A complex and worthy story reduced to a beach read.

THE ARSENAL OF DEMOCRACY

FDR, FORD MOTOR COMPANY, AND THEIR EPIC QUEST TO ARM AN AMERICA AT WAR

The Ford Motor Company goes to war.

In this latest examination of the transition of American industry to wartime production, journalist Baime (Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans, 2009, etc.) focuses on Ford’s conversion from the production of automobiles to aircraft engines and the B-24 Liberator bomber. The author surveys the history of the company from its founding in the Model T era to the outbreak of war, portraying Henry Ford as an anti-Semitic curmudgeon who instituted a reign of terror on the factory floor under the fearsome Harry Bennett. His long-suffering son Edsel, installed as a figurehead president, struggled against him to get the company involved in war production and drove the creation of the massive Willow Run plant, with its goal of a bomber per hour, until his early death from cancer. A pasteboard FDR puts in an occasional appearance as the ebullient father of the nation urging everyone on to victory. Baime structures the story as a lurid family contest among three generations of Fords, but he never develops the personalities of Edsel and his son Henry II (as he calls him) with sufficient depth or nuance to make the conflict genuinely engaging in either business or personal terms. He brushes briskly past the details of the truly epic challenges of retooling the auto plants and fine-tuning Willow Run; potential embarrassments, like labor strife and the relationship of the company with Ford affiliates in occupied Europe building trucks for the Nazis, surface dramatically, then fade rapidly out of the narrative. Written in a hyperbolic tabloid style—e.g., 40 torpedo bombers constitute "a vast storm cloud of airplanes," Edsel Ford "had been all but crucified”—the book falls well short of the standards set by similar recent works. See Arthur Herman’s Freedom’s Forge instead.

A complex and worthy story reduced to a beach read.

Pub Date: June 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-547-71928-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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