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Review: What Would Freud Do?, by Sarah Tomley (and What Would Nietzsche Do?, by Marcus Weeks)

 

Book reviews > What Would Freud Do? and What Would Nietzsche Do?

 

Tomley, S. (2017). What Would Freud Do? (How the Greatest Psychotherapists would Solve Your Everyday Problems), London: Cassell

Weeks, M. (2017). What Would Nietzsche Do? (How the Greatest Philosophers would Solve Your Everyday Problems), London: Cassell

 

'What would Freud do?' is a curious question. Maybe it should be called 'What would Freud say?' or more like 'Here's a book on the ideas of Freud and many others, that is easy to read and rather useful'. Because it really is the latter. Framed as a series of questions and short-chapter answers, the book covers many situations and concepts in a very readable format.

In 192 pages and five chapters, the book ask questions such as 'What am I like?' and 'How can I improve myself?'. The content is presented in newspaper-style, two-column text which makes it quite readable. Illustrations are copious and are often in colour. This can make it seem a bit like a magazine, but it is more than this. It is a serious book about a difficult topic. Fortunately, it is written in a clear, engaging style.

It is tempting to contrast this book with the brief and illustrated Introducing Freud from the long 'Introducing...' series. Introducing Freud has far fewer words and far more cartoons. It says more about Freud and less about more recent concepts. What Would Freud Do? uses much easier language, explains things in more (but not excessive) detail and brings in more modern concepts, from the hierarchy of needs to the rather alarming domain of neuromarketing. In short, they are different animals.

This is not a textbook, by any chalk. Indeed, What Would Freud Do? is best viewed as being a popular science book about psychology. While it starts with Freud, it ripples down through time via many of Freud's followers and successors, from classic psychoanalysts such as Winnicott and Klein, via humanists such as Maslow and Rogers, to modern psychologists such as Seligman and Kahneman. It is written by a trained psychotherapist who clearly knows her onions and can write well, which is good news as not all popular books are like this.

If you've not read about Freud or psychoanalysis before, and especially if you have a rather jaded opinion of him (perhaps via the criticism of other people), this is a very good place to get a much clearer picture of his ideas and how these have influenced modern thinking. It is also a useful reference to improve your understanding of modern psychology and perhaps get some help with everyday problems. The book can be something like an agony aunt column that you can dip into when you're feeling down, or just read to boost your knowledge of psychology.

 

Bonus: Micro-review of What Would Nietzsche Do?, by Marcus Weeks

The publishers of What Would Freud Do? are clearly on a roll and have also produced an equivalent book based in philosophy, rather than psychology. The book is about the same size and produced in the same style, with questions and answers, dual-column pages and helpful illustrations. Even more than What Would Freud Do?, this book skates through a dizzying array of sources, including philosophers from Aristotle to Russell. Again, however, it makes for a good read and can be either a self-help source or a thought-provoking scan through the field.

Both books can improve your life and will give you a raft of dinner-table topics to expound upon and as such are recommended.

 

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Sarah Tomley, What Would Freud Do?, London, Cassell, 2017 

Freud is a notoriously difficult read. He is also notorious, though often through second (or tenth) hand opinions. This is a very readable book about Freud and his writings, wrapped up in an easy question-and-answer style, with one short chapter for each question (and associated Freudian concept). If you've not read Freud before, this is a great way to set the record straight and learn some very useful ideas. 

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Marcus Weeks, What Would Nietzsche Do?, London, Cassell, 2017 

Friedrich Nietzsche is one of those deep European philosophers who can cook your brain for breakfast. This books offers a way to learn about his ideas in safety as, like it's sibling 'What Would Freud Do?', it uses everyday questions about life to offer a smart Nietzschean perspective on how to live more successfully. 

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