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About the Book

Dr. David A. Kessler, the dynamic and controversial former FDA commissioner known for battling the tobacco industry, has spent the past two decades studying how certain addictive substances influence our behaviour. In his first two books, Dr. Kessler explored the ways in which tobacco and food can exert control over our thoughts and actions; in Capture, he broadens this conversation exponentially, exploring the very underpinnings of why we suffer from any mental affliction—such as addiction, depression, anxiety, neurosis and panic—under which our logical minds and better intentions feel as though they have been hijacked by something we cannot control.

Capture draws upon the latest thinking in psychology, medicine and neuroscience to examine the common mechanism by which this range of mental disorders takes hold in the mind; it also offers a sweeping narrative history of the role of “capture”—the term Dr. Kessler coins for the phenomenon by which the mind is taken hostage—throughout literature, philosophy, religion and art. From Aristotle’s belief in the triumph of human virtue to William James’ concept of selective attention to Freud’s model of repressed desire, Kessler traces the history of Western thought on capture. In doing so, he illuminates history’s most valuable contributions as well as its shortcomings in understanding and treating mental distress.

Kessler argues that to truly understand the nature of capture, we must view it not only through the lens of intellect, but also our own human experiences—and so the book begins with stories, and continues to offer narratives of people who are, or were at some point, in capture’s throes; stories that offer an incredibly evocative, almost palpable viewpoint of anguish. This includes candid conversations and raw accounts of substance abuse, anorexia, obsessive love, gambling and sexual compulsions in everyday people; the words of writers such as David Foster Wallace, Franz Kafka and Anne Sexton, who elucidated their own despair with urgency and eloquence; and portraits of those cases of capture that have become infamous for their violent outcomes—including Sirhan Sirhan and Ted Kaczynski. Through this storytelling Kessler offers an extraordinary portal into the realm of capture, a chance to better understand its manifestations, and a way of considering how it can seize our attention and overtake our behavior in ways that can be benign, tragic or—for some—transcendent.

The closer we can come to fully comprehending this mechanism, Dr. Kessler argues, the better chance we stand at being able to both alleviate its deleterious effects and, ultimately, overcome its grip by changing our thoughts and behaviour. More than twenty years in the making, this impeccably researched book is nothing less than a successful effort to inform everything from the smallest action to the largest life aim, a unified field theory of human activity that draws in how we form thoughts, manage trauma and even try to reconcile will and cause.

“A fascinating account of the science of human appetite, as well as its exploitation by the food industry.” —MICHAEL POLLAN, AUTHOR OF IN DEFENCE OF FOOD, ON THE END OF OVEREATING

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Critical Praise

Kessler’s cogent argument is that a great deal of the apparently inexplicable behavior is the result of impulses, drives, and obsessions that may share fundamental neural and psychodynamic mechanisms. This carefully researched book is both startling and engaging, and written with brio. —Andrew Solomon, National Book Award-winning author of The Noonday Demon

In this richly documented, beautifully written, and original work, David Kessler has given us an idea that explains one of the most strange and most powerful processes in the human brain. —E. O. Wilson, University Professor Emeritus, Harvard University

This book offers a bold, overarching explanation for many of the great problems of the mind, problems that are often merely named. Dr. Kessler writes persuasively and with unusual clarity. Capture is an engrossing book, impressive in its cultural as well as its scientific reach. —Tracy Kidder, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Soul of a New Machine and Mountains Beyond Mountains

A fascinating account of the science of human appetite, as well as its exploitation by the food industry. —Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food, on The End of Overeating

Capture definies a shape of human experience that seems to inform everything from the smallest action to the largest life aim, a unified-field theory of human activity that draws in how we form thoughts, manage trauma, and even try to reconcile will and cause. —Chris Ware, author of Building Stories

Kessler writes about the concept of capture, or forces that strongly influence the mind, overriding reason and will. Invoking novelists, Freudian drives, and current neuroscience, Kessler explains how capture motivates, clarifies thoughts, and provides insight. A challenging and rewarding book for both scholars and lay readers. —Library Journal

Product Details

  • ISBN: 9781443444941
  • ISBN 10: 1443444944
  • Imprint: HarperCollins Publishers
  • On Sale: 04/12/2016
  • Pages: 416
  • List Price: 32.99 CAD
  • BISAC1: PSYCHOLOGY / General

Capture by David A. Kessler

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