ADHD 2.0

by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. & John J. Ratey, M.D.

A person with ADHD has the power of a Ferrari engine but with bicycle strength brakes.

p. xvii

ADHD 2.0 is an book about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder from the authors of the popular Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder—from Childhood through Adulthood. It purports to give up-to-date recommendations for recognizing and coping with ADHD.

I was recently diagnosed with ADHD, so I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can. Someone recommended this book to me when we were discussing my diagnosis.

I like the analogy I quoted above. It’s helpful. And of course I like thinking about my brain as a Ferrari. But overall I have some issues with this book.

Everything seemed OK until page 40, when out of nowhere the authors cited a chiropractor, Robert Melillo, who now says he can cure ADHD and other disorder with balance training.1 Seeing a chiropractor cited for curing mental disorders sent my antennae right up. It wasn’t hard to find this 2018 investigative report by NPR, which concluded there was no evidence for his claims.

On the very next page Hallowell and Ratey recommend another company, Zing Performance. Like Melillo’s business there is some foundation for the theory behind the treatment, but the treatment itself is unproven and controversial.

It would be one thing if Hallowell and Ratey had written something like “The underlying theory is sound and this treatment seems to address it, so we think it could be worth a try. But no promises.”

Instead, this is what they said about Melillo’s Brain Balance Achievement Centers:

[I]n our opinion, they do provide a valuable and usually successful treatment for selected children with more severe ADHD or autism.

p. 40

And this is what they said about Zing Performance:

[T]he gain is clear. These exercises, if done faithfully, do indeed work the vestibular system hard, and many report subsequent improvements in the symptoms of ADHD.

p. 41

There isn’t much disclaiming in those endorsements, even though it seems like there should be quite a lot of it. So after Chapter 3 I stopped trusting Ratey and Hallowell.

The pseudoscientific trend continued. In chapter 5 they recommended the Kolbe Index, a personality test that claims to measure your “innate abilities.” And like other personality tests—Myers–Briggs, StrengthsFinder, etc.—it’s about as scientific as astrology. In chapter 6 they recommended the Feingold diet, which is not supported by good evidence of effectiveness. And OmegaBrite, an expensive omega-3 supplement. (I took this for a while and found it highly effective for upsetting my digestive system.) And CBD, of course, the snake oil du jour. And the Fisher Wallace Stimulator, a cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES) device billed as a “superdevice for depression” (not ADHD, notably). I mean, come on.

I’m no scientist, but I am skeptical. Something’s off, here.

I didn’t learn anything about ADHD from this book, and given all the apparent pseudoscience I don’t think I would trust anything in it, anyway. If there is any redeeming quality in the book it is the authors’ appeal to reason in the next-to-last chapter, on medication, which anyone who gobbled up the bunk in the previous pages may especially need to hear.

Confidential to the person who recommended this book to me: Even though I did not like this book you have been extremely helpful to me as I learn about ADHD and how to live with it. Thank you and I’m grateful for you.

  1. From his book, Disconnected Kids: “ADHD, dyslexia, and even autism, among others, can become a thing of the past.” ↩︎

Translation State

by Ann Leckie

An exploration of the limits of identity, plus legal and political intrigue and a bit of space magic.

I read Leckie’s Imperial Radtch series a few years ago and loved it. I enjoyed the story, but also the way she omitted gender signifiers and used she/her pronouns for nearly all the characters. In Translation State she introduces some new pronouns, like e/er and xie/xir. This time I found it distracting and tiresome.

Perhaps for that reason I found this book hard to get into. It had a long, slow start for me. I wouldn’t recommend it, but it does have me very curious to read more about the aliens in Lecki’s universe.

Jenny Trapdoor

by Neal Asher

Jenny is a war drone in the shape of a trapdoor spider, created by an insane AI. At the edge of the Graveyard she feeds on prador, the enemies of the Polity, until she is nearly destroyed. When she awakens hundreds of years later she finds a changed world and a strange new friend.

This novella is definitely meant for existing fans of Asher’s Polity Universe. It is another chapter from the backstory of Penny Royal, the strange AI from Dark Intelligence. I wouldn’t start with this book, but if you are a fan I wouldn’t skip it.

Peter Pan

by J. M. Barrie

I love to be reminded that some books are classics because they are full of magic and surprise and delight so that they are still enjoyable even after 100+ years. (Unlike many other classics which are a slog and only enjoyable on reflection after the fact, largely because most other readers gave up before the end so you’ve got one over on them.)

Peter Pan (originally Peter and Wendy) is such a classic. I’ve read it many times and in between readings I always forget it isn’t a stuffy book. Then a few years later I pick it up again and before I have finished the first page I’m delighted and smiling all over again.

The Lies of Locke Lamora

by Scott Lynch

A caper set in Renaissance Venice if it were controlled as much by the Mafia as the merchants, where magic is real but very expensive, and someone is hunting down gang leaders one by one.

I found this caper pretty predictable most of the way through. For the first half of the book or so, this is deliberate. We get the conclusion first, then a flashback with the story leading up to it. I didn’t enjoy that style of storytelling. If I already know how a story ends, the story itself had better be full of surprising twists and turns. Not in this book. Even after the flashbacks end the story keeps spoiling its own plot. The reader is a little too in on the caper.

It was just OK. There are more books in the series but I don’t plan to read them.

The Saint of Bright Doors

This boy without a shadow is definitely not Peter Pan. His mother trains him to kill her, then his father, and then he leaves her and moves to the city to escape his fate. It finds him anyway, of course, this being a novel and all.

On the way to a kind of oh-by-the-way conclusion this book has some pretty awesome moments. It even manages to work in some good stuff about colonialism, patriarchy, messiahs, and productivity gurus.

It was OK. Three stars, I think.

The Last Days of Night

by Graham Moore

A patent-law procedural turned legal caper. Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, Nikola Tesla, and Paul Cravath walk into J.P. Morgan’s bar, where Agnes Huntington is singing.

I usually stay away from books featuring lawyers. I’ve had all the legal drama I can take from existing in that world for the last twenty-odd years. Despite this, I mostly enjoyed this book—especially part 3, where the legal procedural turns into a legal caper.

Mom’s House, Dad’s House

by Isolina Ricci

This book feels dated, and not just because it still emphasizes the importance of land lines, beepers, and snail mail for communication and doesn’t know anything about websites, cell phones, text messaging, video calls, or social media.

It feels like it was written for traditional suburban families with a dad who works full time, a mom who stays at home, and both of them can’t wait to get remarried because only a mom and a dad make a real family. (This book doesn’t know same-sex couples exist, either.) It doesn’t give examples of any custody arrangements where each parent has the kids for an equal amount of time.

I didn’t recognize myself or my own divorce in any of the examples.

In fairness, it was published in 1980 and last updated in 1997. But it still claims to be the “definitive” guide for divorcing parents. Which seems a little ambitious given all the above.

I admit I skimmed quite a lot of it.

Still, I found some useful information in this book. The road map from separation to separate healthy homes helped me locate my own divorce in the process. And the explanation of “negative intimacy” and why it is important to strive for a businesslike relationship with a former spouse resonated strongly with me.

All the same, there must be better, more up-to-date books for divorcing parents. Since that’s now me, I’d be grateful for recommendations.

Dead Man’s Hand

by James J. Butcher

In a modern world where witches and non-witches live together, a washed-up witch hunter’s old partner is killed for a magical artifact. Based on her last words, the Hunstman finds Grimsby, a witch who washed out of the Department’s training program and now works at a Chuck-E-Cheese ripoff restaurant entertaining awful children. Together they go searching for the killer and the artifact—and Grimsby’s spine.

Good read. It didn’t suck me in, though. I’m not sure if the story was lacking something, or if hard-boiled detective fantasy just doesn’t do it for me any more. But this is the first book in a series and I’ll probably pick up the next one at some point to see where the story goes.

For what it’s worth, the author is the son of Jim Butcher, who writes The Dresden Chronicles, and this book is a chip off the old block.

The Ferryman

by Justin Cronin

A utopian dystopia (dystopian utopia—and aren’t they all?) starts unraveling when Proctor Bennett starts dreaming.

On the one hand, it’s a much-used formula. On the other hand it’s a pretty good formula as long as you haven’t read The Giver or The Hunger Games or Red Rising or watched Elysium or Æon Flux or Pleasantville or played BioShock too recently. And as long as the formula comes with a good twist, which The Ferryman does. I could hardly put it down.