Sunday, September 22, 2013

Douglas E. Richards

Douglas E. Richards is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Wired and its sequel, Amped. Richards has a master's degree in molecular biology (a.k.a.“genetic engineering”), and was a biotechnology executive for many years.

His new novel is The Cure.

Earlier this month I asked Richards about what he was reading.  His reply:
Alas, lately I’ve been so busy I don’t have much time to read fiction—but I do make time to read non-fiction. I write present-day thrillers with science fictional elements, in the tradition of Michael Crichton, so that along with being fast-paced, action-packed, and having the twists and turns associated with the thriller genre, my novels include accurate science at their cores. In addition, I like to include plenty of food for thought: philosophy, ethical and moral dilemmas, the essence of human nature and human behavior, and the like. So to prepare for future novels, I try to cram as much interesting stuff into my brain as I possibly can, never knowing which bit will prove to be a fascinating addition to what I’m writing.

Right now I’m reading The Curse of The Self by Mark Leary, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University. Why? Well, I just completed his course (from The Great Courses), Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior. The course is on video and audio, but I preferred to just read the lectures in book form. Wow! One of the most fascinating books I have ever read (or courses I have ever taken, if you like). This guy’s writing is easy to read, easy to understand, presented beautifully, and the revelations about human nature he imparts are nothing short of brilliant. So I sought out additional books by this author.

In The Curse of The Self, Leary explains how having self-awareness (which no other animal truly does) has propelled us to the top of the food chain—by allowing us to ponder the future, foresee threats, and make plans. But this self-awareness comes at a cost, fostering the emergence of such negative emotions and behaviors as depression, anxiety, addiction, anger, jealousy, and others.

The most recent paragraph I read was about something called the “next-in-line effect.” Suppose you’re in a group and everyone is asked to introduce themselves and say a few words about themselves. Most of us become so worried about what we’re going to say when it’s our turn, and preoccupied by this, that we miss what everyone else is saying. Or to quote from the book, “This phenomenon is called the next-in-line effect, since people are least likely to remember what the person who immediately preceded them said because that was when they were the most self-absorbed.”

Very interesting, and very true. All in all, Leary’s comprehensive writings on behavior show that the human animal is even more fascinating than I had thought.
Visit Douglas E. Richards’s website.

My Book, The Movie: The Cure.

--Marshal Zeringue