Reviews for The Age Of Magical Overthinking

by Amanda Montell

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A leading social commentator puts the weird trends of our time under the microscope. Montell, author of Cultish and Wordslut, examines a profound, timely question: How do we get out of the constant cycle of confusion, obsession, second-guessing, and information overload? The author approaches the dilemmas of the 21st century with her tongue firmly in her cheek, although she recognizes the way that “magical thinking,” or the belief that internal thoughts and feelings can affect unrelated events in the external world, is slowly unraveling our society. The book is more a series of essays than a cohesive narrative, but Montell ably demonstrates the fundamental mismatch between the way our brains operate and a world defined by the internet, media saturation, and AI systems. It’s become almost impossible to separate truth from marketing ploys, so there’s a tendency to retreat into cynicism—or, even worse, conspiracy theories. Everything seems to be a crisis, pushed along by attention spans that continue to shrink. Montell covers a great deal of ground, from the “stans” (that is, stalker-fans) of celebrities, to mental health gurus selling “vibes,” to the allure of commercialized nostalgia. On the psychological side, the author leads us through the thickets of confirmation bias, the recency illusion, and the sunk-cost fallacy, and how such flawed thinking can undermine our attempts to make sense of the world. Montell is better at analysis than providing answers, but she believes that a good dose of considered self-awareness can go a long way. Getting away from the screen and doing something physical, even assembling furniture, can also be an antidote. The author presents an engaging package suitable for anyone who wants to better understand the chaos of our modern society. Montell’s take on how irrationality went mainstream is informed by erudite wit and an eye for telling images. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.