An intriguing account that darkens the depths of that daily cup of joe.

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COFFEELAND

ONE MAN'S DARK EMPIRE AND THE MAKING OF OUR FAVORITE DRUG

A broad-ranging, often surprising study of the economics and political ecology of coffee.

Drawing alongside such studies as Stanley Mintz’s Sweetness and Power and Tom Standage’s A History of the World in Six Glasses, Sedgewick, a professor of history and American studies, debuts with an examination of the intersection of people from different parts of the world in forging an extractive colonial economy. One was a Brazilian immigrant to El Salvador who arrived in the mid-1800s and set to work nudging the agricultural economy away from indigo and toward coffee. That deal was sealed with the arrival, decades later, of another immigrant, this one from England. James Hill, writes the author, oversaw the conversion of that agricultural economy to the monocultural production of coffee, with coffee plantations that eventually took up a huge percentage of the country’s arable land. All of this was done in concert with American markets, with the timing just right for the arrival of immigrants to the U.S. who came from coffee-drinking Mediterranean societies. It also appealed to a change of tastes that, in its day, had children both drinking and growing the stuff, with Danish immigrant Jacob Riis observing in New York “men and boys of all ages crowded around one-cent coffee stalls on the street.” Sedgewick casts a wide net in his capably written book, observing, for instance, that liberals in newly independent El Salvador had once made advances to the U.S. to be incorporated as a state. Moreover, he links the rise of the coffee monoculture to the development of an enriched ruling class in that country but also an immiseration of the peasantry: “The transformation of the volcanic highlands into a coffee monoculture transformed the diet of El Salvador’s working people into a flat, featureless landscape of tortillas and beans.” Meanwhile, workers in the U.S. became so dependent on coffee, and so powerful in times of labor shortage, that the coffee break was enshrined in the nation’s culture and remains so today.

An intriguing account that darkens the depths of that daily cup of joe.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59420-615-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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