A fine personal narrative, but readers will likely want more practical parenting tips.



Ratner look at issues regarding advertising and children in this memoir and parenting-advice book.

The author’s father, a Minneapolis marketing executive, brought home the family’s first television set when Ratner was in kindergarten. The young boy watched a variety of TV shows, including Dragnet and The Ernie Kovacs Show—and even sometimes watched test patterns. Ratner also consumed all sorts of other media, from magazines to radio, and even created his own block-wide radio broadcast as a kid. As an adult, he talked his way into a job selling radio advertising time and then voiced the ads and took on other on-air work. That led to his big break as the voice of Flint for the 1980s animated series G.I. Joe. But although Ratner was steeped in the world of media and messaging, he had a healthy distrust of it. He’d learned from his father how advertisers manipulate viewers, particularly children, so he went on to create an educational program for grade-schoolers about the effects of ads. The personal anecdotes that make up the bulk of this book are lively and warm. He includes tidbits about how he raised his own daughters with far stricter limits on media exposure than he had, as well as longer passages about the marketing efforts behind juggernauts such as the Barbie and G.I. Joe franchises. The best parts of Ratner’s story, however, are rooted in the past. The true complexity of today’s parenting, when TV is the least of one’s digital worries, never comes through. As a result, the promise of the book’s subtitle, “The Truth Behind the Media’s Effect on Children and What to Do About It,” is never fulfilled. This is too bad, as Ratner’s stories of his childhood and his later adult skepticism didn’t need to be wrapped up in a “digital-age parenting” package—they could have stood very well on their own.

A fine personal narrative, but readers will likely want more practical parenting tips.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1939629050

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Familius

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2014

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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 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...


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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