Fruitful reading that will make it difficult to look at the world through quite the same eyes as in one’s virginal, pre–game...

THE PREDICTIONEER’S GAME

USING THE LOGIC OF BRAZEN SELF-INTEREST TO SEE AND SHAPE THE FUTURE

“Politics is predictable,” proclaims theorist Bueno de Mesquita (Politics/New York Univ.) in a work that adds a new dimension to the phrase “gaming the system.”

The author is a master of game theory, long used by mathematicians and economists to predict responses of “players” to various scenarios, and he claims—backed up by a “declassified CIA assessment”—a 90 percent accuracy rate in his use of that theory to predict political trends. Among his successes have been the forecast of the Tiananmen Square massacre and the Persian Gulf War well before the fact, drawing on a rather clinical but certainly effective view of human nature. About that point he is not bashful: “The view of people as cold, ruthless, and self-interested is at the heart of game-theory thinking,” he writes. “There may be room for nice guys, but not much. Most of the time, nice guys really do finish last.” Cut a deal, political or economic, and our nasty inner Hobbesian beings emerge, which leads to certain predictable responses. Furthering the clinical bit, Bueno de Mesquita declares the likes of Adolf Hitler and Kim Jong Il to be not madmen but rational beings doing what dictators do to stay in power—requiring rational responses, that is, to check their damage. “A question like ‘How can we get Kim Jong Il to behave better’ is too vague,” he writes. “We need to define the objective more precisely, and we need to know the range of choices that Kim and his government can undertake.” As the book progresses, the discussion becomes both more mathematically complex and more provocative. Bueno de Mesquita takes obvious pleasure, for instance, in twitting the Kyoto Protocol crowd as practically begging to be cheated on. Worth the price of admission, regardless of your view of the politics, is the author’s brief primer on how to buy a car, which could just finish off the collapse of Detroit.

Fruitful reading that will make it difficult to look at the world through quite the same eyes as in one’s virginal, pre–game theory days.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6787-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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