 month’s hard work, I’ve got through them all. I never have to read again!

I probably will of course. In fact, I’ve already made a start on a Dirk Gently novel that I made a half-hearted attempt to read a decade ago and never really finished. No doubt my list will soon begin filling up again, but for now I am going to celebrate the victory.

This seems an appropriate time for some mildly interesting reflections.

I am not really a big reader. In fact I would go so far as to say that I do not enjoy reading. It’s feels like a big statement to make, especially given my social circle is mostly well educated. It feels a bit like admitting to being a smoker. My dirty habit of not reading.

Of course, I actually do read. But do I do it for for pleasure, or because I am a victim of peer pressure, reading because society expects me to read and because I do not want to be labelled as stupid. As peer pressure goes, being compelled to improve oneself by reading is probably one of the better ones, but I take great pride in regularly failing to conform.

In many ways, reading feels like a habit, or something you have to get into. I remember when we first got Sky One. At the time, the channel showed a lot of Star Trek. I wasn’t that interested in Star Trek at the time, but I told myself I wasn’t missing several hours of science fiction every day, so I forced myself to watch it until I liked it. Now I love Star Trek. But you need that initial time to get to know the characters, understand the universe, and fall in love with the premise. Even Discworld requires some buy-in time.

I suspect that reading in general may be the same. I feel much more favourable about it now that I read on a regular basis, then I did when I read a book occasionally.

I now find Waterstones a trap. I used to happily browse their shelves, occasionally buying a book on computing. Now I go in there and see all these books that I feel I should read, even though I know I will never be able to read most of them. In some ways, it makes me feel a tinge of sadness that there is so much great literature out there that one human being can only hope to read a small portion of it.

I am firmly sold on the idea of ebooks. I was never a hold-out for physical books anyway, but the advantages of electronic formats are many. I still buy plenty of physical books, especially cookbooks or music books, but mostly I buy ebooks.


Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 | Video

Following on from the video I posted yesterday regarding Amazon’s air shipments, Gareth pointed out Waterstones have announced plans to start delivering books by trained owls.

Leeds Restaurant Guide launches

Monday, August 19th, 2013 | Food, News


Today, I’m proud to announce the launch of the Leeds Restaurant Guide. It is, in our opinion, the finest guide to restaurants in Leeds city centre that has ever been created. Years of relentless eating, reviewing and indexing have come together to provide a complete guide to where to eat in Leeds.

  • 188 restaurants and food pubs reviewed
  • Covers every restaurant we could find in Leeds city centre
  • Five star rating system
  • Unbiased, independent, consistent

The book will be made available in e-book format through all major retailers – Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Ingram, Kobo, Google Play, OverDrive (Waterstones), Sony, WH Smith and Gardner’s (Tesco). It is also available online at At a later date, it will be made available in print also.

It will be priced at a very reasonable £3.99. The exact time listings will appear on each retailer can’t be determined, so follow me on Twitter for updates.

I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who helped with the book, especially Elina for her eating and proof reading, Gijsbert for his feedback and advice, and James, Norm and Michelle for their proof reading.

Leeds Restaurant Guide arrives tomorrow

Sunday, August 18th, 2013 | News

leeds-restaurant-guide-small Tomorrow, Worfolk Media will launch its first publication, the Leeds Restaurant Guide. This is a comprehensive review of all 188 restaurants and food pubs in the city centre. The book will be available initially in e-book format, and later in print, as well as being online.

The book will be made available through all major retailers and full details will be announced in our full launch announcement at 9am tomorrow morning. Check back here for those details.

For updates on Twitter, follow @chrisworfolk.

Like a Virgin

Saturday, July 28th, 2012 | Books

I’ve recently finished reading Richard Branson’s new book, Like a Virgin, “They Won’t Teach You at Business School”.

My first question was, if Richard didn’t go to business school, how does he know they don’t teach this stuff? But, for the moment, lets take him on his word that they genuinely don’t. Once I got passed my own sarcastic comments, I settled down for an enjoyable read.

The book is structured in many short sections of only a few pages each, dealing with specific topics in no particular order, some related to a specific area of business and management, some on what Virgin has done and what lessons can be learnt, and some were Richard answering emails people have sent him asking for advice.

I really liked this format. Having sections that only lasted two or three pages meant that I could easily dip in and out of it. If I had five minutes to do some reading, I did’t need to worry about getting lost in the middle of a chapter. Though it also had the problem that when I was reading in bed, every end of a section was followed by a “oh, I’ll just read the next section, it’s only two more pages” until it was late into the night!

In many ways, Virgin really have turned business on it’s head. I once heard them described as a brand based capital house and where other companies have sought to dominate the one market they are best at, Virgin have built an empire out of going into many different, diverse markets, and staying small. This fits well with Richard’s personality, who clearly suits the cheeky personal marketing approach that they take, and there is a lot to be said for it.

Ultimately, there are no hidden secrets in the book, which is almost certainly a good thing (as any book promising you to uncover the “magic” is probably nonsense) but reinforces what we really should know already – be nice to your customers, invest in your staff, get your name out there and don’t take yourself too seriously. Definitely worth a read for budding entrepreneurs, if only as a gentle reminder.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Thursday, March 15th, 2012 | Books

I had heard a few good things about 7 Habits by Stephen R. Covey, so I decided to give it a read.

I have to say, I was very much disappointed. I guess there should usually be some kind of flag when the author needs to foreword his own book, though this can be forgiven – after all, our once great leader, now deposed for his crimes against Darwinism on Radio 4, Professor Richard Dawkins, has previously foreworded his own books in revised editions.

The book sets itself up to be the anecdote to the nonsense that has been published in recent times – there is no quick fix, the fads don’t work, etc. But the author then goes on to discuss how he uses many of these techniques, which Penn & Teller have devoted entire episodes of Bullshit to rubbishing, in his personal life.

He then goes on to set out many obvious points which simply don’t offer any value. Perhaps there is some merit in simply codifying already known or obvious values, but then we don’t ascribe any praise to books such as L. Ron Hubbard’s The Way to Happiness which makes valid, but obvious points such as “set a good example” or be honest.

Covey’s constant reference to his religious faith (he is a practicing Mormon) also add a large amount of bias to the book. Indeed, some of the arguments that he puts forward I could only really get my head round by looking at it from a religious perspective – they simply don’t make much sense from a secular perspective.

So overall, not too impressed with the book.