Is pleasure selfish and are we selfish to pursue it, scientifically speaking?
This is a book about the lengths people will go to nuzzle out some pleasure – and the scientific reasons that lie behind those impulses, written in an accessible and entertaining way.
Paul Martin looks at changing attitudes to pleasure over the centuries, including religious and philosophical lawgiving on the subject, before moving on to the scientific hardwiring that supports all this human frenzy. He also looks at chemical pleasures, at our attempts to bottle the pleasure-giving principle for easy access and regular self-medication – from caffeine to heroin, from tobacco to glue. Which brings us to addiction, and the darker side of pleasure’s many moons – before coming back full circle to the therapeutic bliss of pleasure, its key role in an individual’s health, and that least-promoted, most-undervalued, but most satisfying daily pleasure of all – sweet sleep.
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‘By surveying pleasure-seeking across many cultures and explaining the science behind it, Martin shows how skewed our view of drugs is, familiar but lethal drugs perceived as less harmful than exotic but milder concoctions. Martin’s own pleasure spectrum is laid plain: he loves sex and chocolate, and detests shopping and cigarettes. He sounds very wise.’ Peter Forbes, Independent
‘Here’s a book perfectly timed for the season of self-flagellation.’ Blake Morrison, Guardian
‘Theories abound in the pages of Paul Martin’s enjoyable journey through the advantages and disadvantages of pleasure-seeking. He remains an engaging guide.’ Nick Rennison, Sunday Times
‘Extensive survey of the pros and cons of pleasure, and its bittersweet role in all our lives.’ Anthony Holden, Daily Telegraph
‘An intriguing and amiable study of the “hedonic pulse”.’ Christopher Hart, Literary Review
‘Fascinating, titillating book. Given what we know of pleasure, he concludes, the key to happiness is to experience modest pieces of it in regular doses. Walking, fishing, music, gardening and, yes, a reasonable amount of sex and chocolate are better guarantors of earthly bliss, he contends, than unbridled hedonism.’James Delingpole, Mail on Sunday
‘In “Sex, Drugs & Chocolate” Paul Martin distils recent research with some ancient philosophy into a very readable form. The book concludes with his eclectic personal menu of “Modest Pleasures” for a happy life. Strangely, though, he does not list the pleasure of reading a good book – such as “Sex, Drugs & Chocolate”.’ Clive Cookson, Financial Times
‘This erudite contribution to understanding what gets us fired up and why it is in itself a total pleasure. Peppered with humour and intelligent, sensitive explanations of why and how we can become addicted.’ Good Housekeeping
‘An interesting book.’ Noel Malcolm, Sunday Telegraph
'The devil that drives us is desire, says Paul Martin: self-gratification has been a well-known goal since Man first learnt how to get a buzz and discovered addiction. Martin advocates moderation and the best pleasure of all: get some sleep.' Iain Finlayson, The Times
‘Paul Martin has made a trademark of accessible hybrid books about human behaviour that unite anecdote, science and jovial self-help with frankness and clarity. Having dealt with sleep and happiness, he now tackles pleasure in a similar vein. Material drawn from history, literature, and, most successfully, a wide range of scientific studies packs “Sex, Drugs and Chocolate” with fuel for dinner party conversation.’ Lydia Syson, TLS
‘Pleasure is everywhere and nowhere. By the time you’ve finished this book you might think that cheap pleasure, rather like cheap money, has been the ruin of the modern world. Too much pleasure seems to be on a par, spiritually speaking, with not enough. Like money, pleasure cannot exist in infinite amounts. It must be worked for: Towards the end of his life, Robert Louis Stevenson told of the thing that really made him happy. Not drugs. Not sex. Not even chocolate. “Weeding,” he wrote’ William Leith, Evening Standard
‘It’s clear from the cover that this book will undermine any puritan concept that pleasure goes hand in hand with coming to a bad end…he delivers snappy explanations for why he believes humans are hard-wired to experience pleasurable sensations. This is aimed at, and should be devoured by, consummate pleasure-seekers.’ Metro
‘The book is packed with interesting after-dinner conversation titbits.’ Time Out
‘I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is full of takes of indulgence, excess and decadence woven together with research on addiction, desire and pleasure. And it was a pleasure to discover so much I did not know.' Dr Susan Blakemore, BBC Focus Magazine
Praise for ‘Making Happy People’:
‘Paul Martin proves himself a man of kindness and blithe optimism whose delightful diktats would be of benefit to us all.’ Mail on Sunday
‘There is something shockingly nice about these arguments.’ Guardian
‘Well argued…Expert.’ Independent
‘His clear, scientific and humane opinion on a subject heretofore governed by self-help gurus and descendants of Dr Spock is very welcome.’ Sunday Business Post
‘Clear approach and broad referencing make for undeniably pleasant reading.’ The Psychologist
‘An excellent resource for anyone interested in popular psychology.’ Woman’s Way
Praise for ‘Counting Sheep’:
'Energetic and immensely readable, this is as good a popular science book as I have read…written with such vivacity and infectious enthusiasm that by the end of this book you'll be racing for your bed to try out a few sleepy experiments for yourself.' Evening Standard
'A masterpiece of efficiently and entertainingly delivered information, bracingly clear and thoroughly researched.' New StatesmanFrom the Publisher:
"Pleasure", wrote Oscar Wilde, "is the only thing worth having a theory about". What is pleasure? When is it good? When is it bad? What are the best ways to get it? And why does the quest for pleasure sometimes suck us into the quagmire of self-loathing and addiction? This is a book about the lengths people go to for pleasure, and the scientific reasons behind those impulses. Packed with extraordinary insights from science, history and literature, it will inform and amuse in equal measure.
In Sex, Drugs & Chocolate, Paul Martin looks at the biological and psychological drivers behind our hedonistic impulses. He considers the changing cultural attitudes to pleasure over the centuries, including religious and legal attempts to control it. A key theme is the crucial distinction between pleasure and desire – that is, between liking things and wanting them. Martin describes the lives of sensation-seekers from Nero and Lord Rochester to Janis Joplin and Elvis, before turning the spotlight on pleasure’s less attractive relations – boredom, unhappiness and pain. Addiction, the darkest side of pleasure’s many moons, is explored. So too are sex in all its many forms, both social and solitary; the mysteries of the orgasm; shopping, eating, gambling and other behavioural pleasures; the delights and health-giving benefits of real chocolate; and the many chemical sources of pleasure, from caffeine and cannabis to ecstasy and alcohol. Finally, Martin explores the modest and often undervalued pleasures of everyday life, such as gardening, napping and, of course, chocolate. Along the way we encounter, among other things, the psychoactive properties of Siberian urine, the self-pleasuring exploits of dolphins, the happiness-inducing properties of pencils, Errol Flynn’s novel usage of cocaine, Sigmund Freud’s love affair with the same drug, the workings of the anal violin, the joys of trusting, the rich sex lives of pygmy chimpanzees, the origins of the vibrator, the role of genes in orgasms and addiction, the Marquis de Sade’s obsession with chocolate, why the true aficionado sucks but does not chew, the hazards of ether-drinking and why the well-informed pleasure-seeker adopts a strategy of little but often.
Dr Paul Martin was educated at Cambridge and Stanford universities. He was a lecturer and researcher in behavioural biology at Cambridge University and a Fellow of Wolfson College Cambridge, before leaving academia to pursue other interests including science writing. His previous books include the highly acclaimed Counting Sheep and The Sickening Mind, both of which have been hailed by reviewers as masterpieces of popular science writing.
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Book Description Fourth Estate, 2007. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0007127081