Grist for an anti-smoking campaigner’s mill, and testimony to the banality of evil.

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THE CIGARETTE CENTURY

THE RISE, FALL, AND DEADLY PERSISTENCE OF THE PRODUCT THAT DEFINED AMERICA

In this smoke-filled room of a book, full of secrets and closed files, medical historian and expert witness Brandt reveals just what Big Tobacco has wrought in the last 125 years.

Mass production requires mass consumption. So when the Bonsack machine came along in 1882, future tycoon James Duke, blessed with “a capacious, even global vision for his industry” and able to roll out 100,000 cigarettes a day, came to the realization that the things would have to supplant chewing tobacco, pipes and cigars in order to earn their keep. How to do so? From the start, writes Brandt, Duke pressed an aggressive program combining innovations in technology, advertising and marketing. His Tobacco Trust, though soon broken up by federal regulators, was successful well beyond Duke’s plans, in part through the accident of changing cultural norms, in part because of deliberate recruitment of women and children as smokers. As Brandt relates, the major producers benefited, too, from conflict and empire; during World War I, General Pershing said, “You ask me what we need to win this war. I answer tobacco, as much as bullets.” The manly accessory became necessity for the conscious hipster, thanks to skillful product placement and the insistence of Big Tobacco that cigarette-smoking was not only good for the image but even good for the body. Brandt, an able archivist, cites internal documents showing that the tobacco industry has long been aware of the deleterious effects of smoking—and that it has blocked proposals to produce safer goods, if such were possible, through “legal counsel eager to avoid tacit public admission of the existing product’s dangers.” Whereas in mid-century, about half of Americans smoked, today fewer than a fourth do. Still, warns Brandt, an important expert witness in the RICO trial of 2003, Big Tobacco remains influential—in part, he adds, thanks to “Bush appointees at the Department of Justice.”

Grist for an anti-smoking campaigner’s mill, and testimony to the banality of evil.

Pub Date: March 19, 2007

ISBN: 0-465-07047-7

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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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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