Despite patches of gee-whiz formulaic prose (“the Airbnb marketplace had the most incredible structural momentum that many...

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THE UPSTARTS

HOW UBER, AIRBNB, AND THE KILLER COMPANIES OF THE NEW SILICON VALLEY ARE CHANGING THE WORLD

Celebratory biography of the upstart companies that regulators love to hate.

It was just eight years ago that Barack Obama was sworn into the presidency for his first term, a time of newborn hope in the heart of a grim depression. Enter an air mattress, a couple of smart youngsters, and the realization that unused guest rooms could be leveraged into extra bucks, and you have a new player in the service economy: Airbnb. You also have, writes Bloomberg News senior executive editor Stone (The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, 2013, etc.), a mess of controversy: housing costs go up, desirable neighborhoods get more crowded, hotels that pay their taxes go unfilled as guerrilla operators offer cheaper alternatives. In all this, there’s the new middleman, those smart youngsters. The same story plays out with the rise of Uber, which turns every driver into a potential cabbie. Stone charts the transformation of Silicon Valley since 2008, and he writes winningly of how people with good—commercially if not ethically—ideas can take them from inspiration to reality. In this aspect alone, the book makes highly useful reading for budding entrepreneurs, who should also take Stone’s point that the winners in this Darwinian struggle were the players who studied the market exhaustively to figure out just the right angle of entry. Granted, in this anecdotally driven account, there is also plenty to pepper the ire of anyone who’s not on board with the thought that a speculator, alive with realization of “lost utility,” can build a robust economy on the backs of others alone. And, as the author notes, these new Silicon Valley firms seem to represent “the overweening hubris of the techno-elite” as much as they represent a disruption of the service sector.

Despite patches of gee-whiz formulaic prose (“the Airbnb marketplace had the most incredible structural momentum that many of the company’s investors and executives had ever seen”), Stone’s account is illuminating reading for the business-minded.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-38839-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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