Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A little bit of sin does you good

Jamie Condliffe, contributor
41Z6n09DjGL._SL500_AA300_.jpgFORGIVE me, reader, for I have sinned: I overslept, argued, and stuffed my face with food.
The concept of sin is so ingrained in our culture that it is difficult for most people, myself included, to go a day without indulging in one of the seven deadliest. But in The Joy of Sin, Simon Laham aims to convince us that, contrary to what folklore, Christianity or even Hollywood may tell us, activities often branded sinful may in fact be good for us.
His evidence draws largely on experimental psychology, and it is clear that Laham has an impressive understanding of the material. In particular, he has a knack for describing complex social science with great lucidity. His writing is witty, edgy, itself almost sinfully provocative at times, promoting the occasional wince and, more frequently, an approving chuckle.
The only problem is that sometimes you feel his case studies have been shoehorned in. While some chapters provide a convincing argument, leaving you in little doubt that a small dose of anger or greed is good for you, others read like a round-up of research loosely related to the sin under discussion, and end up providing no firm conclusions. Laham certainly encourages us to reject a simplistic approach to sin - but at times, just a little too much is left to the reader.
Ultimately, this struggle to convince isn't a function of any sloth on Laham's part; rather, it's the result of the need for the content to fit the title.
Fortunately, even if such ambition makes for a slightly dissatisfying read at times, the enviably good writing and thorough research make this book difficult to dislike.


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