Especially informative for parents and educators in preparing children for the challenges ahead.

PEAK

SECRETS FROM THE NEW SCIENCE OF EXPERTISE

Challenging the notion that talent is innate.

“The most important gifts we can give our children are confidence in their ability to remake themselves again and again and the tools with which to do that job,” writes Ericsson (Psychology/Florida State Univ.; editor: The Road to Excellence: The Acquisition of Expertise Performance in the Arts and Sciences, Sports and Games, 2014, etc.), assisted in this book by science writer Pool (Beyond Engineering: How Society Shapes Technology, 1999, etc.). The plasticity of the human brain, coupled with directed training and practice, is the key. Ericsson joins an increasing number of educators who focus on the importance of what he calls “deliberate practice” in achieving expertise in fields such as music and sports. This practice is best begun at an early age, so children can hone specific skills and also gain the ability to “remake themselves again and again,” as circumstances change. This is a matter of practical training, not just the assimilation of abstract knowledge. It demands embarking on a realistic path to achieving a specific goal by achieving mastery of successively more difficult specific skills, and it involves a combination of mental and physical training. The idea that individual differences in ability are not genetically determined or hard-wired into the human brain has only been widely accepted in this century. Previously, talent was thought to be genetically determined so that “learning was just a way of fulfilling one's genetic potential.” Ericsson gives intriguing examples of how the visual cortex in the brain of a blind person as he or she learns Braille develops connections to the fingertips and how Mozart's achievements as a child prodigy were cultivated by his father's intensive training. The author makes a strong case that success in today's world requires a focus on practical performance, not just the accumulation of information.

Especially informative for parents and educators in preparing children for the challenges ahead.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-45623-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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