“We hope this book provides the material to understand what happened and why,” the authors conclude. Mission accomplished.

SUPERPOWER SHOWDOWN

HOW THE BATTLE BETWEEN TRUMP AND XI THREATENS A NEW COLD WAR

A revealing look at U.S.–China trade relations during the Trump administration.

In December 2018, an informal poll of 75 corporate executives attending a Washington, D.C., conference showed that roughly 50% believed that, in light of recent trade history, the U.S. and China would be at war within 30 years. Davis, a Pulitzer-winning senior editor at the Wall Street Journal’s Washington bureau, and Wei, who works at the Journal’s Beijing bureau, depict this “romance gone bad” by focusing on the first three years of the Trump administration. According to the authors, a series of miscalculations and misunderstandings on both sides have brought the two nations to the current impasse. Chinese President Xi Jinping has failed to appreciate how his government’s subsidization of private companies and implausible denials of technological theft have alienated American officials. As for Donald Trump, the authors persuasively argue that his protectionist policies vis-à-vis China have achieved mixed results at best. Yet Trump “deserves credit for challenging the easy assumptions about China that had guided American policy since at least the Clinton administration,” particularly the idea that economic engagement would lead to political liberalization. General readers may be forgiven for skimming the more detailed passages, which depict the seemingly endless series of trade talks and controversies. Yet the authors skillfully enliven what could have been a dull narrative. Particularly diverting are the biographical sketches of the participants in the trade talks—including that of Peter Navarro, the profane hard-line economist in Trump’s administration—and a number of illuminating anecdotes and facts. China, for example, had the world’s largest economy “until roughly the U.S. Civil War,” and the Chinese refer to those who return home after working overseas as “hai gui,” or “sea turtles.”

“We hope this book provides the material to understand what happened and why,” the authors conclude. Mission accomplished.

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-295305-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harper Business

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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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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