Though not a complete picture, this book is an entertaining choice for naturalists, foodies, and health-conscious readers.

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THE WAY WE EAT NOW

HOW THE FOOD REVOLUTION HAS TRANSFORMED OUR LIVES, OUR BODIES, AND OUR WORLD

A wide-ranging look at how food today is killing us through its abundance.

British food historian Wilson (First Bite: How We Learn to Eat, 2015, etc.), who writes a monthly column on food for the Wall Street Journal and has been named BBC Radio’s food writer of the year, avers that diets are getting worse across most of the world. “We snack more, we eat out more, and yet we often enjoy food less,” she writes. In her view, we are in the fourth stage of diet transitions, following the low-fat one of prehistoric hunter-gatherers to the cereal-rich one of the agricultural revolution to the third healthier, more varied one that followed. In stage four, diets are getting sweeter, fatter, and meatier—and not just in the rich countries. The author has talked to researchers, economists, and other experts, gathering data from around the world. Happily, she presents the data in an appealing, informal, almost chatty fashion. If readers want to know more about, say, the decline in cooking oil prices in China or the rising cost of green vegetables relative to ice cream in the U.K., a few charts provide this information. More interesting is Wilson’s discussion of trendy foods, where she exposes frauds and fads; she gives close attention to such foods as quinoa, yogurt, skyr, kale, pomegranate juice, and coconut water. The author also explores the dilemma of eating out versus cooking at home and examines the rise in popularity of meal kits, which provide customers with all the ingredients and instructions for making a home-cooked meal. She optimistically predicts that we may be entering another dietary transition to healthier foods, and she offers tips for enjoying our food while waiting for this new food culture to emerge. Though Wilson offers an enjoyable reading experience, her failure to consider potential future food shortages as climate change reduces arable land and the population grows makes some of her predictions questionable.

Though not a complete picture, this book is an entertaining choice for naturalists, foodies, and health-conscious readers.

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-465-09397-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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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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Essential reading for citizens of the here and now. Other economists should marvel at how that plain language can be put to...

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CAPITAL IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

A French academic serves up a long, rigorous critique, dense with historical data, of American-style predatory capitalism—and offers remedies that Karl Marx might applaud.

Economist Piketty considers capital, in the monetary sense, from the vantage of what he considers the capital of the world, namely Paris; at times, his discussions of how capital works, and especially public capital, befit Locke-ian France and not Hobbesian America, a source of some controversy in the wide discussion surrounding his book. At heart, though, his argument turns on well-founded economic principles, notably r > g, meaning that the “rate of return on capital significantly exceeds the growth rate of the economy,” in Piketty’s gloss. It logically follows that when such conditions prevail, then wealth will accumulate in a few hands faster than it can be broadly distributed. By the author’s reckoning, the United States is one of the leading nations in the “high inequality” camp, though it was not always so. In the colonial era, Piketty likens the inequality quotient in New England to be about that of Scandinavia today, with few abject poor and few mega-rich. The difference is that the rich now—who are mostly the “supermanagers” of business rather than the “superstars” of sports and entertainment—have surrounded themselves with political shields that keep them safe from the specter of paying more in taxes and adding to the fund of public wealth. The author’s data is unassailable. His policy recommendations are considerably more controversial, including his call for a global tax on wealth. From start to finish, the discussion is written in plainspoken prose that, though punctuated by formulas, also draws on a wide range of cultural references.

Essential reading for citizens of the here and now. Other economists should marvel at how that plain language can be put to work explaining the most complex of ideas, foremost among them the fact that economic inequality is at an all-time high—and is only bound to grow worse.

Pub Date: March 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-674-43000-6

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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