A highly thoughtful and entertaining treatment of a subject that merits serious consideration.

An internationally recognized leader in the field of childhood learning debunks the concept of “good parenting.”

Gopnik (Psychology and Philosophy/Univ. of California; The Philosophical Baby: What Children's Minds Tell Us about Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life, 2009, etc.) is a grandmother and the director of a cognitive science laboratory. Her firsthand experience of the complexities of being a parent in today's society has led her to challenge the accepted view of “parenting.” It is “not actually a verb,” she writes, “not a form of work, and isn't and shouldn't be directed to the goal of sculpting a child into a particular kind of adult.” Rather, parents should simply provide children with a loving, nurturing environment in which they can learn and thrive. The insatiability of children's curiosity is legendary. As Gopnik notes, research has shown that “pre-schoolers average nearly seventy-five questions per hour.” Contrary to the traditional parenting model, which sets specific educational goals for children, parents can play a crucial role simply by responding to a child's questions. “Parents don't have to consciously manipulate what they say to give children the information they need,” writes the author. They learn through rough-and-tumble play, careful observation of their environment, direct interaction, and the let’s-pretend games they invent for themselves. “Pretending is closely related to another distinctly human ability,” writes Gopnik, “hypothetical or counterfactual thinking—that is the ability to consider alternative ways that the world might be.” In the author's view, it is imperative for caretakers and educators to nurture young children's curiosity, and they should also allow adolescents to experiment and learn by apprenticeship. Gopnik concludes that recognizing the dichotomy between the goal-oriented carpenter and the nurturing gardener is an appropriate metaphor for our broader cultural values. “Just as we should give children the resources and space to play, and do so without insisting that play will have immediate payoffs,” she writes, “we should do the same for scientists and artists.”

A highly thoughtful and entertaining treatment of a subject that merits serious consideration.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-22970-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016



If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


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

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. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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